In my last blog I talked about my impending retirement. Since then, my last day at work has been and gone – the farewell tea, the flowers, the gifts, the kind words and amusing speeches. It was all lovely.
What has struck me though, is the way lots of people have greeted my intention to retire with a question…’So, what are you going to DO?’ There seems to be some sort of unspoken belief that when you say you are going to retire, you don’t actually mean it. What you mean is you’re going to set yourself up as a consultant, or do interim work, or go back to work in a different role. In any event, doing ‘nothing’, where nothing is interpreted as not having paid employment, seems to be totally puzzling. What a strange attitude this is. I have experienced it from people who would rather die than be thought discriminatory or less than inclusive and yet, the notion of a clever, powerful woman choosing to leave paid employment clearly strains their idea of who is valuable and who is not. Interesting.
I’ve noticed some people unable to hide the look of horror quite fast enough when I say ‘I’m going to spend time in the garden’ or ‘I’m cooking a lot’ or worse still, ‘I’m knitting’. And after years of my child-free status being irrelevant in the workplace, I am back to the embarrassed pity from people who have assumed I have retired in order to help out with ‘the (non-existent) grandchildren’. Sigh. Of course, these responses are a minority (just about) but worth noting just the same.
Do you remember last blog when I talked about finding a new story to be in? There’s another quote that’s become a favourite of mine. It came to me via a coach that I worked with a few years ago at the Harvard Women’s Leadership Forum. We were talking about the increasing need to be able to handle uncertainty, not just at work, but in life generally. She sent this to me, a quote from Gilda Radner the American actress and comedian and wife of Gene Wilder:
“Some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.”
Delicious ambiguity. Isn’t that wonderful? Delicious ambiguity. I’m loving it.