Early Retirement or Giving Up?

WaveHaving spent the best part of 4 years trying to find meaningful and suitable employment and having spent every euro of my savings in said quest ~ travelling to conferences, seminars and workshops to learn, keep abreast of new learning and network; paying subscriptions to professional bodies; trying to keep a ‘professional wardrobe,’ I have finally decided that the time has come to re-label myself as Retired.

I haven’t taken this decision lightly, I can tell you, and know that I still have a lot to offer the world, aged 56,  through having a PhD in Sociology and Social Policy and years of work experience as a Social Researcher and Academic Tutor.

It’s funny how particular decisions that I took along the way have been playing on my mind of late ~ like the day I walked out of the Civil Service Exams when I was in my final year of College. It was a very conscious decision but who knows what might have happened had I stayed in that huge hall with the hundreds of other serious-looking candidates eager to land a permanent pensionable post.  Or how about taking time out to care for my elderly parents while the Celtic Tiger was still roaring?  (No, I have no regrets about that, not a single one!).

Ironically, the very first ‘real’  job I had was facilitating a Return to Work Course for Women when I had just finished my primary degree, aged 21. It was one helluva challenge, given my lack of  insight into the world of work and life except through theoretical eyes, but it was a very enjoyable and well-paid learning experience.

Interestingly, I could get as much unpaid ‘work’ as I want now  and was even offered a 40 hour a week  ‘job’ for no pay and a vague promise of it maybe turning into something. The thing is, I simply can’t afford to work for nothing. 

So, I’m taking Early Retirement. It may not change a thing in objective or financial terms (no golden handshake or pension here!) ; but it gives me a sense of taking back control. There is a limit to the number of punches one can take to the gut and I know that I’ve done all I can, with my innate tenacity, in terms of knocking on doors, building new ones and all that stuff.

So, today is the first day of the rest of my life ~ not a day I envisaged coming, or wanted to come, as early in my life as this.

Little did I ever think I’d be quoting this old saying but then whoever knows what lies ahead!

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
(R. Niebuhr)


Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and sense of place.

38 thoughts on “Early Retirement or Giving Up?”

  1. Jean, I think this is a wonderful thing…whether its a case of something turning up when you stop looking or whether it’s just time for a new focus and a whole new world I think its the right thing to do. I also think the world is different now and we all have to find new ways to be and if giving up is not the right phrase(its definitely not)then retirement isn’t either…may the road rise to meet you x

  2. Well done Jean…. I really believe that when we let go, a new energy and space is created.
    I call myself semi-retired. Open to projects and interesting new clients and of course, teaching yoga. I don’t have a career any longer and I am free to choose what inspires and resonates with me.
    I’m looking forward to see what shows up for you next 🙂

    1. Hi Val, many thanks for writing. This is undoubtedly a case of letting go of a mindset ~ looking for employment ~ that was getting me nowhere. It will be very interesting indeed to see if there are any knocks on the door or even the window when my back is turned.

  3. What a courageous decision to make and it sounds like the right one. I hope that doors will open for you and that you will enjoy new opportunities and challenges. A new beginning is always uplifting! Patsy

    1. Patsy, I really appreciate your comment. I’m not so sure about the ‘courageous’ bit. It’s a matter of changing a ‘losing game,’ something that I learned was a useful tactic in tennis matches. Let’s see if it translates well into the game of life.

  4. Jean, loved your article and it strikes close to the heart with many of us. The decision to step out of the workforce is not something we take lightly, for we have worked hard to secure our place in this crazy world. In my estimation and from my experience the word we should be using is ” re- definement”. That is truly what we are doing. Sometimes we need to step out of the circle, in order to re assess where and what we need to do next. The universe is asking you to take a rest, and in the meantime it brings individuals/opportunities to come into your life to show you different aspects about yourself and your work. All things in divine order, not how we think they should be.

    Right now there is three groups of ” Baby Boomers”.. the ones who work out of fear of whatever, the ones who have decided to quit what they are doing and get involved in humanitarian causes throughout the world ( education health services, etc..) , or the ones who like what they are doing, they just need more flex hours/ time.

    Jean, our generation and our work is needed and sought after. Be patient and take some time to reflect and the divine will provide the direction you need to go. Change is not easy, its a difficult stage within life, but a much needed time to reflect and re group. When we still our minds and decide to look at life through different lenses, the opportunities will pour in.. Trust me, been there and wore those shoes…

    Surrender and allow and everything will be fine.. we are in exciting,magical times, with things changing drastically……

    Be well, be blessed and hugs today…XXOO


    1. Jean, it’s lovely to hear from you and thanks for your supportive words.
      I’m not so sure that the work of my generation is sought after here in Ireland as there is an assumption, I think, that it is ‘cheaper’ to recruit new graduates.
      We certainly live in changing times and I would love to have your optimism that ‘everything will be fine.’ Not so easy to be soooooooooo positive when trying to live without an income. Fingers crossed that you are right and thanks again.

  5. I have also taken “early retirement” and it is a change from the working world but it does open up time for new ways to live your life. Enjoy every day ❤ Judy

    1. Hi CT, thanks for telling me about your ‘early retirement.’ In my case, it’s about retiring from trying to find work rather than from actual employment. So, there’s a great deal of mind games at play. But it does open up the field of vision alright, even though it has no objective effects in terms of income, for example.

  6. As a sociologist and social worker concerned with social justice, you are absolutely right to reject unpaid “jobs”. No matter how benign the institution offering these jobs may be, they are exploitive, plain and simple. Any job that needs to be done that provides value for the employer (whether it’s an NGO, non-profit, small business, or multinational conglomerate) should be compensated for. If you take a job without pay, you are signaling to employers that people with degrees in sociology have negative economic value. In turn, this depresses demand for paying sociologists to work, which will lower overall wages and impoverish your colleagues in your field.

    To everyone reading this, please, please, please do not take unpaid work. It is disastrous to everyone, no matter what.

    1. Michael, thanks very much for writing and for your support. I wholeheartedly agree with you about the message that working for nothing sends out. There is clearly a difference in doing voluntary work when one so chooses (and I think there is a place for voluntary work) but not as an alternative to paid work, particularly when one has no income.

  7. Jean, As one who is being involuntarily “retired” in June, I have some sympathy for you. The danger in being a generalist is that specialists are often more desirable; the danger of being specialized is that one is dependent upon the health of the speciality.

    Sometimes we fight the direction that life seems to want to take us, only to realize later that this was the best thing that ever happened to us. I hope this is the case with you. I don’t think you are giving up. I would describe it as having the wisdom to accede to the direction that life–or some other Higher Authority– wants to take you.

    1. Navigator, I’m sorry to hear that you are facing involuntary retirement. Not a pleasant prospect, I suspect.
      I’m not so sure that ‘life’ or some Higher Authority wanted to take me anywhere ~ unless one calls a vacuum ‘somewhere.’ Thanks for seeing it as ‘wise’ to decide to opt out of persisting to find work. It goes against my grain in lots of ways as I have always lived by the principle that persistence and determination will win through in the end but it seems that I was wrong about that.

      1. I thought so, too, in terms of fighting a feminist Matriarchy to stay involved in my kids’ lives. I thought that good (or persistence and determination) would always triumph over evil.

        Then I learned, “But, indeed, the dictum that truth always triumphs over persecution, is one of those pleasant falsehoods which men repeat after one another till they pass into commonplaces, but which all experience refutes.” (John Stuart Mill)

        Now, with my first book pending, I can see a purpose to it all that was not apparent to me as I went through my ordeal. Perhaps you should read my book, for perspective.

        There is currently a 100% discount for retired individuals. };-)>

        1. Only for special ones.

          themirrorbooks@gmail.com if / when you’re interested and have the time. I can send you the .pdf galley proof as a pre-release read. No offence / no worries if you’re not interested. No strings attached, either. Just something to have on hand if you’re in need of a read.

  8. Look how beautifully you connect with people here! I applaud you for deciding to take your future into your own hands instead of expecting to be paid by others. Perhaps your time should be spent following your bliss which seem to be communicating with others.
    I’m about to venture into e-books – a small beginning which I will have control over. I’m venturing into Smashwords first – easy to learn to do and the terms seem reasonable. If they’re a success I may well venture out to Amazon, equally (I’ve heard) easy to use program with lesser reward but a higher possibility of sales. What I like the most is the zero outlay except my time and possibility of testing the waters to see if what I have to say, attracts others – all while in my own home!
    Whatever you choose to do, I wish you well and happiness in your achievements.

  9. Ah brilliant Jean. You’ll undoubtedly find that, without trying, other avenues will beckon. As you say, you’ll have control over which ones you’ll take. It will be fun, a new lease on life as long as you have your health and vitality. Best of luck.

  10. Congratulations on making that difficult decision, Jean, and taking the plunge into another stage in life which will take you, goodness knows where! And Bravo! for not taking the unpaid job. Watch out too for those who will expect you to write an article or three or to blog for them for free! Yes, they’re there in the wings. Look after yourself and do what you need to do for you. Your time has come.
    Here’s to new adventures!

  11. I’ve been pondering this post for a while, Jean, not quite sure how to comment, as it resonates with me so much. I’ve worked in the ad industry for over 30 years and have over a hundred awards under my belt, but have struggled to find work for the past few years. (I won’t go in to all the details of why I think this is so.) But, suffice it to say, I feel that I have had early retirement enforced upon me. That said, my dream/ambition has always been to be a writer. So that’s what I spend my time doing. Blessing in disguise? All I need to do now is to try and earn a living from it! I think sometimes the universe pushes towards the thing we should be doing because we haven’t taken that leap ourselves. Or maybe I’m deluding myself. Go with what your heart desires most, Jean. And don’t look back.

    1. David, thanks so much for writing and for your advice. I’m so glad that you are managing to fulfill your lifelong ambition.
      I’ll be pinning your last line on my study wall!

  12. thanks for your “like” of my posts and, by way of so doing, introducing me to yours, which I find full of interest. Good luck with your “early retirement” and hopes that you will find it a new time for new ideas!

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