‘Early Retirement’ and Heart’s Desire ~ a Couple of Weeks On

I’ve been pretty overwhelmed by the waves of wise, sincere, encouraging and heartfelt responses that I’ve received to my recent  posts here and here about deciding to take ‘early retirement’ in the face of not being able to secure suitable employment over the last four years or so.

There has been so much food for thought in these responses and I’ve been amazed at the extent to which they have been echoing in my mind and seeking to be processed.

I wrote about knocking on doors and even building new ones to knock on, but then someone mentioned ‘avenues’ and that opened up all sorts of new space.  You’d find it hard to believe how many avenues I’ve glimpsed over the last few weeks, from tiny driveways up to ordinary houses to paths in the woods and even pathless woods! There are just so many different angles on this …..

And then, another piece of advice was to Go with what your heart desires most, Jean, and don’t look back. 

This has played and played on my mind, especially as I decided to do a major clean-out of my ‘study’ and kept coming on former ‘work’ stuff from both social research and teaching ~ which meant more to me than I can even begin to describe.

It may seem strange but the most stubborn single sheet of paper that refused to be shredded was this one which I revised and revised and used as a working  Hand-Out with my Open University students ahead of their exams for each of the ten years I had them.


Its impact reminds me so much of the immortal words of  Seamus Heaney in Postscript:

And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

It also makes me think of how ‘early retirement’ is very much like an examination.

Yes, Make sure that you answer the question asked.

Now the shredder is purring so I’d best go and give it the Hand-Out!







Early Retirement ~ a Week or So On

It’s one thing to make a personal decision and it’s quite another to tell the world about it.  I’ve come to the conclusion, though,  that there are some decisions that maybe need to ‘go public’ before they hit home, like the jolt you get when you last  close the door of a house that has been home and know that you will never have the key to get back in.

It’s just over a week since I wrote about my decision to take ‘early retirement’  Early Retirement or Giving Up?   This isn’t your usual ‘early retirement,’ if such a thing exists, but basically a decision taken after years not being able to find a way back into ’employment’ ~ or earning even a modest income ~ to put a STOP to the search which had become soul-destroyingly demoralising. 

I have been absolutely amazed by the level of support which I have received through comments here, personal emails and face-to-face interaction.

I’m also pretty stunned by the extent to which the change of mindset has been so liberating. It feels like I’ve stopped banging my face against stone walls  barbed wire and electric fences and begun to walk barefoot on warm sand with a balmy sea breeze gently soothing me. Frustration, anger, bitterness and a whole host of negative emotions that I hadn’t fully realised were even there, have dissolved.

Oh, I know that the decision to walk away from the search for money, income, funds is a HUGE one that slaps massive full stops on lots of hopes and dreams, even very minor ones, and adds an extra precariousness to a world that is already full of  massive uncertainties.

It hasn’t been a week of sitting back with my slippers on and one in which the future has been waving at me with magic wands. Rather, it’s been a week in which ‘space’ has been on my mind ~ clearing it, walking in it; and most importantly, re-defining it.

So, thanks for your support, dear friends. Goodness only knows where the new spaces and definitions will lead but I hope I will see you in them.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there. (Rumi)

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)