Wednesday, 23 July 2008


One of my Facebook groups has on its discussion board the topic "Plans for Retirement", which puzzles me - the whole concept. I'm no spring chicken, in fact I'm in receipt of what's laughingly known as a pension (I could never afford to pay my National Insurance, let alone make private arrangements, so it's an exciting 76pence per week!) but retirement? What from? Like many people, I've never had a "career" just got on with the business of living, keeping body and soul together as best I could, fitting earning money around the needs of my children and step children, and the limitations of my own health. There was never much to spare, and if my children wanted further education, they had to fund it themselves. However, I did home school my kids when it became obvious that, emotionally, school was doing more harm than good, and they've all grown into capable and competent people for whom I have great respect - they do it their way, too!

What's to retire from? Life? Almost everyone I've known who has officially retired has died not long after, it's like they don't know who they are any more, or even what their place in the world is. No salary=no value, to these people, it seems. My mother worked till she died, when she was about the same age as I am now, sometimes for other people, but always for herself, if not running businesses (several) then growing things, painting, taking wonderfully perceptive photographs, doing whatever she could to enhance her own, and other peoples' lives, she couldn't have retired if she tried.

My husband spent many of the years we have been together doing work that crushed his soul, because he thought he was 'supposed' to, he brought in good money, but our quality of life was haunted by his sense that there would never be enough to go round - so there never seemed to be. Now he earns ALOT less, but his joy in what he's doing makes a treat of fish and chips, when my arm hurts too much to cook, quite as wonderful and pleasurable as a cordon bleu meal at the best of restaurants. He's got 9 years till he officially "retires" but he won't be retiring, he'll just carry on, doing what he loves. Our western society seems to revolve around doing what we hate so that someone else will pay us money to buy what we need, and what we need these days seems to include alot of stuff that fills up empty time and impresses people we know, simply because we own it - weird. Why work for other people's benefit at the expense of your own? I don't mean "don't do things for other people, look after number one", contributing to the happiness and welfare of others is vital for your own happiness and welfare, but why put a price on yourself? We all have value, and if we translate value into price, we immediately de-value what we have priced, and that leads to devaluing self, if retirement means we no longer feel we have a price ie a value.

John Lennon rightly said that "Life is what happens while you're making other plans" why plan to stop having a value? Let alone let anyone else decide your value, let the plans be sketchy, and the life be lived, every second, to the fullest extent of ones capacity.


Cynthia Rowe Dickerson said...

I'm with you -- I expect to be doing stuff -- work or not -- until I die. Which could be tomorrow, but I'm committed to life-long learning, at a minimum. That's what makes stuff like Facebook and blogs so interesting!

Cheers! CRD

alex said...

One of the most important things I learned, being educated at home, was that education and school don't in fact share boundaries the way we're led to believe. Learning, even less so. It's the same with work, hobbies... the boundaries between them all are imaginary. When you look closely, they disappear. There's a temptation sometimes to mark off periods of time as "out of our control", as prescribed by another, but we're all responsible for the seconds, minutes, hours and hopefully decades that make up our lives.

Moomin said...

Thank you,Alex, you have just demonstrated why I'm so proud of you all, and have such respect for you. You all think for yourselves and go your own way, so no matter how many ways I may have failed as a mother (and you know they are countless) you all came out the end of the process as contributors to life, not dead weights, and with live minds.