You know the old saying about grass and how it’s always greener on the other side of the fence? You don’t well, that may be a good thing for you. I’ve always been a bit of a victim to this kind of what psychologists call ‘faulty thinking’. I think, on balance, it is faulty because in all our years of going to different places in the world, specifically USA, New Zealand and Australia, I reckon we’ve had as much worry as if we’d stayed at home. The problem being that, although you can move body and soul hoping to find your dream life, you take yourself with you, i.e. your worries, attitudes, social skills, etc. etc. I will say, however, that, carefully controlled, the grass is greener approach can pay dividends. Used well this view of life can be motivating. It has encouraged me to try life in different parts of the world. OK, I never found my ‘perfect’ (that word, banish it if you have any sense) life style but I can say with absolute confidence that I and Mrs Summerhouse do not regret our little adventures. Having pushed at the envelope when we were working has given me a little breathing space now in my retirement. I don’t feel quite so compelled to travel now as I might have done had we not tried lives abroad in the past. You will know if you’ve read these blogs before that the urge / need / inclination to travel is still there, not at all helped by the adventures of some of my chums (I’ll return to others and their grass in a moment), but it’s largely under control. At least this is what I tell myself – often.
It’s not exclusively the travel adventures of others that have squirmed into the spotlight of late but they’re a part of my latest retirement mini-crisis. For some unexplained reason in the last two or three weeks I have had the opportunity to meet up with or communicate with quite a few old friends and colleagues who have recently retired. I tried to count how many, at least half a dozen, enough, I think, to form a decent sample of retired people and tentatively to draw some conclusions about what retirement might or could look like across that fence. I can almost see the grass they are standing on from where I sit writing this blog. Clear enough, for example, to see that none of them have decided to write a blog of any kind let alone about retirement. Does this tell me anything about how I have chosen to spend some of my retirement time?
Let me say up front that, with three or four sets of friends heavily into travel (or the life in a different country choice) of some kind, this issue and their Facebook postings as reminders, will not go away for me. At one extreme we have our friends living and working in China who we shall see soon (in the UK) and find out what life is really like for them in their exotic location. We have two or three sets of friends who seem to live only for holidays in hot places, their life, in between holidays, a seeming desert of disappointment. Another group, a couple with three houses, one an apartment in Valencia which they visit very regularly, another who has built a house in Switzerland and spends significant periods of time there, to the annoyance of the previous friend with whom he used to play golf. All of this latter group seem to be in the ‘keep moving because you can’t hit a moving target’ philosophy of life. The same in some way as my last blog about us moving from house to house.
Now recently another couple of ex-colleagues have brought their grass and fence into my life. This is the sky-diving / bungy-jumping / thrill-seeking, got to tick things off the bucket list before it’s too late, group. In two cases this involves aquatic adventures – one I mentioned a couple of blogs ago with his plan to sail around the Caribbean and the other and I may be being harsh here because I have not had the chance to discuss his motivation, but he’s sailing down the West coast of Ireland, past, he tells me, the very Blasket Islands that featured in Mrs Summerhouse’s last blog. I find these two particularly distracting because learning to sail was one thing I always wanted to do but never did. Blame it on Mrs Summerhouse, while I, being a water sign, if you believe in such things, love the water although admittedly thus far that has been by it rather than on it or in it. Mrs SH being a fire sign does not like the water so we were never going to sell all our houses and sail round the world. This in spite of constant stories on the internet or in the papers about people who have done just that. So the grass for these sailing chums – potential and actual – can seem to have a verdant tinge to it.
I can displace this mini envy by thinking of another group of retirees, those whose whole raison d’etre seems to revolve around looking after their grandchildren, which is one of the things the latest recruit to my retirement sample intends to do (as well as renovating the house he has just bought his daughter). As our daughter and husband are currently trying to have a baby with IVF, it’s fair to say that I have mixed feelings about this and they’re very different to Mrs SH’s feelings. I very much hope they are successful because they want a child so badly, but have no desire at all to look after grandchildren. Call me Mr Selfish, but you already knew that if you’ve read these blogs before. Another group of retirees is the ones who want to carry on working even though they’ve retired like the ex-colleague who I hadn’t seen for three years since the time I retired. Now he’s retired we met up thanks to the intervention of my potentially Caribbean sailing chum. He’s slightly older than me and now he’s retired wants to continue to work just one day a week. Let go, dammit, I think but then who am I to tell anybody that? This, ‘I can’t let go group’ figure quite large. I look across this particular fence and the grass seems drought-affected. Although I confess it’s taken a while to appear that way.
I wasn’t sure when I started writing this blog whether there was enough of a topic to generate a 1000 words, but there is, over 1200 now, so I’m going to stop* and I haven’t even told you about my regular drinking chum who, having something of a farm, builds his retirement around his projects – stone-walling, shepherd’s hut building, greenhouse construction, all good, but again, an awful lot of his time is spent providing care for his step-grandchildren. So the grass here is half green and half very definitely brown. I’m sure I shall return to this retirement theme – broadly, is somebody else who is retired having a better time / more meaningful retirement than I am? My retirement sample size is increasing nicely, so I will let you know.
*I realised when I’d finished this blog and looked back at my list of retired people I knew I had missed a group of retirees. They deserve a blog of their own so I’ll just give them a quick mention here, they are the people who do good works, volunteering and working for charities and I have one ex-colleague who exemplifies that. He’s working with refugees. He’s a good man but then he always was. I beat him in a promotion ‘battle’, felt bad about it then and I still do. Hats off to you John, good when you worked and good now you’re retired.