I lost track of the number of times people asked me about retirement – and when I was going to retire.
In my 60s, the constant question was: “you’re not still working, are you?”. This inevitably gave rise to niggles of doubt. And the feeling that I must have looked old or past it – or worse still – both!
I kept thinking to myself: “do I look as though I need to put myself out to pasture?” Were the questions borne out of genuine concern for my wellbeing? Or was it a subtle ploy to recruit me into the retirement club? 🙂
Resisting the big ‘R’
Whatever the motives, these questions only hardened my resolve and resistance. I simply wasn’t ready to hang up whatever it is you hang up at the end of a long and busy career!
A good friend – already retired – told me: “you will know instinctively when the time has come, so don’t worry”. But for many years I simply didn’t know…and I realise now it was because I wasn’t ready.
Retirement always seemed alien to me, something that other people did. I attended a few retirement parties for friends and colleagues, and was always secretly glad it wasn’t me waking up in the morning with nothing much to do.
But I was naïve to think that retirement was the end – rather than a new beginning.
Living the high life
I had five amazing years working on the flagship daytime show This Morning. And during its heyday in Liverpool, I travelled the UK in a car that doubled as a mobile kitchen. It was full of pots, pans and props for top chefs like Ainsley Harriott, Brian Turner, Ken Hom and Gary Rhodes.
My working days were long, physically demanding and deadline busting. But arriving at a beautiful location on the North Norfolk coast on a golden morning, or flying off shore from Aberdeen to an oil rig to set up for a food programme were real ‘pinch yourself’ moments. I felt very lucky to be working in such special places. Why would I want to retire?
A new perspective
At that time, I certainly didn’t appreciate the sense of euphoria that comes with not having to be in a certain place at a certain time. The moment when a day is yours. When a day is a blank canvas to fill with whatever takes your fancy. It doesn’t matter what time you get up because when you do, you can sit outside in the early morning summer sun, drink your cuppa and listen to the birds.
Looking back, I think I was a little ashamed to admit that I didn’t have any hobbies. Work was my hobby. It had taken me to interesting places, brought me into contact with many interesting people, and allowed me a great deal of creative freedom. I lived by the mantra: “choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”.
And I didn’t.
But gradually, more of my friends and acquaintances took the plunge and embraced retirement. And I was drawn into their world of volunteering at local community shops, post offices and libraries. Their lives had taken on a different, but enjoyable dynamic which involved lots of travel, walking, cycling, singing in choirs and looking after grandchildren.
Then, family members began to need more of my help and support. And a couple of niggling health issues meant I had less enthusiasm for the work that had previously kept me driven and motivated.
I found myself hanging about at home for longer in the morning. I read the papers in the sunshine. I began to want to take off on a whim to see the kids and grandchildren. Or to browse around the local shops midweek without feeling guilty.
Follow your instincts
I was beginning to see the signs my friend has talked about. It was time to hang-up the day job!
When I did retire in 2017, I was immediately hit by the complete sense of freedom from deadlines. It felt exhilarating. I had a clear head for the first time in years and could do the projects I really wanted to including, of course, modelling!
Where once I would be checking emails or texts on the way somewhere, now I was able to enjoy the journey. And, I realised, that journey was just beginning.