As I approach the finishing line of official retirement – I turn 55 in November and can start to drawdown my pension, if I choose to do it – I spend time wondering what will make my leaving the workplace different the second time around? I recently listened to The Mad Fientist relate his “struggle” to come to terms with Early Retirement in his first year of doing so, and how he found his second year much more pleasurable and liveable than his first. I wondered, for about the thousandth time, if that had been my problem with my own “early retirement” – I was never really mentally committed to it, never really believed it was a realistic option for me when I was still able, and quite willing, to work.
One example of this – a friend of mine in his early fifties who recently retired spends about three of his afternoons a week playing golf with members at our local club. Despite having that option in my year off, I never “allowed” myself to take it up. Why? Basically because I believed that wasn’t the retirement lifestyle I wanted, although I became hard pushed to define what that lifestyle would be. All I could say was that I wanted retirement to bring more fulfilment than I’d find spending endless hours on the fairways with a bunch of old blokes.
These days I find myself looking for something, a hobby or pastime, that I could do in future retirement that might constructively fill my hours. Recently I’ve been watching on TV two old blokes struggle to come to terms with their own semi-retirement and mortality on the BBC’s iplayer. Paul Whitehouse and Bob Mortimer have “Gone Fishing” in an effort to come to terms with the ageing process, Life, the Universe and Everything. The best thing about this programme, by a long way, is the camera work – it’s beautifully done, and England looks like Paradise. It’s educational too, at least for me. In the first programme they fish for tench. Tench? Would I even have know that was an English freshwater fish prior to this programme? And it’s inspirational. I watch the scenery, the skill involved in the fishing, the knowledge needed and applied, the camaraderie of the fishermen and I think, “I’d quite like to have a go at that, when I’ve got the time.”
Another TV show that’s very similar in style to Gone Fishing (and possibly inspired it) has become one of My Favourite Programmes of All Time. It’s the Detectorists, and it’s difficult for me to say why it appeals to me so much. Again it’s the scenery, the camaraderie, the knowledge required that underpins the hobby, the leisurely and reflective pace of the stories and the warmth, humour and humanity that exists between the main players. It leaves me thinking “But I want to be a Detectorist!” , even although I probably don’t. But I do want to do something that delivers the fulfilment, learning, community and satisfaction of the type that these shows suggest is attainable.
I’d have to say that golf does deliver some of what I’m seeking, and I’m happy with that. I couldn’t play it three times a week though because (a) it’s the most difficult, frustrating game ever invented and (b) it can be mentally and physically tiring. It can be quite a slog and, when you’re not in the mood, it does live up to the description of being basically “a good walk spoiled”.
At the moment, I golf on a Saturday morning and Wednesday evening, looking forward to both outings. One thing I learned in my year off is that routine and structure are ultra-important to have in your days and weeks. The Fientist underlines this point too. However, you need variety too or your days can become quite stale quite quickly. If you’ve come from a highly stimulating workplace, as I did, to face endless days with nothing to do, it’s important to have mental challenges too – four hours a day in the gym really won’t cut it, mentally, no matter how many games of treadmill suduko you attempt to complete.
Retirement, early or otherwise, is often looked at for a primarily financially perspective. Can you afford it? If the answer is “yes”, good on you, start planning for what you’re going to do with your time and start investigating and participating in those hobbies before you reach the stage when you have real time to indulge them. That’s easy to say, of course, so the next question for me is: Will I now head to Amazon with the search terms “Course fishing” and “metal detectors” at the top of the list?