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12 November, 2006

Thinking About Retiring

I’m retiring soon. I know what you’re thinking. Someone as young and vibrant and full of the joys of life as I am can’t possibly be retiring. But it’s true.

I’ve been trying to write something about what it means to retire but it's hard. The thing is, it’s a bit of a non-event, really. I’m not filled with anxiety about losing my purpose, my identity, or my role in society. I don’t feel I have work left undone. I’m not chagrined that I haven’t achieved all my goals. I have no fear that my status will suffer, or my self-esteem will fail. I won’t grieve for the loss of my workmates (in the contracting business I tend to move from place to place often enough for the gaining and losing of acquaintances to be perfectly normal.) And I certainly have no concern at all that I won’t have enough to do!

Work has been such a chore to me most of the time. However interesting the job, however good the company, part of me has always resented it bitterly. Even when the work has been incredibly interesting – and I have worked in universities doing post-doc research and, for many years in industrial R&D – there was always the knowledge that someone else was setting the agenda, that I wasn’t able to pick and choose what I wanted to engage my interest in. Not that I didn’t work hard and with complete dedication for my various employers – thanks to my good old English working class upbringing – but I have wished all my life that I didn’t have to do it. And the only reason I have done it is for the money.

And that's my only concern. I worry a bit that maybe I won’t have enough money. After all, no matter how well set-up things seem now, the economy is in the hands of politicians, so it could collapse at any moment. But, to be honest, if that happens, having a job wouldn’t be much help anyway.

More than that, I worry that not earning money is an end to fantasy. You know the way couples talk, ‘maybe well get one of those (houses, cars, trips to Antarctica, whatever) one day. While you’re still working it’s always just possible, just within the realms of belief, even if, in your heart of hearts, you know how unlikely it would be. Yet to stop earning is also to give up some of that, to say, ‘OK, what we have now, how we live now, is pretty much how it will always be, until we die.’ I think Wifie and I are fairly sensible types but one has to wonder how much such silly talk sustains one.

I suppose we’ll see. Certainly it will be nice to have the time to reflect on it.

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