highs and lows of semi-retirement

There are two distinct parts to being semi-retired.

There’s the incredibly smug “retired” bit, where you spend your weekdays flaunting your freedom.  Being able to see sold-out exhibitions, going for a slap-up afternoon tea just because you fancy eating miniature food, or starting cocktail o’clock at 3pm on a Tuesday… It doesn’t really matter what you do – all that matters is (1) you’re not at work and (2) you make sure everyone knows it.  You know you’re doing great at this bit when your nearest and dearest regularly tell you via facebook to stop showing off and get a bloody job.

afternoon tea

And then there’s the less smug “semi” bit.  Which basically translates as not having enough money to actually retire.  And then translates as having to email all your mates and former colleagues and random people you once met at a work “do”, to ask them if they have any work that they need help with.  And finally translates as ringing round various temp agencies to tell them that you pack a mean 70-words-per-minute and surely somebody, somewhere needs a jaded former lawyer with an acute allergy to hard work??

reality check

Six months into the new lifestyle and time to take stock.  For anyone watching my progress with (a) a view to jacking it in and living the dream, or (b) anticipatory schadenfreude, here’s a list of the highs and lows so far, to help you make your mind up.

the highs

  • leaving my job and being able to leave all the accumulated stress and mental energy behind.  I expected there to be a time-lag between physically quitting and mentally quitting.  As it turned out, I seemed to shrug it off as I walked out the door.  See ya, suckers!
  • how incredibly supportive and enthusiastic everyone has been.  And also how my decision seems to have positively rubbed off on other people, even without my doing anything.  I don’t think that I’ve made it look particularly easy, but I think I have shown that there is an alternative to what we’ve been sold.
  • being able to go full olympics last summer and being massively over-excited every day for the best part of a couple of months.  Typically whilst wearing ridiculous union-jack-emblazoned outfits.
  • learning new stuff and meeting new people.  So far, I’ve learned basic html, javascript and css (all very poorly, but at least I gave it a go – try Codeacademy’s free online training if you’re keen).  I’ve got to grips with WordPress for blogging and basic websites.  I’ve discovered tons of resources available for start-up businesses.  And I’ve learned that even though I still detest networking, my new lifestyle at least provides a talking point (for about 10 seconds before they decide they hate me and my smugness).
  • going to bed at 2am and getting up at 10am.  Much more in tune with my body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.  And nothing good happens before 10am.  Fact.
  • getting very carried away with new business ideas, before either forgetting them (see above high re: 2am bedtime) or realising that they lack the vital money-making element.
  • losing my blackberry tic.  You know, that involuntary twitch every time you see the notification light flash.  And the Tourette’s that seemed to accompany it.  That’s disappeared too.
  • the month spent horizontal in the Indian sunshine.  Aside from the karma drama and the fear that all that lounging would result in muscle wastage rendering me unable to walk, it was wonderful to escape the winter grims.

the lows (regrets, I’ve had a few; but then again, too few to mention…)

  • the lost passport f***-up, practically doubling the cost of my India trip.  Idiot.  And yes, my passport is in a very safe place now.
  • the ever-lurking spectre of anxiety about money.  Which starts from fair-enough resolutions not to spend quite so much on cocktails.  But which quickly spirals to resenting paying for essentials like shower gel and toothpaste.
  • not getting the Friday feeling anymore.
  • the occasional bouts of self-doubt which, if left unchecked, descend into abject fear and disillusionment over your complete lack of purpose in life. Daytime TV feeds this.  Avoid anything involving homes under a hammer, bargain hunting or escaping to the country.  They will only highlight that your life has no meaning.

Since nobody seems in a hurry to get me back to work, I’ll probably focus on the retired bit for a little while longer.  Starting with a week in the Lake District next week.  Smug enough for you??

One thought on “highs and lows of semi-retirement

  1. I read a very good book once, called willing slaves by Madeleine bunting. It talks about the modern work ethic (very target driven) and how it’s evolved; To our attitudes to work today. Reading it can either give you the impetus to leave your job; or make you very angry!


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