My first effort at replacing the ‘lost blogs’. Retirement is a funny business. A couple of weeks ago a friend who lives in New Zealand (he and his wife emigrated many years ago and their living in NZ is what led to our living there for 16 months, but that’s another story) sent me an email. He hasn’t communicated with me for a while so I was a little surprised but pleased. I don’t have many friends so can’t afford to lose any. I was however puzzled by the content of the email. It contained a youtube link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoShQEhl1ek to a lecture by Alain de Botton around his most recent book, title Status Anxiety. I have read some of his books before so, even though the clip is 38 minutes long, (I haven’t got to the end of it yet) I thought I would give it a try. His email contained the somewhat cryptic message referring to Alain, He put his perceptive finger on the source(s) of my own immunity. Enjoy.
Having watched some of the video what I take him to mean, as I say there was no further explanation, was that he did not and, I guess, never had, suffered from status anxiety (and hence did not worry about things?) which is briefly defined by Alain as being anxious about how you’re doing relative, and this is the important bit I think, to other people. Envy of others I guess. I didn’t know my friend in a work context but it seems plausible from what I did know of him in that setting, that he wasn’t a person who worried about others out-performing him. I wish I could say the same.
I won’t say that I was envious of others or paralysed by the success of others but I will admit that, having had a level of success in my career, you know writing books and lecturing and travelling and things, you could say I was never quite satisfied with my own performance. And now I’m retired, how does, what Alain defines as, status anxiety affect me now? Well, I think I can honestly say there is good news and bad news. Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. I think that status anxiety, if I have understood the concept on limited viewing, in my retired state might translate into this constant feeling that either afflict or drive my ambitions (a telling word in itself) for retirement, that there is something going off that I am missing out on. As you will know, if you’ve read these blogs before, an area/s as yet to be identified. It’s a big debate about life in general and it doesn’t get much bigger than that, if being driven or motivated to do as much as possible is a good or a bad thing. I don’t propose to go into this now but, suffice it to say, that looking back on my life thus far, I’m pleased that I was driven to do different things, set new challenges, live in different places, etc. For me being driven worked well. Yes of course there is a down side but, on balance, that’s been a price I’ve been happy (?) to pay.
As part of my friend’s email he referred to a John Lennon quote PS. John Lennon (1940-80) hit another nail on the head for me when he gave this advice to his son ‘Life is what happens to you when you’re making other plans’ (from ‘Beautiful Boy’). It became even more poignant in 1980. I’m pretty sure he (my friend not John Lennon) doesn’t read my blog after all he did tell me that having read a few of my blogs he intended never to read another retirement blog ever, mine included. So I can safely assume, I think, that he wasn’t having a go at me for all my goal setting activities. But it did feel a tad like that. Anyway this aspect of my pre-retirement life continues pretty much unabated into my retirement. Good or bad you decide.
I said there was some good news and I think this is it. If I admit I had status anxiety when I was working I can honestly say I have none now as a retired person. I’m interested in other people’s retirement blogs and sometimes casually wonder how they manage to get so high on Google, but that’s as far as it goes. I have no envy of other retired people per se. I don’t look at any of my friends or acquaintances and envy their life style (well maybe just a little when they travel to places we can’t go, but only a very, very little, maybe Mark and Margaret who’ve just bought a campervan, but not much really) I don’t even admire their retirement choices let alone wish my retirement was like theirs. The only downside being that there seems little point looking to them for the answer to my on-going conundrum – is this all there is to the golden age of baby boomers or whatever you want to call it. But enough of this soul-searching.
This morning it snowed. We do get snow in March but it is quite unusual, it just came out of the blue or the grey. It started after we got back from walking the dogs and we were sitting at the kitchen table in the conservatory and it just came down thick and fluffy and very insistent. It was magical, maybe because we don’t get much snow but it was definitely one of those live in the moment moments. A ‘count your blessings’ experience. I suppose you could make an argument that if you let all the goal-setting, the planning, the angst go, these moments of pure pleasure will surely come along. Personally, I’m not so sure. I shall continue to try and strike a balance between the planned and the spontaneous. I don’t see why one should preclude the other. I admit I do need to get better at appreciating the live in the moments moments but Mrs Summerhouse continues to pull me into them, so there’s hope. So, yes, status anxiety, as brought to me by my Kiwi friend, no I don’t think so, I don’t have it, which surely means that this is another aspect of my retirement life that has improved. Phew, this looking on the positive side of retirement, it’s hard work isn’t it, or is that just me?