This was the headline for an AOL article that popped up on my browser a couple of weeks ago. It intrigued me because ‘being creative’ is one of those key retirement values like the one about life-long learning that I referred to recently. It was one of my most important values when I was working and it was one of those values I wanted to carry with me into my retirement. So yes, I wondered what somebody else’s idea of a creative retirement might be. But it was disappointing, they always write these headlines to get you to click on the article and then they’re a let-down. In this case their idea of ‘being creative’ was for a retired person to spend all their time on the high seas, moving from one cruise to the next I suppose. I say ‘suppose’ because there was no further information about what this might mean or even some guidance as to how a person might get this to happen, just a series of adverts for cruise companies. To some small degree it appealed to me but overall it wouldn’t work because Mrs Summerhouse doesn’t like the water and the dogs wouldn’t like it and, as far as we can tell, the evidence is that they don’t swim. So no, not the missing link in my retirement.
Nevertheless, I was intrigued and started to consider if I, a self-confessed creative, finished off the rest of the sentence, what would it look like? Let me say, right up front, it was harder than I had initially thought. The first and obvious, and therefore not very creative, idea was that it would be a retirement full of creative activities – painting, sculpting, pottery, basket weaving, carpentry, that sort of thing and nothing wrong with that but there wasn’t the frisson of excitement that the initial headline generated.
Nothing else immediately came to mind so I had to employ what used to be called a little lateral thinking. I think my idea was that for it to meet the criteria I had imposed the retirement format had to be new, in that sense I would have genuinely created a different form of retirement. So I started with a consideration of what constituted a ‘typical’ retirement, assuming of course that there is such a thing. I reasoned if I could define the typical then I could take the opposite, the untypical, and that would be different i.e. creative. So that went as follows – a typical retirement might involve less stress than when a person was working, involve more pleasure, be more varied in its activities, have more choice than a job, I could go on but that should be enough to determine whether this approach had legs. So an untypical retirement therefore would have more stress, be less pleasurable, be less varied with less choice. Hmm, something tells me that approach is not going to work.
So I tried another strategy and I asked myself what would be different for me? I came up with – doing charity work, engaging in dangerous activities or highly energetic activities perhaps hacking our way through an insect-infested jungle or swimming the English Channel with one foot tied behind my back, retrain as a deep-sea diver. Nope, that’s not working either, perhaps I’m aiming too high. Could I just ask myself what would an absolute fantasy retirement look like? Even this is a bit on the timid side – watching England play and win (that may be the hard part) in every cricket-playing country round the world. And this is also a very old one. About 15 years ago I planned to take a year’s sabbatical, follow England around the world and write a book called ‘Cricket from Z to A’ i.e. from Zimbabwe to Australia, about my experiences on sea, land and in the air. I checked on all the Test match (that’s international games for those that do not know) schedules and planned our routes. Didn’t happen of course and somehow I don’t think this is now the answer to my fantasy retirement. They don’t publish the schedules that far in advance anymore for one thing.
My search went on, admittedly in a desultory fashion, in that I was not optimistic about my chances of completing the sentence to my satisfaction. I did stumble across another BBC article which was about sportsmen and women retiring. Yes I know they retire younger with more of their lives left to ‘fill’ and yes, often they have more money, although not always, but I couldn’t help but admire what I thought, for these 6 people, were rather creative choices of post-career activity. For example from international cricketer to fish and chip shop owner / footballer to French angling company owner / skater to singer songwriter / footballer to pastor in Canada / tennis player to art gallery owner / cricketer to actor. Yes, pretty good in that they were not the usual run of the mill retirement activities. Surely if they could do it, so can I.
So where does that leave me in my self-imposed search for a creative retirement? Hmm, I think truth be told, I’m not much further forward. My set-up currently looks like this – blogger, vineyard owner, gardening business financier/investor/ trailer-to-tip driver, part-time house renovator, jazz pianist (stretching credibility now) and more prosaically, dog walker. It’s not a bad effort but nothing other than the gardening bit, which was externally imposed, that you couldn’t have predicted perhaps from my previous life. So where’s the creative bit?
Now let no person say I’m not trying to fill the perceived gap in my retirement and, as evidence of my efforts, let me just briefly refer to something I’ve planned for next weekend. I don’t want to give too much away at this point but suffice it to say, we’re going to ‘that London’ to attend one of those Guardian newspaper courses I’ve written about several times before. I think you’ll be impressed when I finally reveal the topic of this course (which I’ve tantalisingly blanked out above) and how it might, just might mind you, help me in my search for the perfect ending to the sentence – have a creative retirement…