A few weeks ago my husband and I had dinner at my father-in-laws. During the evening, the conversation turned to a discussion about the fact that when you’re retired you wake up every day and you can decided exactly what you do or don’t want to do. But the main point was that when you’re retired you don’t HAVE to go to work.
To give you some background, my father-in-law dedicated his life to academia. He invested in his pension scheme and a few years ago retired at the age of 60. To say he is enjoying his retirement is an understatement. He bought a boat, stripped it down and built it back up again. In the summer, when he isn’t holidaying in Greece for a month, he goes sailing. In winter, he works on the boat. He regularly hosts and enjoys cooking fabulous food for his friends. Needless to say, my father-in-law and his wife have a great social life.
But my argument round that dinner table was that I believed that when I wake up every morning, I am doing exactly what I want to do now. I’ve worked hard to build my career and now I work as a freelance consultant. This means that not only do I get to choose what projects I get to work on, I also get to choose how and when I want to take time off work to pursue other activities (like spending the summer in Spain with my kids).
Presently I’m working on 5 projects. Each one is very different to the next and are interesting and challenging. I’m not saying that these projects aren’t without frustrations, because they are. But for me, the frustrations and how I overcome them are part of the learning experience.
A few days later I was participating in a very difficult meeting with some trade union officials. I sat there and thought “I don’t want to be here”. And with my father-in-laws words from the previous weekend echoing in my mind, I began to think “Why am I here? I don’t need to be here, I could do something else much more enjoyable.”
I must admit I came out of that meeting with a look on my face like “a bag of spanners”. Two hours after the trade union meeting had finished I was briefing the Director of Operations and the Director of Finance on how the meeting had gone. I concluded my debrief with some strategic advice – both short and long term as to how they should manage the situation which turned into a very productive debate of the issue. It was this meeting which turned what potentially was a disastrous day into a good one.
That evening I was listening to a programme on Radio 4 about planning financially for retirement when I had the sudden realisation that I had 30 years of work ahead of me. At first I felt shock (I don’t know how I’d miscalculated it, but I previously believed I only had 2o years of work ahead of me!) But then a bubble of excitement grew from the pit of my stomach.
I consider myself to be experienced in practicising my profession and I am able to earn a good living as a freelance consultant. I realised that 30 years would give more experience, more opportunities to learn and hone my craft, to get better at what I love doing. I was excited about the potential of my future.
It may be interesting in 30 years for someone to draw attention to this post and ask “Was it all that?” But to be honest, the answer doesn’t really matter. I’m enjoying the here and now.