Retirement may be looked upon either as a prolonged holiday or as a rejection, a being thrown on to the scrap-heap
Simone de Beauvoir – 9 Jan 1908 – 14 Apr 1986 – French Writer, Intellectual, Existentialist Philosopher,Political Activist, Feminist and Social Theorist
Nobody ever told me that retirement would be an enormous upheaval in my life, and in any case, I would never have believed them. Today is 30 May, 2015 and I am almost a retired woman! For quite a number of my 43 years of working life I have actually looked forward to the day that I would be able to slow down, but now that I am “staring down the barrel” of that gun it is an entirely different matter altogether. I chose the opening quote expressly because it hints at the turmoil involved in coming to the decision to retire, but it is really representative of the extreme points of sentiments involved. There are many mid range emotions on the topic of retirement which sit snugly between those two poles, and I think I have experienced most of them.
Everyone retires at some point in their life, but on the whole that choice is theirs, and ultimately they are resigned to that fact. Perhaps my difficulty has come from needing to retire a little earlier than than I, or my hubby, had planned, not by a lot of time – only 12 – 18 months – but earlier none the less. It has not been a clear cut decision. There is no life threating illness, no life changing event, just a need to spend less time in front of a computer screen due to arthritis – how very inane! This single point leaves me in the unfortunate position of not being able to see through a number of plans I had for my career, and that really annoys the devil out of me!
My career has always been incredibly important to me. I chose to work in the Administrative field, putting into that choice all the thought and commitment that someone would show when deciding to study medicine, open a business, fly a plane or become an organic vegetable gardener. Every student or trainee that has ever come under my wing has been told that they should not “fall into” a job just because there is no other, and that they should truly think about where a career in Administration could lead them. Paper trails have always fascinated me, I thrive on contact with the general public, I am able to capably deal with crisis situations and I love working with children. These facts saw me leading a team of Administrative Officers in an Outpatient Clinic at our local hospital for the last 12 years, and they truly have been the most challenging yet satisfying years of my working life. I’ve loved every minute of it!
So, a fortnight ago the decision to retire was made after almost a year of increasing problems with arthritis. I have spent two or three days teary and crying, and I have spent a number of days filled with excitement, but there is a specific day that I should tell you all about. It was the day that I woke up thinking – What Was It All For.
The truth is – I haven’t saved lives, I’m not a political activist (actually I find politics a bit boring), I’m so far removed from being an intellectual it’s ridiculous and I have no idea about social theorems. I will have to leave those critical careers to others. What was it that I had achieved during my working lifetime that could possibly be seen as advantageous to anybody, seen as helpful. The funny thing is, it wasn’t a “poor me” type of thought, it was more a reflection, and the answer plagued me for a week or more before the answer presented itself. During that week or two I felt like I was in crisis, I was at a very low point which resulted in me being teary at the drop of a hat – something that does not sit well with me. I was devastated to think that I had spent nearly a lifetime, and may not have achieved anything. I simply needed to feel that I had contributed and made a small difference. That is only normal, isn’t it? I hope it’s normal anyway.
The answer came in the form of an urgent yet relatively simple problem that needed to be solved and it was almost a “light bulb” moment. How very daft I had been, not being able to see that this was the very reason I was doing what I was doing! Leading a fantastic team through difficulty, changing processes for the better, providing what we all hoped was a quality service to the general public under difficult circumstance, and finally helping parents organise the best healthcare outcomes for their children. Of course I had contributed! Organisation, Planning, Assistance – I have always known these are my strengths.
Knowing that I have worked towards a better service helps immensely, it fills in the hole. It will be interesting over the next 6 weeks leading up to my retirement to see what other emotions I will find lurking beneath the surface of my composure, what other thoughts will come to mind, and how I will deal with the transition to retirement – stick around – take the journey with me, and find out what retiring is all about.