I turned 63 at the end of last year. It’s an age around which a lot of people give up on life it seems. I didn’t know that until I became aware of it happening all around me. A growing awareness of what I observed in others created a growing determination inside of me not to be like that. I turned 60 at the end of 2006, and that was one of the most rewarding years of my life. You could say I began as I intended to go on.
January 22nd of this year found me at my desk, then, having returned Christmas week. I’d just spent two and a half months on sick pay after falling and breaking a wrist. (More lessons in economy!) I went back after New Years full of positive energy. So you’d think that losing my job mid-January would have sent me into negative spin, wouldn’t you? Truth is that my work ethic and that of the company had been running in ever-diverging lines for some while, add to that the slow, but sure, grind of spending a good part of the working day listening to whinging, and then add the irritation of office politics, and, well, I can’t say my heart was broken. The euphemism I was asked to use was that I was taking “early retirement”; friends advise me to say I was “made redundant”, and there is a certain amount of truth in that because I am not the only one to be let go.
I feel sorry for people who dislike change, who aren’t ready for life’s twists and turns. First off, it must be so worrying and second it must be so boring!
In that sense, then, it didn’t faze me. Since I was under no illusions about the machinations which lead to my dismissal, and since, so far as I know, I was given the correct amount of severance pay, it resembled more a granting of freedom than anything else.
It capped a month of turnings points, Guy moving to England, Austin moving to Adeje and starting a new job in a field new to him, all of us moving house, so the timing was appropriate.
The enforced downtime after breaking my wrist last October had already set in motion a self appraisal, and had made me take a look at myself in depth. I didn’t much like what I saw. An inner voice, one that whispered about stability and which condemned risk- taking, had led me into a string of dead-end jobs since my nest emptied back in 2002. Although volunteer work had restored my self-esteem after 2005, it was a balance that had tipped back into a personal negative in recent months, the immigration crisis having lessened, and the need to be on constant alert having disappeared. Comfort eating, mainly from boredom at work, had piled on pounds, especially over the last, two years. Working in a basement, away from the public eye, in recent months, had made me tend to the hippie/sloppy in appearance (no problem if that’s you, but it wasn’t me). Up until my reduced income in October a monthly pay-check had made me lazy about my dreams and ambitions, and it showed on the outside as well as inside. So perhaps I had, in effect, done all the angsting and appraising before, rather than after, my dismissal, so that I had none of the loss of self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness a social scientist would have predicted.
Am I worried about my future? You bet. Do I feel as if I am on the scrap heap, unlikely to do anything with what remains of my four score and ten? No way! Am I going to let that worry rule my life? No way!
I’m a fan of Aerosmith, so the first time I heard “Life’s a journey, not a destination” was in their song, as I bopped in rhythm and agreement. Of course it was Emerson who said it first.
This enforced change of direction then, is a new adventure, a “fork stuck in the road” (Offspring I think?). True, generally speaking it’s better to make these turns oneself, but my feeling is that my positive energy may well have been the precipitator. There was me thinking I could harness the energy to enjoy my work, when all the time it was pushing me in entirely the other direction.
This blog is now become a survival manual, a finger raised at convention and certain people (if they ever read this, they will know who they are). This is me saying I refuse to roll over and retire, to spend my days gossiping with other miserable ex-pats or to add any more to the inevitable lines of age by baking myself in the sun every day. This is my record of my new life.
This is my first collage for foto-class, and symbolic – doors which may open onto just about anything.
Within 24 hours of my dismissal I had bought a Canon EOS 500D. Media Mart didn’t have in stock the Nikon over which I had been fantasizing, and no way was I going to risk my “sensible” voice cutting in and telling me this was folly, (my experience has always been that when I listen to that voice it turns out wrong) so I went for the Canon, before I could rethink, and no regrets as yet.
Within two weeks I had signed up for a photography course. I am halfway through now, and can report it to be one the best things I’ve ever done. My efforts, as shown below, are still feeble, but improve by the week. Much of the rest is on my Flickr page (see sidebar for link). This is not going to transform me into Eve Arnold, but it will help me to help myself to explore any talent I may have.
This picture, the collage above and the video in the previous post were what I submitted for the first exhibit of students’ work last week.
I also took advice from both sons, and invested (I use the word advisedly because I did feel guilt) money in workout clothes and equipment, and made notes about what they told me about diet, which goes way beyond what I have read in magazines or on the internet. Gym membership is out of the question, so this will all be in-house stuff.
I am also in the process of taking up other, abandoned or postponed ideas, more on those another time. Sadly, the thing I can’t do is complete the BA with the Open University for a while, there just isn’t enough in the kitty. Maybe I will be one of those people who, at 80+, makes the headlines by completing their degrees, who knows! My lack of degree has weighed heavily around my shoulders over the years, but at the moment putting it on the backburner doesn’t hurt so much.
Otherwise, of course, I moved, and I already recorded my delight in the change of atmosphere. I unpacked. I packed up the owner’s stuff and took it down to the real estate agency, where they will store it for the length of my lease – that was a bit like moving twice over, but it’s all gone now. The new place lacks a view, but the ocean is almost on my doorstep, so this means I will not be spending time watching passing boats and ships and daydreaming of being on one of them. I am near the airport, departing flights almost pass overhead, but somehow, what with all the noise, they don’t inspire so much from this distance. For the first time in a year and half or so my possessions are all unpacked, and in place to make my life as pleasant and purposeful as possible.
I have given two weeks to my father, whose annual inspection visit took up the first part of March. What is more, I did that without giving away the fact that I am unemployed, without losing my temper and without allowing him to make me feel like a naughty fourteen-year-old – things must be looking up at last.
There is no doubt about it, I need to work, in more sense than one. I think I always will, because I don’t expect much in the way of pension, but that’s the choices I made in life. On an entirely other level, I don’t think I would ever not want to work anyway. Work gives life purpose, satisfaction and fulfilment, raison d’être, so long, it goes without saying, that it isn’t the sort of mindless, repetitive and boring stuff I have been known to sell my soul for in recent years.
I can’t help wondering if another inner voice, one which is now way louder, was chipping away at my lifestyle bit by bit, pushing me onto the road down which I now travel. Note to self: “LISTEN next time!”
My feet itch less just now. I think that’s because I am, actually, on a journey, even though I am still islandbound at the moment. It feels like travel. It feels like uncertainty and new discoveries. I am running down the road, not ambling, anxious to see what lies around the next bend, and this will be my story about what I find there.