There are a wealth of stages in life where one has the opportunity to make decisions.
It is fair to say that I have been pretty awful at decision making for a large part of my life. I am a plodder. If I am making my way through life's great adventure, and I am happy with the way it is going, I will not rock the boat.
The issue here, the problem if you will, is that adventure and risk are left behind. The result is the one is in danger of being bland. Bland does not breed success. Bland is not exciting. Bland is safe - I am fed up with being safe.
I felt like a failure almost 30 years ago when I lost my first wife to another man. The inevitable feelings of inadequacy because you have been replaced by someone younger, fitter, probably more virile and more attractive to your wife is the emotional equivalent of someone kicking you repeatedly in the balls while laughing at you. I had a young family, therefore, as these things always work out - I had to leave home. In no court in the world is a man allowed to maintain domain over his house after divorce when children are involved. I'll be honest - it was the last thing on my mind. How on earth can you see your children in anything other than a safe home. Anything I would have done to disrupt that at such an emotionally awkward time in their young lives would have been nothing short of criminal and deceitful. I had nowhere to go, so I did what most guys in that situation would do, I went home to my parents. Not for long - I quickly looked for and found a small terraced property in a cheap part of town, armed myself with a lodger (so I could afford the mortgage) and started again.
I won't bore you with the lack of money and the hard luck story. because everybody goes through it when they buy a house. I had little or no money - but I had a roof over my head and somewhere for the kids to visit every other weekend so I was OK and a lot better off than most.
As I said above - I felt a complete failure - and possibly that is part of the reason I spent time getting a pilots licence, to prove to myself that I was able to do something. (Hot Air Balloon pilots licence in my case) Many hours of instruction, many early mornings, lots of study and many exams later I was given the opportunity to pay £186 to the Civil Aviation Association for the privilege of holding a small purple licence that I still have in my bedroom drawer. Not completely useless then.
Of course it would not have happened without a lot of other people who supported me by teaching me, pushing me and crewing for me, and they are all very valuable and still I hope, very dear friends to whom I owe a lot of sanity (if indeed I do have a small measure of it).
Decisions. They are perhaps small and insignificant at the time, but huge in later life. I decided not to stay on at school, I told myself I was only going back for the rugby, and if not for the education then what was the point. So I became and apprentice mechanic (they were not called technicians back then). That was my first job - 7 years. I was made redundant 2 weeks before my first marriage, and then went to another job for another 7 years (with a small gap of 18 months as a service receptionist). Following that - 32 years in my current employment. I was made redundant from both of the 7 year stints, and poached from the other job - the 18 month one. The 32 year one is now coming to a close.
Those other jobs are stories for another time or another blog.
In a way then - those employment decisions were taken from me - I had little choice - I needed a job to make sure I could pay the mortgage, and I followed my luck.
Choosing to retire, making this big decision therefore is completely out of character. I have often joked that I would retire early - by which I always meant I would go on the Monday instead of the Friday. Why then have I opted for retiring a whole four years early.
I checked today, and because I don't live in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland I will not get a bus pass until 21 November 2022. That is the same day that I will start to draw my government pension, when I am 66. Hopefully I will live that log and start to claw back some of the money I have paid in over all those years.
I am 62 this year - so I have 4 years before I get a pay-rise. What the hell am I doing? Why have I opted to give up a job I am enjoying, a job I like to think I am pretty proficient at, to dive into my savings and make my own way in life without a regular income from an employer.
What prompted this decision?
I suppose I am a bit late for a mid-life crisis. So it can't be that.
My dear brother Graham died before his 60th year. Taken too early from his lovely wife and three loving daughters, he never made retirement. Without naming names - I have lost very dear friends, some just short of retirement, and some a bloody long way away from it. Most of them in the last 18 months. Each time one of them goes, I am left pondering mortality and wondering if I am next.
If you know me, you will know I am not given to athletic prowess, I am bereft of athletic ability, nor do I boast and athletic appearance. I repeatedly said I have the body of a God, ( Buddha in my case), and that I am in fact in good shape - bearing in mind that round is a shape. I say this in jest - but it hurts me to be so overweight.
I need to a complete change of life if I am to shift it. I get up early to go to the office instead of the gym. If I am not in the office on a given day I get up early to drive somewhere to see a customer, instead of a gym. A the weekend I get up to do the washing, ironing and perhaps the gardening, instead of the gym. What an idiot.
So I need to re-focus. focus on me, on living a slower yet healthier life which does not involve driving a desk or a car.
Can I afford it? I don't think I can afford not to.
So, as I write this, in 10 weeks time I begin the next - perhaps final phase in my life - retirement.
Luck and a following wind will bring;
1. More activity
2. A chance to see my children more - god help them!!
3. A chance to spend time with my sisters who have selfishly decided to live on opposite sides of the country - one in Cambridgeshire and one in Wales.
4. Some travel
5. Lots of woodturning
6. A college course perhaps
7. Perhaps some voluntary work.
8. Watch some cricket
9. Write a bucket list.
10. Miss my work colleagues like mad.
You poor buggers will likely see the results of this in my rambling dispatches. I may elect to circulate them via email, or perhaps via blog to those foolish enough to subscribe.
Dear reader, that will be your fault.
So, is this a big decision.?
Yes - it most certainly is.