no mans landI wrote this retirement blog some time ago and things have changed somewhat but, as an example of how a person might feel in retirement, I’ve decided to publish it anyway. As I read it again prior to publishing it I have to say, it’s a little bit weird in parts but then I suppose it reflected how I felt at the time, a period of feeling a bit down. It happens.

Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic but sometimes retirement feels like a wasteland or maybe, more accurately, being in no man’s land. At times I feel like I am ‘out there’ in no man’s land, exposed and the temptation is to turn and run for cover. To head back to the known, to safety. But then, when you look back what you thought was there, it is no longer there. So then you think again about going on but you don’t know what lies ahead and all the time you’re under fire. OK, only from your own bullets but they hurt nonetheless. You think about turning back and searching out what you once had but maybe it doesn’t exist at all. You look ahead and you get to a point in the wasteland when you think, well to  hell with it, I’ve come this far, might as well carry one to whatever lies over the hill. Stay with me here, it gets clearer, I think.

But, worse still, you’re in this wasteland with a friend and suddenly the friend (a rare thing in my case) says, I’m going back. He says, the people back there are calling me to return, they say they have something I need. I say don’t be silly there’s no going back, but I also think why aren’t they calling me? Am I expendable now, didn’t I used to be an asset like they think my friend is now?

By now I guess you are thinking, the man has lost his mind, this retirement business has proved too great a burden, he’s lost the plot. So let me explain, if I can, and see if it makes any sense at all. I was sitting in the pub with my friend the other night. He retired at the same time as me so we have shared a lot of the highs and lows of being fairly newly retired. Last time we met he told me he had been offered the chance to go back to his old job. He said he hadn’t decided yet but I could tell he was going to do it. He was going to unretire, go back to what he was good at and leave me alone in limbo-land. His circumstances are somewhat different to mine(and forgiveable, if forgiveness is required) in that he retired when he was 60 while I was 65. When I was 60, I unretired and worked for another 5 years, so I can hardly blame him for doing the same. His wife still works long hours and his retirement time is often spent in child care seemingly for, a somewhat ungrateful mother – his wife’s daughter from a previous marriage, so they’re not even his blood relatives. I can definitely understand his desire to get out from under the load, to make life a bit different.

I say to my friend, yes, I can see you need something more in your retirement life but there must be other things you can do that don’t involve taking a backward step. This is just the conversation I had with myself when I planned my own retirement. Time to do something different. I didn’t need to retire and, I suppose, I could have worked in the same profession but in a different setting, but, I told myself, now I had the opportunity to reinvent myself –a continuing theme in this blog. It would be cowardice not to take this chance. So bravery under fire, the fire of my own self-doubt, too dramatic? Maybe so. It is not being brave if, just because you’ve lost your friend to the evils of work, you want to run for cover even if it does exist somewhere back there. Chances are this safe haven I’m thinking about doesn’t exist anyway.

I recounted all this to Mrs Summerhouse as we drove home. She asked me if I were offered job now would I take it? On one hand the answer was an easy no in that the profession of educational psychology is undergoing some significant changes and not for the better in my view. Local Authorities have less and less influence over schools and Educational Psychologists (EPs) are more and more being employed directly by schools. Which means that schools will be able to determine what the EP does. No bad thing you might think and you’d be right but if, like me, you had always spent a lot of time avoiding the within-child model of behaviour or learning difficulties and most of my time looking at how the school can help without labelling the child as having special needs or less-kind labels, then this could be difficult. If the school says we are buying you in to carry out a psychometric assessment (an approach I always despised as a professional) then I would have little choice but to carry out that assessment even though the results – he’s got an IQ of 60 and should be in a special school – are not helpful to anybody, child, parent or school unless they simply want to get rid of their most challenging children. Heaven help us.

Why am I saying all this? Well, because increased trading services is the situation that my friend will be returning to. If that means more individual, psychometrics then I can answer Mrs SH very, very easily – wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole. If trading services means that schools are asking for help to skill themselves up when dealing with children with learning and behaviour problems, then that would be more difficult to say no to. But as the chances are they won’t and nobody is going to offer me a job anyway, in that sense, the whole debate is academic.

So, I hear you say, are you saying you hope that the world of educational psychology goes down the tubes so that it is easier for you to make a decision about being retired? Are you hoping that your friend’s return to work turns out to be a disaster because then you can feel you’ve made the right decision in not going back? Well, that would make me some kind of pathetic retired person now wouldn’t it?

Reading this again I’m amazed how jumbled it is Reflective of how I felt at the time, I suppose. Still I did promise to write about the good, the bad and the ugly of retirement, not just the nice stuff. The irony of this post is that things have changed but I will write about all this next time/s.

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