In the lead-up to The Big R, I was, like most people, pretty excited about what was to come. I counted down the days I had to get catch the crowded, jerky bus; I fantasised about the unstructured hours and the last-minute getaways; I planned for all the hobbies I would take up.
So if you’d told me that, three weeks after my last day at work, I would be trawling the internet in search of a new job, I wouldn’t have believed you.
But that’s exactly what happened.
For the better part of a year, I put myself “out there” in the humiliating world of job-hunting when you are past retirement age.
It wasn’t until I’d sent out countless CVs, kowtowed to multiple former colleagues and completely destroyed my sense of self-worth that I realise it was not a job I wanted, but an answer to the question, “What do you do?”
For the better part of forty years I had identified myself by virtue of my career. It was so easy to answer THAT question at dinner parties. What do I do? I am a producer. That’s me, that’s what I do, therefore that’s what I am. Right?
Not once when planning my retirement had I planned how I would answer that question when I was no longer someone who helped create stories for the media.
Crunch time came when a bright young recruiter asked if I would consider applying for a much more junior position. “The pay’s not great, but you can work your way up,” she chirped.
At that moment the lightbulb pinged on and I came to my senses. What was I doing here? Why was I wasting my time chasing jobs I would loathe if I actually managed to land them?
Giggling like a madwoman, I tried to explain to the recruitment girl that there was no working one’s way up at my age. That one was sufficiently worked up, and thank you very much for your time and goodbye.
I’d love to say that from that moment on, retirement was a breeze. But, truth is, it was a couple of years before I felt truly comfortable in my new role, or lack thereof.
One by one, I built the foundations of a fulfilling retired life. I replaced work friends with old friends I’d never had time for, and new friends from my community and the activities I now had time to pursue.
At some point I came to the realisation that I was mourning the role of someone who is perpetually useful and, goodness knows, there are plenty of opportunities to be useful out there – it’s just a matter of finding them.
At first I kept my days structured and busy – between yoga, volunteer teaching (which led to some paid tutoring) and a newfound love for cycling – it was easy to do. But things have loosened up as I have.
So how about that tricky question? These days, when someone asks me what I do, I have a standard reply. I say, “All kinds of things! What are you offering?”
Have you ever felt this way? Did you feel lost after retirement, or is it something you worry about for the future?