I’m just wondering. The question in the title was brought about by a rather strange event / coincidence / portent, call it what you will, which happened to me last week. Let me explain. We were driving down the M1 to the Derbyshire cottage and stopped, as is our habit, at the services (Woodall as above) and, as is also my habit, I was having a pee when I glanced across at a chap to my left, who was also having a pee, which is definitely not my habit. To cut this part of the story mercifully short, I recognised this chap as my penultimate boss. During this period of my career, thanks to this person, I was working in exotic places such as Strasbourg, Ankara and Tbilisi with the prospect of further work in what he called ‘the Stans’. We were working for UNICEF on a programme concerned with reducing violence in schools. Truth be told I actually found being away from home for a week at a time, working in places that felt very foreign to me and a far cry from locations like the USA, New Zealand and Australia, quite stressful at times. Set against this the places were fascinating and engrossing and, though I say it myself, the work quite pioneering. Overall I enjoyed it and was sorry when it came to a somewhat unplanned end.
Now I admit I was not always the easiest person to work with at this time. I hear the sound of laughter from my ex-colleagues. My boss, the person now stood to my left, and I, did not always see eye to eye on how the work should be conducted. I had this idea that I was a genius and he had the idea that he was the boss. His previous life before working for the DfES and UNICEF was as a headmaster of a large and well-thought of secondary school. His style of leadership I have no doubt suited the situation perfectly. However, it did not suit me. To put it succinctly I did not like being told what to do by my bosses, any of them, but this chap, who could lean towards the autocratic, particularly. So, not to put too fine a point on it, we fell out and our joint working came to an abrupt end after a large disagreement in Tbilisi of all places.
And why do I tell you all this? Well, I don’t know whether this is just me but, when I think back to my career from retirement, I miss certain aspects of it more than others. Some bits, and this was one of them, are more glamourous than others. Strange word I suppose but at the time that’s how it felt. So this part of my career with its airports, hotels, dining out, even some lecturing, in my retired mind, came to seem very desirable and therefore the bit of my work that I missed most in my retirement. And I say this even with all the hierarchical stuff that went with it. Not to put too fine a point on it I think the glamour of this part of my career has made my acceptance of being retired more difficult to come to terms with than, what should I call them, the more mundane parts, like being a psychologist in North Yorkshire. Sorry North Yorkshire but at the end my heart wasn’t really in it. Although Scarborough was fun.
So meeting my ex-boss in this rather bizarre (ordained?) fashion presented me with two unsought for opportunities. First, having parted on not so good terms, it gave me the chance to build a few bridges. I always regretted telling him he was a selfish, big-headed oaf for whom I could no longer work. To be fair he was very good at what he did which was getting funding for, setting up and organising the projects that employed me. Probably not his fault that he failed to recognise he was working with a genius. So this brief meeting (we hadn’t got time to sit and have a coffee as he suggested and really mull over old times), felt something like how our relationship had begun before he started telling me what to do. So, yes, that was good.
But there was, for me, an even better result of our meeting, in that, seeing him there and listening to what he’s been up to in the last few years – working in China on social, emotional and behavioural curricula, a less glamourous interval in Spalding, Lincs. and now work with what he called evacuees, is this the same as refugees? I don’t know, and here’s the interesting thing, to me at least, I didn’t really care. Don’t misunderstand me, I don’t mean that I don’t care about the plight of refugees because I do but I didn’t care what he was doing. Nothing remarkable in that you might think except, how can I explain? This man, in my head, had represented all that I was missing about my working life wherein lay all my dreams and ambitions now I’m retired, and I wasn’t interested. No inner longings, no wishes to return to that life, no regrets about retiring, nothing at all, just take care and hope whatever you’re doing goes well for you. Come and see us, he said (he lives near Reading, not a place we’re likely to pass through any time soon) and what surprised me in that was, first, that he obviously held no grudges, second, neither do I, third, that it was highly unlikely that we would but fourth, I could do so without any ulterior motive about future employment. I was over it. The small but persistent voice in my head saying you should still be working, pretty much blew out (a mixed metaphor?) with that chance meeting.
So there we are, what do they say, I’m retired and I’m proud? Well, maybe not that good, that wouldn’t be in my nature, but certainly, after that meeting, I feel a lot more relaxed about being retired than I have at any time since I retired over three years ago. You’re right, I hear you say, at least those people who know me, it won’t last, but at least, for now, a bit of the pressure of being unhappily retired has been lifted and that must be a good thing. Retirement, bring it on? No, steady now. But funny how retirement works out sometimes.