As usual I was on the look-out for anything retirement related this weekend, in this case on the BBC news website, see headline and extract below. I asked Mrs Summerhouse on our morning doggie walk what she thought the answer was. She replied – neither, but certainly not boredom. The article said:
Is an early retirement filled with freedom or boredom?
The Pensions Minister Steve Webb has warned workers to think carefully about retiring early, to avoid a life of “boredom, loneliness and poverty”. In his report into working longer, Mr Webb said workers should take time to draw up financial plans and employers should consider the benefits of having older staff.
Former civil service worker Terry King, who retired at 59, told BBC Radio 5 live’s Victoria Derbyshire she felt “invisible” and “without value”. However Catherine Sparks, who left work at 60, said attending classes at an adult education centre meant there was “no time to be bored”.
Mrs SH said she thought the word, in our case, was ‘challenging’ and I think that’s a fair summary of our retirement at least. But not for everybody, it seems. A little later in the same walk we met and chatted with a chap we regularly meet on our morning walk with his two dogs. I said, we were just talking about retirement and whether it sets you free or is boring. Without a moment’s hesitation, he replied, I’m bored stiff, I don’t know what to do with myself. I’m putting a light in for my daughter, she hasn’t asked for it and I pay for it but it gives me something to do. It turns out he’s been retired for 21 years and that he retired at 51 (to look after his mother, he said). So you’d have thought that he has had plenty of time to make the most of his retirement life after 21 years. But no, apparently he’s still, ‘bored stiff’.
Partially in an effort to make him feel a bit better, or was I just seizing the moment as an opportunity to make myself feel better, I started to talk about my retirement ‘problem’, not boredom but lowered self-esteem. He agreed with me but I could tell his thoughts were fixed in the boredom view of retirement. We parted but, on the rest of the walk, Mrs SH and I continued to explore this tricky self-esteem business. I know I’ve written about it before in these blogs but this was earlier in my retirement. Interesting thing is, it’s still a problem for me even after 3 and a bit years. You’d have thought I might have got this sorted. Apparently not.
In my career as an educational psychologist, the bulk of the job was going into schools and talking to (problem-solving) with teachers, support staff, parents etc. about challenging (that word again) children, of classes of children or, sometimes, whole school’s full of them if the staff were to be believed. I digress, the point is that, and I don’t think I am over-estimating my greatness here, I left say 90% of those meetings with people saying something to the effect, thanks very much, that was helpful. My main aim was simply to leave the adults and hence, I believe, the children feeling better than when I met them. And so, on an entirely selfish note (which won’t surprise you if you’ve read the rest of these blogs), I felt good about myself. My self-esteem at this point in my life was usually (not always admittedly) very high. Now, not so.
As I explained to Mrs SH I now live in a world where there is a complete absence of what you might call positive feedback and none of my attempts to make my retirement interesting, which it is, have had any positive impact on my self-esteem. A bit like the person above in the radio interview, ‘invisible and without value’ and even though the ‘no time to be bored’ also applies. I sometimes think this is doing nothing more than papering over the cracks. Sounds harsh doesn’t it? I don’t want to dwell too long but look at it logically. I enjoy this blog and I do get positive comments but we are not at the 90% level that’s for sure. Vineyard? Well you can read about that elsewhere in this blog. It is often fun, even enjoyable but self-esteem raising, well, read this last vineyard blog and you’ll get the picture.
Running the gardening business? Well there are odd moments of success when one of our clients pays their bill but again I have to say we’re not talking a plethora of positive feedback here, more like just the occasional palm tree in the desert. Remind me to write about Mrs SH’s garden design success, that might be promising. The dogs are great and take up two hours or more every day, but irritatingly refuse to verbally show their appreciation of the lives we give them and while a lick on the face is nice (although not to Mrs SH), frankly it’s not the same as a, thanks for your help I think we know where we are going now. Then there’s my attempts to learn about music and jazz in particular. I shall shortly be writing a blog about this specific area of my retirement life. All I’ll say right now is that I’ll give myself full-marks for continuing to meet the painful challenges I set up for myself but raising self-esteem, I think not. No siree, Bob.
Which, while I’m compartmentalising my life in this fashion, leaves the Derbyshire cottage and the DIY work we’ve been carrying out or, more truthfully, the DIY work I’m paying my neighbour to carry out. I get bored you see and while it’s great that the various jobs are being done by my neighbour and various tradesmen that he organises, I can hardly claim a sense of achievement brought about by my own honest toil. Hence, and you’ve guessed it, in terms of self-esteem, nowt, as we say in Yorkshire.
So there we are, my retirement is certainly not boring, it’s full of stuff and I haven’t even mentioned my reading time or whisper it, time spent watching Homes Under the Hammer. No, not boring but not particularly free either. How could it be when you give yourself so many things to do? But raising self-esteem? Well not so far but I do have a plan but you will have to wait for a pre-Christmas blog to discover my cunning plan for a more encouraging retirement.