So what are my ‘plans for retirement’? At this stage, apparently I’m supposed to have some. I ran into a cousin at a family funeral last week and he assumed my plan would be ‘to travel’. That’s largely because this is what he has been doing, very intensively, since he retired several years ago. But no, I don’t want ‘to travel’. I’m all in favour of holidays, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t feel any need to see other continents just for the sake of it. I don’t care for the tourist view, something that my three months in Vienna a few years back reinforced. Living somewhere else, for several months – that’s worth it, because even three months are enough to understand the basic shape and feel of a place, and to go well beyond ‘the sights’. But a couple of weeks? Not interesting.
According to one how to retire presentation I discovered, apparently I can find ‘creative ways to self-reinvent and thrive’, and I need to be ‘appreciating and integrating emotions inherent in this transition’. A strategy I should be using here is to ‘share my new plans and goals with family, colleagues, and friends’. Plans? Goals?? It all sounds like a lot of work. But here’s what I can ‘share’ so far…
More of the same?
The first thing I want to do is to write the book that’s under contract. Until 2018, I’m already booked for various seminars, conference papers and keynote lectures, so that will keep me occupied: just not paid! I’ll continue working (paid) for the Quality Assurance Agency – doing reviews of higher education establishments is interesting, often enjoyable and rather like reading crime fiction (something else I will be doing), in that you have to sift through the evidence to work out what happened. I’ll also probably agree to any more reviewing work that comes my way from the Church of England (unpaid).
But all those things are ‘more of the same’, and that retirement presentation urged me to reinvent myself. As what, though?
Over the last twenty years or so, I’ve developed a very basic plan, which features learning sign language and volunteering at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. The sign language was on the list because I found – and still find – stimulating the whole idea of speaking without words. However, that means finding a class. The CAB was there because it combines doing something useful with learning new things, for example about the benefits system and the law. But will they be recruiting (or even in existence) when I’m available?
Recently, I’ve also found out that our local library system needs volunteers to visit people in their homes and change their library books every three weeks. That has a lot of appeal because when I can’t go out I’ll be very grateful for someone to do this for me! On the ‘books’ theme, I’m also wondering if I should join our local bookshop’s Book Group.
Back, though, to volunteering. Last week I let slip to someone at church that I was going to retire, and she remarked only half-jokingly that she’d soon find something for me to do! I’m already a lay preacher and will continue with that, and with being a Street Pastor. But I hope to find other roles in my community which ‘fit’. I suspect it’s important not to say ‘yes’ to the first suggestion. I may join the U3A but under no circumstances am I going to offer to run an ancient Greek or Latin group for them. In the longer term, I find I have no appetite for more of the same, so maybe reinvention does turn out to be the right word here.
Expect the unexpected
Life does have a charming way of turning all your plans upside down, which means there isn’t that much point in having a clear Masterplan. I imagine it’s a bit like giving birth: if you’ve formulated a Plan in which you are going to use the birthing pool, but then it isn’t available or your baby has other intentions, then you may feel dissatisfied in some way. Fewer plans = fewer disappointments.
In relation to this, I’ve become more and more interested in living in the present moment rather than the future, which may stand me in good stead here. There’s all the unpredicability of my own, and my family’s, health to consider. I remember a colleague in a Liverpool who died very shortly after she’d retired, and of course the member of that same department who died of a heart attack at his desk on the last day of the academic year, thus making available the job to which I was appointed. In the midst of life, we are in death or, if you prefer the version in The Lion in Winter, try here, which reminds me: I’d like to watch more movies. Oh, and cook more, and see my friends, and…
So, then: plans. Maybe not. Maybe at this point I just have ideas. And maybe that’s OK.