About three years ago, as I contemplated what my retirement life might be like, one of the goals I set myself and failed to achieve (there have been a number) was to listen to Radio 4. Given that I would have more time to kick back and relax I thought listening to ‘talking radio’ would be a perfect retirement activity. I was very wrong mostly in the sense that I seem to have very little time to ‘kick-back’ and also in that when I do have time to relax I usually read and reading and listening to ‘talk’ radio do not go together. Music and reading maybe, trying to listen to interesting radio programmes, why else would you listen if they were not interesting, when reading, no. I have a friend who listens to a lot of radio 4, he of the shepherd’s hut building fame, except that he isn’t, building it that is, rather, under pressure from senior management (as he calls her, otherwise known as his wife), he’s building a new greenhouse instead. Either way this type of manual project is perfect for Radio 4 listening.
That said, I remember I did, just after I had retired, manage to listen to one Radio 4 programme called Rambling hosted by Clare Balding. By some strange coincidence this programme featured a group of retired people who had taken up walking or hiking, maybe I knew it was about retired people and that’s why I listened to it. I remember very clearly (and not much else) one man saying it took him and others, he thought, about three years to ‘get over’ work and accept that he was now retired. Bloody hell, I thought that’s a long time, I can’t be waiting three years to enjoy my retirement. I smile, although not laugh, when I look back and realise just how quickly the last three years have gone by. Flown doesn’t cover it, zipped by on an icy slide as I heard somebody say on the radio this morning, although not Radio 4.
So now those three years have gone I’m perhaps in a position to ask myself have I got over not working and am I now settled as a retired person? The bigger question pertaining to the title of this blog, is what have I learned about retirement in those three years? The short and rather unsatisfactory answer to the first two questions is – just about but not entirely. I still miss work and I haven’t really come to terms with being retired. I’ll try and explain why and if I can make it some kind of review of the last three years. Much of what I’m about to write I’ve written before, at least I think this is true except that, given I have no clear idea about what I’m going to write, this may or may not be true, whatever true means in this context.
I know one thing, one problem for the retired person is that, if you enjoyed / gained satisfaction from your previous career, the hole takes some filling. Eight hours a day, maybe more, is a big hole. If you hated your job then so much the easier. I know one of the pieces of advice I so freely dispense to others about how to have an enjoyable retirement, is to develop an identity to replace the lost one. My plan was to become a writer. I’ve always had vague aspirations to be an author and, from time to time, I’ve come close to fulfilling this ambition. But not quite. I write this blog but I’m not sure it counts (it might if I turned it into a book), certainly doesn’t count enough but then few things do for me. My grandma, as has turned out to be so often the case, had it right when she said to me, many times, you’re never satisfied lad. How true, how true.
I think one reason why becoming a writer hasn’t worked for me is that, if I’m honest, I’ve never prioritised my writing in the way that I’m sure proper authors do. It comes some way behind vineyard owner, guitar-playing, house renovator, dog-walker, gardening business owner, which means that, like this very blog, it gets fitted in when I have the time. Advice receivers take note, this is not the way to develop a new identity. I think it (whatever you choose as your topic or identity) pretty much has to take up about as much time as work did. To be all-consuming in a sense. And the other problem with having a new identity is linked to the above. My version is messy. I don’t think you can have an identity that runs to four or five activities as in my examples. I suppose technically you can but, odds on, whoever you’re talking to even if it’s just yourself, will have stopped listening to your descriptors quite a while before you get to the end of your list. Possibly even humming I know I do a lot of humming when contemplating my retirement life. Ah, old age, marvellous.
I know you’ll say but what you’ve got is a nicely balanced, eclectic form of retirement. I’m sure this is what you’ll say because I’ve said it often enough to myself and it’s true I’ve always been a bit of a fiddler or is it dabbler, with life activities, so why would you expect to change now? But that’s it right there, I did expect to change. I confidently predicted that with the tabla rasa that retirement would clearly bring it would be a doddle to reinvent myself as that person I had always wanted to be. Trouble was I have never really known who that person was.
So, there we are, I potter along filling my days with activities that may or may not be the ‘right’ ones and I know I’d be reluctant, resistant even, to giving up two or three of the above in order to become more of a purist retiree. So, figure that out. I’m definitely keeping active, mentally and physically and I know that that’s a piece of advice that has stood the test of time, well, the last three years at any rate. I guess I have learned other stuff along the way about retirement but somehow I’ve reached my 1000 words self-imposed, approximate limit to these blogs, so I’ll leave it for now. I have no doubt that the subject of a happy / fulfilling retirement is one to which I shall return.