Thursday, 15 January 2009
Not so Retiring.....
The door is open again. Well, perhaps ajar rather than open, but enough. Enough to see that there is still a foothold out there in the world of work.
'Zhoen' whose wonderfully diverse blog appears most days, has just commented on my 'Nom de Blog'. The retiring is indeed relative at several levels.
I first retired from the day-job when I was 66, then went back to work again at the age of 67. I retired again when I was 68 and now I've been given the chance to return to a small amount of work at the age of 69.
I am aware of shades of Emily Pankhurst, crying, 'Votes for Women'. I feel a distinct call to respond to 'Work for the Oldies', because with the work-role comes a great deal more in the way of identity than I had ever appreciated when I was slogging along full-time.
In a diverse society, where ethnic variations, sexual preferences and religious observances have to be regarded so carefully it is sometimes the Oldies who have to absorb the intolerances.
As my hair went (quite quickly and quite early) pure white I became invisible in places like theatre bars, garages and shops selling anything with the word 'digital' attached. Young, apparently 15 years old, male assistants in computer shops approached me with caution and with a special sort of smile.
Shopping around in working hours identifies the retired. Apparently sensible sales staff assumed I would not be able to insert my debit card into their little machines, and if I could do that I would probably have forgotten my PIN number. I am offered help in putting three small items into a bag. 'Can you manage?' has become a key question, kindly meant, caringly spoken - but uncomfortable all the same.
Sometimes there are very specific problems with my white-haired invisibility. I have been forced off pavements by groups of animatedly-talking young men who simply did not see me. I have been elbowed aside in shops by men in a hurry, and what happens in bars is much more specific. No one means to be rude. It's just that white-haired old women on their own are of little consequence.
So now I'm going back for a while, to a situation where it is assumed, not only that I can manage, but that I will meet targets and tick boxes and fulfill expectations, just as I have been able to throughout my working life. No one will ask me if I can manage. They know they'll get a clip round the ear if they do!
I am the same person. It is the role that changes, and the perceptions with it.
At work you are defined by what you can do. In retirement there is a risk of being defined by what you can't, or don't wish to do, or by others' assumptions of what you can't do.
Positive and negative. This is why I am so very fortunate to be relatively retired.