I wrote quite a while ago about how I was worrying about my retirement and what I would do with my time because, unlike a lot of retired people, I didn’t have a hobby to ‘fall back on’. I had interests but no consuming ‘passions’ / obsessions. I was thinking about this again as a part of my never-ending campaign to find the ‘right’ kind of retirement activities when we had an email from an old friend in America. Jim was the art teacher at the special school I worked at when I did my exchange as a teacher in Rockville, Maryland. Jim and his wife Donna were fantastically supportive of us during our exchange year and we’ve always been grateful to them and their family. Jim was a few years older than me and, consequently, he retired quite a while before I did. We have kept in touch over the years and managed a few visits both here and there’ He and Mrs Summerhouse have been sharing arty type thoughts, comparing notes you might say. As a part of his last email when Mrs SH mentioned that I was still struggling a bit with my retirement life, he offered me some advice. He said,
“Tell Pete that the key to surviving retirement is to pursue your art passionately.”
It set me thinking, once again, about whether a person needed a passion to underpin / guide his or her retirement. In terms of my art, although I started life as an art student and as a painter, sculptor and print-maker, (I wrote about this part of my life in a blog a while ago), unfortunately from the point of view of art being a passion, well, I haven’t made any art for many years. Unless you count my photographs and my chairs. Maybe I need to start. In fact looking back to what I thought I would do when I retired before I retired, can be quite unsettling. As I wrote in a recent reply to a comment on one of my blogs about the process of goal-setting, all the things I anticipated I would engage in when I retired – consultancy work, travel, golf and photography – I have not been involved in any of them. Sometimes for good reasons, like having the pups, and sometimes for no reason at all. Just couldn’t bloody well be bothered. So in the context of this blog, none of the above have in any way provided me with a passion.
Mrs SH has had a similar problem, she thought she would be doing her art and making crafty things like the very activity she’s engaging in as I sit and write this blog – she’s making cushion covers and fabric inserts for our bedhead. I asked her if she was enjoying it, she said and I quote, ‘I am thoroughly enjoying it, this is exactly the kind of thing I thought I would spend time doing when I retired’. Point is it’s been rare. That’s why I suggested she produced a painting a month to go on this blog. That’s worked well for her but overall, like me, she hasn’t spent time engaged in any great area of interest, let alone one associated with passion. Maybe her yoga.
So has this lack of a passion for me been a loss? Has it undermined my search for the perfectish retirement? Would I be an altogether happier retired person if I had discovered a ‘passion’? I suppose I have to consider the alternative, i.e. to dabble in a number of areas in a dilettante fashion. In other words similar to the way I worked before I retired. Is being a Jack of all trades necessarily a bad thing? You could argue there are certain plusses to this style of retiring. It’s the difference between reading books on lots of different subjects and genres rather than just one type and topic of book. Maybe having a passion is like having fish and chips every night. Isn’t variety reckoned to be the spice of life?
When I worked as a psychologist and was engaged in some kind of problem-solving activity with a client or group of clients – usually but not always, teachers and support staff – I used to take them through the process of opening up the stated problem and creating, through what used to be called brain-storming, as many possible solutions as possible. But and it’s a big but, then we used to go through the second part of the process, that of narrowing the options down until the client/s were left with just one or two practical actions / solutions. I haven’t quite gone to the length of brain-storming every possible retirement activity I could take part in, but I’ve tried a few and those that haven’t, for whatever reason, felt right, I’ve kicked into the long grass. At the moment I’m ‘left with’ – jazz workshops, blogging, walking the pups, reading (and napping), and a little bit of travel. My good works remain occasional and low key like supporting a friend who is having some serious emotional problems at this stage in his retirement. Periodically, I return to those activities I thought I would be engaging in but haven’t. I consider re-joining the golf club we were members of, taking up photography again, a bit more travel albeit to not too distant places, even doing a bit of consultancy work. I do get occasional requests – I got one this week in fact. That said, I cannot see that the insertion of these activities into my retirement life are going to tick the ‘passion’ box.
So there we have it or rather I have it, the search for perfection goes on and yes, I am being ironic, I know enough about life to understand that perfection at any time of one’s life does not exist, it’s unachievable. I repeat – to myself – it’s the journey not the destination. But still… retirement from a distance promised so much and instead it’s only more of the same just with a bit more time to do it and I’m not sure even that’s true. Ahh, retirement, what a strange business it all is.