Tuesday 2 July 2019

Be careful what you wish for

It feels as if it's the right time for me to restart my blog; it's been over a year since I wrote...though judging by my drafts folder, I've tried to write aplenty!

I've never fully grasped the concept of 'work'....well, why should I?  I was one of those privileged middle-class kids who went to public school, then university and had a career in public relations.  Given how socialist my views have become, I think I should loathe myself!  Don't worry, I don't and there's no need to send for the therapist....yet.

I had never understood people who define themselves by the work they do..."I'm a lawyer", "I'm a doctor", "I'm a banker"....well who would admit to the last anyway?  All around me I see friends who have reached the end of their careers...they've been dumped by their employers of many years standing in favour of younger and more energetic people, and they struggle to cope with this.  They scrape around until they find something else...usually part time, usually with reduced responsibility and usually not something they would have considered.  I have worked out that for some, no many, that is truly how they see themselves, and their work is something they love, enjoy and can't imagine not doing.  It defines them.  It defines their masculinity.  Me?  I'm quite different.  I saw a job as a means to an end...it enabled me to do what I wanted to do, and if it was fun that was a bonus.  At a job interview when I was thirty, I was asked what was my ambition.  With a boldness that may have slipped into arrogance I replied "I want to retire"...quickly adding that I could only do that when I had achieved great things, whilst secretly thinking, no "I really do want to retire".  I have derived the most satisfaction at work by setting up and running my own business.  It was a mad thing to do at the time, but I made it work.  I enjoyed that everything that went well was down to me, and when it went badly that was also down to me.  But underneath, I still yearned to retire.

So at the end of last year I told my client of ten years that to celebrate our anniversary I was resigning and retiring.  Ambition achieved.

Except, of course it wasn't.  I still have a lot of professional commitments, do a lot of pro bono stuff, and I also have my properties to run.  The properties have, in fact,  in recent years become more difficult, stressful and time-consuming...they are practically a full time job now.  And if something needs to be sorted, it needs to be done yesterday....my time is often not my own.  The precise timing of severing my client relationship had been driven by how busy I was elsewhere, and also by not feeling the direction they were heading was the right way to go, rather than a desire to put my feet up.

My time may be flexible, but then it has been for the last twenty years, and it is generally in short supply.

And there are unexpected consequences to saying "I have retired".  Peoples' view of you changes in some quite remarkable ways...some acquaintances have made it clear that I'm now irrelevant, others have made me feel like a second class citizen.  Someone even suggested I hadn't stopped work of my own choice...I guess envy may have played a part there.  On one of the committees I attend where I was pushing for change with resistance from the Chair, the response to me was "You have time on your hands now you're doing nothing, I still have a high pressure and responsible job".

So I've stopped saying I'm retired and have even started correcting people who comment on my retirement...it all seems a bit bizarre to them I am sure.  More than that, I have questioned the wisdom of my decision...perhaps I was more defined by my work than I realised and perhaps when I have a quiet moment I am questioning my purpose more than I expected....