‘I have embarked on a journey, and I don’t know the destination’

Dianne Motton is a regular and welcome contributor to YourLifeChoices. She took the plunge and retired from her full-time job at the end of last year. She shares her first small steps into the exciting next phase of her life.

I have embarked on a journey, and I don’t know the destination. It is to be a journey of discovery and, hopefully, adventure with a few twists and turns thrown in for good measure. It is a little scary and daunting though. Many of you readers are already veterans of this journey and I know will have advice for me in the future, but right now I am about to take my own first hesitant steps, like those of a toddler learning how to walk.

I have been greeted with many declarations of “congratulations” from well-wishers, as I announce my planned journey, but I am not sure just what I am being congratulated for. Is it for managing to survive 40-plus years in the workforce without a) killing my boss or work colleagues, b) not going insane, c) throwing it all in and living on a plastic-strewn beach on a tropical island or d) having died before the long-awaited end of work life? Perhaps it is for all of the above.

The trouble with the retire word is that it links into how we often define ourselves – as a member of a profession, a role, a job, whatever word you want to put down for what we have done as our career. For years we have been asked, “What do you do?” And we politely reply with our profession, rather than saying we are a human being trying to navigate our way meaningfully and respectfully through life. And now I am retiring from that career role, how will I define myself?

Am I always to be an ex such and such … still defining myself by what I used to do rather than what I can do, and do now? Will I see myself and be seen by others as a redundant, tired and cranky old soul, out on the scrapheap of work society?

These thoughts have swirled in my head these past few weeks making me question my retirement decision. After all, most decisions are never 100 per cent clear cut. I found myself saying to friends that I was 90 per cent sure of this retirement choice but that the other 10 per cent was clinging to the friends, colleagues and rituals of a lifetime of work that I would miss. But as I played with these mental gymnastics and prevarication, other new possibilities have emerged to counteract the negative ones. Dare I say, they come with a certain frisson of excitement!

First, I am about to rejoice in sleeping in late and realising that the only timetable I need attend to is of my own making. I can stay up late too, if I like, knowing that there will not be an exhausting day ahead to dampen my binge watching of streaming programs. What a sense of liberation that is.

Second, I can now manage to do the things that I like at my own leisure rather than cramming them in to the few minutes/hours left in a week after fulfilling my work obligations. Hopefully, they will be done with a better sense of accomplishment rather than feeling that they were rushed and half-baked.

Third, I can indulge myself with long lunches and hedonistic behaviours if I want to! The hard part will be to assuage the guilt that comes from still thinking I should be doing something productive, my Protestant work ethic kicking in. But I am sure I can work at destroying that devil on my shoulder.

Fourth, I am looking forward to finding new passions, new interests and adventures that will propel me into the next phase of my life journey.

After all, you wouldn’t be dead for quids, would you?

Do you find retirement or the thought of retirement confronting? Or is it something you have been planning and working towards for years?

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Written by Dianne Motton

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