My last day at work was 18th June, nine months ago. Nine months is also, of course, the gestational period for a human baby. Sufficient time to develop from a fertilised egg cell into a living infant. Very similar in fact to my own transmogrification.
Prior to actually taking the plunge there was excitement tinged with a degree of nervousness and, dare I say it, even fear. However and since completing the dive there has been no looking back and I can honestly say that to date I have had no reason to regret my decision.
Last summer, in the early days, it felt as though I was a complete novice at everything I touched. A feeling emphasised by leaving a career in which I was professionally skilled and competent for a completely different lifestyle for which it felt as if I was totally under-qualified. I have still many years to go in the art of retirement before I might justifiably call myself a Master, but am now very much accustomed to my new life as well as the challenges that go with it and which bring so much enjoyment. I am learning as I go and this blog hopefully records the wisdom picked up along the way and lessons learnt.
To begin with, it did feel like a never-ending holiday but nine months on it is now a pattern of life without commitment, timetable or routine unless they are of my choosing. There is still ongoing hard-work behind the scenes to develop fitness and maintain good health to enjoy retirement, hopefully for a long time into the future. On reflection, I should not, of course, have worked so hard that I lost sight of a good work-life balance but retirement is all about looking forward and not backwards. Nine months on, I now realise how stressed work made me feel but can only trust that I escaped before there was any long-term damage and revel in the benefits of what has been a natural healing process.
I recall that there was a point where I began to feel guilty that life feels so hedonistic. It is strange, however, how you can get used to almost anything and those twangs of guilt have definitely disappeared four months later. In part I believe this is because my memory of that previous hair shirt style of living is fading fast. That's not, of course, because it was a long time ago ( we are talking only nine months) but more because of the change that has been taking place as I have developed into a frame of mind where I accept who I am, what I want and strive to carve myself that life. I obviously have nothing to feel guilty about anyway, but I guess it was an inevitable phase in moving onward in retirement that in shedding the burden of decades of working you take time to adjust to the pleasure of life being your own to do as you will. When you do, it is proof that you have forgotten how it felt being shackled to the work ethic.
"I think, therefore I am," wrote Descartes. What's different for me now, is how I think. Years of straight-lined analytical thinking have been cast aside as I become open to ideas floating into my mind from all directions. Primarily through Future Learn, I have embraced a diverse variety of subjects, disciplines, and ideas. It takes time but gradually my mind is opening to the discovery of a great big universe out there and of which I was only vaguely aware stuck at an office desk.
My long-term aim is to rediscover my creative inner and I have been shocked at how much that day job has squeezed my creative juices to extinction. Although I have tried sketching, creative writing and various low-key crafty projects, my successful route for rehabilitation has come from the rediscovery of colour, first from visiting various modern art exhibitions and then from experimenting with photography. I am much more aware of detail than ever before; there is time in retirement to appreciate it: I see, therefore I am.
Moreover now that I see so much more, the joys of travel and exploration are extended, both in the UK and abroad.
So after nine months, there are no regrets as I continue to totter with baby steps in that big new world of retirement. Our plans remain in focus and if there is any lesson to be drawn so far in seeking to achieve them, it is simply that everything takes time, preparation and planning.