The last five minutes of today’s Today programme were devoted to a tribute to the chief political correspondent, Norman Smith, who is retiring today. It sparked memories for me; today, 6 years ago, I, too, stopped (paid and employed) work. Good advice from my sister – leave in the summer; if you retire at Christmas (which so many people do) you’ve got 3 months of dark winter days/evenings and bad weather to face, while you “regroup” and get used to a new way of life.
So it is a good time to reflect: what is retirement like, especially as so many of us over the last few months have had to “retire” from being out and about, or from one’s “normal” life. Everyone is getting used to a really strange situation, which we’ve never experienced before. And that’s what happens when you “retire”. You’ve never experienced that before, either, and you’re going through it yourself, as an individual.
I had had periods out of work but that phase is so different from retirement, because finding the next job is a job in itself; it has its ups and downs, but (perhaps Micawber-like) I sensed something would come up.
But with retirement, it really is a kind of bereavement, suddenly (even if you’ve been building up to it) you’re no longer a cog in a wheel; it continues to roll without you. Other clichés abound – don’t say “yes” to the first thing you’re offered; you’ll soon be so busy you won’t know how you found time to go to work; have a rest and a breather.
I hope Norman Smith is allowed a socially-distanced gathering! I had a fantastic party, and the farewells were lovely. I was leaving my arts charity safe in the knowledge that there was at least another 4 years of secure funding. I took 4 days away in Italy – a joy. And then what? Gulp!
Well, I decided to take a “gap 3 months” before taking on anything serious, as I’d not had my “gap year”; I’d gone straight from school to university. The 3 months turned into a year – why not? And during that time, I started writing this occasional blog – because I knew the feelings of retirement would fade as I got into it and I wanted to make some sort of record. I found things to do, new passions and interests, many new friends, so many gaps in my knowledge to fill – life continues to challenge. But it is such a change of life.
Just like now is, for so many people; unbelievable changes, which rock you off any kind of stable rock you might have thought you were standing on. OK, we will get through this pandemic; Europe recovered from the Black Death eventually. Probably the people in 1665 thought the world was coming to an end – and it did come to an end as they knew it. What will happen for us, post lockdown? Has this been a bad dream? Will we wake up to the same or a better world? (Could I go to sleep and wake up after November and find Trump has NOT been elected?) What vision do we have for a kinder future, where we realise how connected we are globally and how we need to look after each other.
Turning inwards for reflection is no bad thing; might it help to propel us into the next phase with – perhaps not foolhardy optimism – but thoughtfulness and wisdom? Well, let’s hope so.