What has publishing a chapter about living in New Zealand 17 years ago got to do with a blog on retirement now? Well, a couple of things I suggest. First, being retired gives a person an opportunity to reflect on and simply enjoy some of our past experiences. That’s not always easy in the hurly burly of a working life. Nothing wrong with a little nostalgia providing it doesn’t get out of hand. Second, it is possible to learn from the past such that it might better inform the future. For those of you who’ve been to this blog before you will know that the nature or quality of my retirement is an on going concern of mine. If I can learn something from my past then that’s all to the good.
L.P. Hartley in his novel The Go Between said ‘the past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.’ Yes and no, in our case New Zealand was, of course, literally a foreign country and we did do things differently there. Do I recognise myself in these distant writings, shit yes. We went to New Zealand planning on a more relaxed me and hence a happier time for the whole family. If you read the chapter you will see it was anything but. There were good times of course, it’s just that the bad times are funnier and there’s a moral there I think.
You might, if you were unkind, say the lesson was – you were miserable at home and you were miserable there. Stay at home and be miserable, it’s cheaper. But that would be a little reductionist. What I did learn from our 16 months away was that big changes don’t produce happiness, fulfilment, a sense of achievement, no matter how appropriate it seemed as a goal at the time. You take too much of yourself with you for that to happen. Oh and by the way, the grass, even New Zealand grass, although in actuality very green, wasn’t greener in the metaphorical sense.
On the positive side I learned we had the resilience to cope with some big life changes and indeed did the same thing again when we went to work in Australia. So persistence or stupidity, you decide. I learned we were risk-takers to a degree although not in any crazy sort of way – I kept my job in the UK open in case we decided to come back, which we did. I learned that, even after all the pain represented in the pages of my ‘book’, I’m really glad we did it. Perhaps more now (that I have time to contemplate life) than ever. It still gives me a sense of achievement that is important to my self esteem, which I’m writing about elsewhere in this blog.
How do the above apply to retirement? Well, it seems to me I should never have been looking for big changes. The notion of the tabla rasa was never going to be a helpful one for me, no matter how much, in a certain light, it might have seemed that way shortly before I actually retired. And no, the grass of retirement, you know the line – how wonderful it will be when I don’t have to get up in the mornings and go out to try and help other people solve their problems- isn’t greener and never was going to be. Doesn’t work that way for me. That’s what looking back has taught me. Finally, if what we did was courageous and our survival at times against the odds well then, that’s the way it can be now. The last six months, and I suppose to digress slightly, this blog is a kind of six month review, has been tough at times. But, hey ho, we’ve had tough before and done OK with it. So come on retirement, this is an adventure and a challenge, balance the adventure with the realism and remember the past, good and bad and we should be alright.
If you would like to read this chapter go to Four or Five go to New Zealand on the toll bar above and scroll down to chapter 3.