So, I’m entering the final stages of the official side of the process. My P45 has arrived (for non-UK readers, that’s the form which ends an employment and states the tax paid in it, so that if you were moving to a new job they could see your tax status) and tomorrow I have my exit interview by phone. I’ve already filled in an allegedly anonymous exit questionnaire, which my employer administers via a third party, and so I’ve addressed the reasons for my early departure. I’m not sure how the interview will relate to that – same questions? different ones? – but the short piece about the process on my employer’s website advises those conducting these chats to end with good wishes or commiserations as appropriate. Yes, that seems like a good idea! And there’s also my department’s official farewell lunch for me, which isn’t until later in February.
So that’s the official stuff. What about the emotional side? I still don’t know what I feel – six months notice, yet it isn’t entirely real yet. Plus I don’t think you ever cease to be ‘an academic’. I’m not suddenly going to lose all interest in my subject; yesterday I was in London watching the penultimate performance of Tony Harrison’s wonderful Trackers of Oxyrhynchus. I suspect my core identity will be just the same as ever. It will be great to have more time to attend seminars and other events that interest me, rather than having to rush to fit in more than a day should ever contain.
I may be wrong, but I also suspect that the first few months of retirement aren’t going to feel very different. I have all sorts of things to do which would look like ‘work’ to anyone watching; in the next two weeks alone, an evening outreach event at a museum/library, a talk at a large school event on ancient and modern science, and then various papers to finalize for seminars and conferences between now and the end of 2018. Plus I’ll be watching the progress of the first run of the MOOC I wrote, and interacting with its learners. And I’m still supervising three PhD theses, writing references (for four different people last week – possibly my personal best!), and so on. After April, I’ll probably concentrate on the book.
Then there’s the rest of life; for example, the very dusty and confused state of the house. The extension to our lounge, now known as The Expansion, is nearly complete, and apart from all the decisions to be made about how we use our rooms when that’s fully available – do I need a study any more? – the (now rather reduced!) garden will need a complete makeover. My books need to be cleaned and reorganized. This could all take a while.
As for Retirement Activities, I’ll stick with the Tai Chi, but so far my intention to join a local library scheme where you return and collect books for someone housebound has been thwarted because you have to have a car for this (why??). But this is a Slow Hexit; nothing has to be arranged until I’m less busy.
So: two more days of work, and then it all changes. Except, as with the transition from an old year to a new year, what’s underneath stays much the same.