Man in a hurry

I am now three years into my retirement and last month things changed. Suddenly I was a man in a hurry. At a dinner with six others, average age over seventy, it was clear that the each of us had decided how we would live out our lives in terms of what we should do and why.

Three of us had taken up intellectual pastimes -learning a language and/or an instrument. We prioritised travelling, going to plays, films, talks and exhibitions, and being with family. Doing exercise was taking more time. And we savoured each moment more than previously. Indeed, for most, time was set aside simply for savouring.

My own overriding feeling was of being in a hurry and this was seen as interesting but odd. Why the bother?

In my defence, hurrying has always been part of my nature. At work I was always a ‘busy’ person, and with a 75-hour working week, I probably took on more than reasonable but I loved it. I lived the adage, “if you want something done ask a busy person”. I worked towards, and honoured, deadlines and demanded the same of others. In all this I would estimate how long each substantial project would take. This could be in the order of a few years, although the campaign to change how the UK prices medicines actually took 24!

Then retirement came, and in most ways my life was very different, at least at first. There was more time for musing and visiting, and there were few pressurising commitments. Moreover it was I, not some outside agency, who decided on what was to be done. But gradually my old relationship with work has resurfaced. Once again I have become committed to projects and these have grown in importance. I am determined to be fluent in French and I reckon that this will take another two or three years. I have just helped launch a campaign to introduce laws that will allow assisted dying, and this could take seven years. I recently I decided to write a novel and a set of essays, and these two projects may take ten years. All these feel like ‘musts’ and I am now 69. You can see the challenge.

So why the sudden change? Since I formerly stopped work I have been teaching medical students for 2-3 hours one or two mornings each week. This has been fun, stimulating and intellectually rewarding. I have also often seen it as a security blanket helping me as I ventured into the unknown territory of retirement. Moreover, as a teacher, my future was tied into the futures of my students, and I could sit back and watch how they developed.

Around a month ago I decided that teaching would stop and so suddenly my future was fairly and squarely in my own hands and depended on me. So, if I am going to continue to achieve, I had better get a move on. Well, that is how I account for the new hurry, or perhaps I have simply reverted to my old self.

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