At the end of this month I’m giving up work. More or less by choice. It is a step that has been labelled in various ways by various people, me included: ‘retirement’ seems the most common, with the upcoming period a ‘glide-path to retirement’ – after all, I’m not officially qualified to be there yet…!
Is that what it is, though? I’m not so sure. It’s starting to feel more like a cliff edge.
What’s undeniable is a certain aligning of the stars that have presented me with an opportunity to step back from the professional life I’ve been leading for far too many years. An opportunity for – excuse the cliché! – some ‘me time’; to be free to spend time writing without the encumbrance of having to try and fit it in, or being too tired after a working day to do so.
I am gifting myself time. What could be more powerful than that?
And yet that ‘freedom’ is quite daunting. Take away the structure of a working week, the ability to abdicate responsibility for your time to other mundane matters, to the pressure and demands of outside forces, and ‘time’ looms large. And ‘looms’ is exactly the right word.
Fourteen hours a day, punctuated by the need to feed-and-water etc., which will be more or less mine to do with what I will. That novel I’ve started working on? Surely over in a jiffy. Others’ books I’m planning to publish? I’ll have more time to devote to them. Sounds idyllic. A rare opportunity. And it is.
Ignoring any questions about whether it’s the right thing to do, or practical, or even sensible – and ignoring the likelihood that at some point in the not too distant future I may hanker after the old routine, the old structures – what strikes me as much as anything else (as much as looming time!) is what I will see when I look in the mirror at the beginning of October, November, December… And later what I have will have produced, what I will have to show for all that time…
Because as much as anything this is about reinventing me.
Throughout my life I have often called my own bluff: choosing to leave school at sixteen – and then go back two years later; choosing to go off to West Africa to teach when going to London was still and adventure; taking voluntary redundancy more than once because I was bored and fancied a change. I have always believed that there was something better round the corner. Maybe that makes me an optimist.
But what if this is the last corner? What if there isn’t anything better around it? What if the only option proves – sooner rather than later – to be to turn around and come back? And what if I can’t?
A bluff called – and beaten by the final card dealt…
So this next part of the adventure isn’t really about time, or writing. It’s actually about who I am – or who I want to be. If, come the 1st October, I’m the same person I am today; if I haven’t worked out at least a plan of who / how / what I want to be…
I’ve got a little under four weeks to pull together a game-plan. Watch this space!