I wrote a blog for Retiresavvy the Skipton Building Society retirement blog last week. It was linked to an interview with Michael Caine (see right, a man who seems to have this retirement business sorted – he hasn’t done it). One of the pieces of advice I offered to the newly retired person was if you basically enjoyed your job then carry on doing it, but not literally. What I wrote was, think very carefully about which aspect/s of your job gave you pleasure, fulfilment, satisfaction, a sense of self-esteem and factor this into your retirement life. In my case what I enjoyed about my job as an educational psychologist and, what for better description I will call a ‘trainer / consultant’, was the variety. A bit like Michael making different films as he got older. It was that old cliché of no two days ever being the same and if they looked like they were going to be then I always had the opportunity to change what I was doing. This control and variety were highly instrumental in the satisfaction etc. I got from my job. In fact if somebody asked me what is most important to you in your work then I would have said just that – the variety. This is the area that I have tried to carry forward into my retirement.
I say this because yesterday I had the horrible sensation that I was getting into a bit of a rut. Saturday of last weekend we drove the firm’s van, well my van, down to my late mother’s house in Derbyshire to continue the awful task of clearing out her house hopefully with a view to selling it, the house that is, not the furniture. I mean it’s on the market now but not really selling, so obviously if we can tidy it up a bit it might make it a slightly more attractive proposition to a prospective buyer. We don’t go very often because it makes for a very stressful day. Saturday was no exception, driving down the M1 and of course back again, going through piles of clothes, items of furniture, canned food, hundreds of ornaments (I never realised how many items she had even though I must have looked at them at least once a week). Feeling guilty about throwing them away or trying to give them away to charity shops who didn’t want them. At least in the end that’s what they said, initially, they said, oh, yes, we take anything, but when I loaded up the van and turned up with them, it turned out they didn’t. Quite frustrating and all I’m trying to do is give these items some form of on-going life, as I say, we aren’t trying to sell them. Whatever, it made Saturday a very difficult day.
Why am I telling you this in a blog that started out extolling the virtues of variety in retirement? Well it went like this, because Saturday was such a trying day we didn’t have the energy to do anything on Sunday, we decided we needed a chill out day. So we stayed in Leeds and didn’t, as we do most weekends, go up to Pateley Bridge to the cottage (or the vineyard, more of which in the next vineyard blog). And this decision worked well, we felt restored. Nor did we do much on Monday, another chill out day would be acceptable in our restorative period. So all good so far but then we made a mistake and decided to do not much on Tuesday either. And this was a day too far. During Tuesday I began to get that feeling of being in a rut. I began to get bored. For some reason this bothered me a bit – two days of the same activities and I’m bored. It’s a long way from feeling that retirement is an enjoyable and relaxing time of my life. I’m as antsy now as I was when I was working. Variety yes, flitting about all over the place, no.
You see the problem with too much variety at work, with being possessed of what I believe is called a butterfly mind and that was definitely me, is that you never specialise, you do not become an expert in your chosen field because you haven’t really chosen one. It’s rare to become an expert in doing a bit of this and a bit of that. You know the line, Jack of all trades and master of none. Now here I am in retirement, engaging in the same sort of behaviour. I know that many retired people take the opportunity that retirement provides to pursue their passion, to take their hobby to a new level free from the worries of financial uncertainty. They build their shed or clear out one of the children’s rooms and get stuck in to whatever, at this stage of their lives, they become a specialist in classic car restoration, stamp collecting, painting old steam engines, etc, etc. But not me, no siree, Bob, I’m just like I used to be – all over the shop as my grandma used to say. Eeh, you’re all over the shop, lad, she used to say (even then I was all over the place). Two days of doing the same things, of routine (something I said we didn’t have in a previous blog) and I’m bored out of my brain. You might say it shows a certain lack of moral fibre.
So here we are, up in Nidderdale on a Wednesday (unusual) because I didn’t want another day in the same spot and, admittedly, because Mrs Summerhouse had to collect her art work from How Stean Gorge as a part of the Nidd Art Trail. And tonight we’ll be sleeping in a different bed (and house) before we go back to Leeds tomorrow. So it all begs the questions – is the way we’re leading our retirement lives the way to go? Do we have pleasing variety or ‘got to keep moving’ dissatisfaction? Certainly my default position, that which I unconsciously assume, seems to be – do more, pack more stuff in, buy more houses, have more projects and so on. It almost – almost – makes me wonder what I’m trying to avoid. Could it simply be the Grim Reaper at the door? Am I simply engaging in the old strategy of burying my head in the sands of numerous activities? You know the child with his hands over his eyes and ears, can’t hear you, you don’t exist.
Maybe, but if I’m writing rubbish like this in my retirement, it must mean I still have too much time on my hands. Still looking for that missing retirement activity. I seem to be of the opinion that I need more variety, more things to do. All very puzzling, what will happen? Watch this (retirement) space).