It’s ‘retiring’, not ‘retired’

When I retired, I never planned to have a clear before/after moment. Professionally, binaries of this kind have no appeal – I wrote a whole book about one such alleged moment – and when it comes to life transitions, why is one supposed to feel any different just because of a birthday, for example?

In addition to supervising the current three PhD students, I knew I’d go on for a few years with some short consultancy roles for the Quality Assurance Agency, and Athena Swan, and possibly for the Church of England. However, at the time of  retirement I was also in discussions about a possible visiting professor role, and that has now been confirmed: in the academic year 2017-18, I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be a Robert E. and Susan T. Rydell Visiting Professor at Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota. I’m very excited about this because it’s entirely my sort of thing; I’ll be able to attend their Nobel Conference on assisted technology in reproduction, and will also join in teaching, give some public lectures, and generally ‘enrich the intellectual life of the campus and community’. What’s not to like? Some of this will be done in person, but lots by Skype, because this is after all the 21st century! This means that it’s possible to combine the role with the caring responsibilities I share with my husband. After my first Skype with my Faculty host, I’m even more excited at the way my interests in teaching people to use evidence and to think critically mesh with the Gustavus Adolphus ethos and curriculum.

I’ve been interested in the reactions to my news from friends and family. Some have been surprised – how could I possibly do this thing after retiring?! Traitor! Others have said they expected me to pull something like this out of the retirement hat. Some sound thoroughly disappointed with me! It reminds me a bit of when I gave up vegetarianism after nine months without meat – some friends, not those who were vegetarians themselves, reacted in a ‘How can you possibly do such a thing?’ way.

Then as now, however, it’s my choice. I chose to give up meat, and I chose to start eating it again. I chose to leave my job early and now I choose to take on an interesting temporary role in another university. And there’s another similarity. In both cases, something particularly tempting came my way: in one case, bacon, and in the other, bacon’s intellectual equivalent.


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