Thoughts On Early Retirement
I am taking voluntary early retirement from a job I love, but so far have no regrets on my decision. I am now working my “notice” and will finish work by the end of October. A scary thought? Not at all, since I have considered this decision very carefully.
I went back to University to study Dietetics later on in life (after working in a soulless job in a Bank) and from the very start of my course, I knew I had finally found something that I was passionate about. For the past 11 years, I have loved the interactions with patients, the camaraderie of working with other health professionals learning from each other, the feeling of being valued, and the rewards of doing something meaningful that can help improve people’s quality of life.
But it is now with thoughts about my own quality of life, longevity, new passions and how to better spend the great commodity of “TIME” that I have started feeling the urge to make changes, shake things up a bit, move on to the next stage of my life. As much as I have enjoyed my work, I feel I lack control of my own time, I am time deprived, I hear a clock that is ticking so fast and there is nothing I can do to stop it. And energy; work can be so draining and leave so little energy for anything else. Work takes so many hours of our everyday lives, at times I feel cheated and robbed of my very existence. As I get older time becomes even more precious, forces me to confront my longevity, realising that I am not here for all eternity.
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” Harvey MacKay
The funny thing is that when I tell people about my early retirement plans I get strange looks, people say “but you are too young to retire” or they ask me with in a slightly nervous tone “so what are you going to do now?” , a question loaded with anxiety, suspecting that my free time will be wasted, that I will NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO, that I will be bored. Is that a possibility? Being bored with too much time on my hands? In reality, I don’t really understand this concept since there are so many things that interest me, but at the moment I lack the time to pursue. This very blog, for instance; being able to write more, being able to read more….. there are so many books I want to read, places I want to visit, travelling, hiking, taking advantage of other learning opportunities such as learning more about photography, yoga, meditation, exercise more, meet up with friends and family, have time to think…to just be. The list is endless and time is short. I will most definitely not have the time to be bored, I am sure of it.
I feel extremely lucky to be in good health, to be financially independent, no longer needing to work for a living. I have worked since I was 18 years old, so now I feel I have paid my dues. I do not feel any sense of guilt about taking early retirement. In fact, I feel very entitled to it, excited about it. I have worked hard (paid and unpaid jobs), at times having many jobs at once, I have so far lived a very productive life and have contributed to society, paid taxes. I know that I will continue to contribute to the world around me in many other ways, such as voluntary work opportunities or spend some of my free time helping others….and paying more taxes no doubt.
There is NOT a lot to rant about my job, but some of the things I will not miss at all:
Early Mornings: my day usually starts very early, I get up at 5:45 am, leave my house about 7 am and drive for about 30 minutes to the main dietetic office at the hospital. Some days I will drive for over one hour to another hospital or medical clinic. In the winter I leave home in the dark, and many days I drive back home in the dark, in the rain, wipers on, oncoming headlights dazzling me along twisty country roads. I hate driving in the dark, often cold, foggy winter mornings. I long to switch the alarm clock off, to take my time getting up and not rush around like a mad woman on a mission.
Paper work: Policies, pathways, letters, record cards, medical notes, forms for every eventuality, diet sheets, spreadsheets….bored already? Me too.
Appraisals: If I never have to fill out an appraisal form again…well, that will be too soon.
Managers: Who constantly think we need a restructure….out goes the baby with the bath water again, with very little thought for how it’s all going to work in practice? Hello!!! It’s a hospital…do we really need more managers? What about more doctors? More nurses? More clinicians…More money invested in the people who really do all the front line work?
IT Systems: At the moment I have to use many different IT systems to be able to do my work, I currently use PAS, System One, EMIS WEB, ICE etc. …it really is mind boggling. Don’t even get me started on all the different passwords I have to try remembering. But guess what? There is yet another system being implemented soon called DPR (Digital Patient Record)..supposed to be the best system of all and make it all a lot simpler. I’ve heard that one before.
And the funny thing is, the closer retirement gets, the less patience you have for all of this nonsense. Less, and less, and less, and then – when you can almost taste the freedom – none!
There are some things that I will dearly miss:
The people: I work with some awesome people…you know who you are. I can not praise them enough, for being so great at their job; helpful, caring, selfless…keeping the NHS machine well oiled, I am grateful for all their help, for keeping me sane during some of the most insane moments working for the NHS. There have been some sad, devastating moments, that only work colleagues can relate to and understand.
I will also miss many of the patients that I have had the pleasure to look after and who have taught me to never take my health for granted. People who have inspired me with their resilience and sheer determination to live a good life in spite of all their difficulties and health issues.
CPD – I have been very lucky to get funded to attend some amazing Conferences (it can be expensive to pay privately to attend). These events have left me in awe of people who do some fantastic research work, who discover some very clever stuff indeed, which in time will go a long way to improve the health of the nation and the world. Learning opportunities are never a waste of time, I have valued them all.
Working in a health setting as a clinician: It is difficult to describe how rewarding it is. I love it, I can’t think of any other job I would rather do (although if I had my time again I would have studied Medicine, doctors really do an amazing job).
The lovely welcome I get: Everywhere people are so welcoming…at the Primary Care Hospital, the GP practices, patients homes, I usually get the warmest of welcomes, big smiles, hugs, offers of a lovely cup of tea. At my main office, I am usually the first to arrive, but I am not alone for long and soon there are hugs galore as my colleagues start arriving and there are warm greetings to have. There is always a degree of “office politics”, it is only natural that there will be some people that you like more than others, but I am glad to work in a predominantly lovely and friendly environment.
Being in “The Club“: I will be sad to hand over my badge, my office keys, my scales…and all the bits and pieces that make me part of the NHS machine, part of “The Club”. I will be “persona non grata” no longer allowed access all areas. But I guess you just can’t have it all.
Somehow I don’t think I will miss work, but only time will tell. I can tell you that it’s a risk I’m ready to take. I am so excited about the future, and the endless possibilities of doing more of the things I really want to do, not the things that I have to do. I just hope I will continue to be healthy and to have my friends and family supporting me…there really are no limitations to what can be achieved in this next stage of my life.
I’m ready. I’m more than ready. Bring it on.