an old career or a new one?

This retirement blog is about the strangest thing that happened to me last week. Well that’s not actually completely true, the clue is in the title but the truth is the ‘going back’ only happened in my head. What’s strange about it is that I actually wanted it to be true, I think. This was a very big surprise to me. I have been retired for more than five years and Mrs Summerhouse and I, during one of our dog-walk chats, had agreed, only yesterday, we had absolutely no desire to return to work*. None at all. We no longer missed it at all.

It’s taken me a long time to believe this and I’ve written over 500 blogs about the trials and tribulations of being retired. There may have been one or two in the 500 that extolled the virtues of being retired but the majority were concerned with the struggle – the damage to self-esteem, confidence, identity etc. That kind of thing. Yes, you’re right I am a miserable old git.

And yet here I was getting all excited again about an activity that could only be described as work-related. True, there was never any question, in my head, of being paid, nor of any of the usual work trappings – office, contract, suit – being part of the fantasy deal I had in mind. There wasn’t even any solid connection to the job I used to do. There was a link however, even if the link was, at best, tenuous.

I’m writing about this because I was amazed, shocked even, some might say perhaps a little disappointed that I should feel this way about the world of work even if two or three steps removed. I will try and explain. It started in a very low key fashion when having a conversation with my son-in-law about a mate of his who had just got a job as a cricket coach at one of the first-class counties. I won’t be any more specific than this for maybe obvious reasons. My son-in-law was telling me about a conversation he’d been having with his friend about how the job had started off in the first few days of his appointment.

His friend had told him about the resistance he was getting from existing members of the coaching staff to his ideas about working on the culture of the club with specific reference to identifying the values of the club. Now is not the time to go into any more detail about what he is trying to do except to say that, as my son-in-law described his ambitions, it rang a bell from way back in my career past. Twenty one years ago in my working past to be precise. How could I be so precise? Well, easy if you wrote, as I did, a chapter in a book (dated 1997) about the very topic.

The chapter was entitled Applying an Organisational Model to a Sports Setting. The book is the one in the image above. Not to labour the point, but the chapter, written obviously for a sports psychology audience, was about taking the work I had been doing in schools (on developing a culture that supported improving and maintaining pupil behaviour) and applying it to a sports setting. Again now is not the time to go into any detail about this aspect of my work, five years retired as I am.

I did however feel compelled to point out to my son-in-law that I had been working in this area in a (I admit small) way 21 years ago. This with amateur cricket clubs and even a dabble with it in the form of a presentation to the British Olympic Association (BOA) boxing team. It never went anywhere and eventually I gave up all thoughts of retraining as a sports psychologist. Yorkshire cricket club were, at the time, interested in employing me as a sports psychologist but this was to work with an individual cricketer who they were having trouble with – the very type of work I was trying to get away from.

My apologies, I seem to have felt the need to tell you all that. The conversation passed and I forgot about it, content with having made the point, at least in my head, that I’d had the idea 21 years ago. I did vaguely register the chapter in the book still on my shelves somewhere and made a small mental note that, just out of idle curiosity, I would reread it. And yesterday I did. And do you know it wasn’t too bad, quite good in fact although I suspect (I don’t know because I have no contact with sports organisations these days) it is no longer ‘new’, but I still think it’s ‘right’.

But pleasure was not my overwhelming emotion as I read it. Nope. What happened, to my amazement, is I started to have this fantasy about acting as a consultant to this coach and the club he works for and this came as a great shock. I had genuinely thought I was over all that work stuff. Ok, I knew that my self-image / identity, as a retired person, was a bit fragile but I never seriously thought I would want to ‘go back’ no matter how tangential the activity was to proper work.

I’m telling you all this now, knowing that this fantasy is never going to happen (and I know it won’t happen) as a cautionary tale. You think you’ve laid the ghost to rest but, five years on, bingo, up pops the corpse like some horror film scene (was it Halloween?) and you end up having to write about it to get it to lay down again – for who knows how long.

Having read the chapter I will most probably lend my son in law the book (and maybe another related book with the title The Unwritten Rules of the Game, again about organisational culture) and he may read it, he may even like it. He may even decide to lend it / them, to his friend the coach and his friend may even get in touch with me and ….

OK, hold it right there. This kind of thinking is not the way to get the corpse to lie down. Certainly not the way to lead a happy retirement. You’re just upsetting yourself unnecessarily. Let it (the world of work) go. You’ve moved on although not perhaps quite as far as I had thought. Strange business this retirement thing.

*If I remember correctly out of the 500 plus written blogs only one has referred to returning back to work once I’d retired because it was the only time I did it. This may or may not be the actual retirement blog.

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