I have a strong personal identity and all my worlds tend to collide in to each other with a distinct lack of clear boundaries. I don’t mean I am boundary-less, more that I am Anne, the wife and mum, strands that are bound around identities as a worker, a nurse, a digital nurse, a patient, a friend, a pet owner, and someone who wants to try to leave the world a slightly better place when I go. I see the many strands of me bound together like a strong rope. I completely love working with people and gain huge amounts from comradeship and social contact, these too are strong elements of my rope.
So here I am having finally handed in my notice and technically moving away from my existing role as Chief Nurse at NHS Digital. I am so proud to say what I do now, yet I am walking away from that title in May. I am not sure how much of the rope needs to unravel as part of that process.
I am, I admit, a bit scared.
I know that I am not ready to stop working and think I have at least another decade where I want to do ‘stuff’. I just can’t see yet what that means; what the new strands will be and how they will join my experiences and the other existing parts of my strong rope. The thing is, I have worked since I was 16 years old; I only took 14 weeks off as maternity leave and I have had no other substantial periods of time off. From the date I started work, to the day I finish this job will be 14,121 days. Of those days, 12,892 of them have been working as a nurse. Those are big numbers. No wonder my work identity is a strong component that runs through my life.
So, if now is a time for re-creating myself, I am worried that the rope may be bound too tightly.
I think I need to face a period of letting go. I can’t be the same thing forever and it’s time for change, hopefully in a good way. Then I need to face up to some new choices and new directions. It should be the most exciting time, but the truth is I am already having sleepless nights, not worrying exactly, its more of a nagging anxiety about letting go.
I guess it’s normal, but I am finding the waiting time excruciating. I am terrible at endings and this one seems a mighty big one! I usually ignore them and sort of slide into the next thing, avoiding goodbyes. I would prefer it to happen now with no extended waiting times. But patience and preparation are the name of the game right now, finishing things too.
I hope to blog about my new adventures, assuming they come to pass and want to get my writing juices flowing again, so my apologies for the self indulgent blog.
If you have made some major life changes in retirement, let me know and send me some words of encouragement and your tips! I feel sure this is a common life stage problem!
“Since when,” he asked,
“Are the first line and last line of any poem
Where the poem begins and ends?”
Poem by Sophie Sabbage, The Cancer Whisperer, Thank you.
Ah, Annie, this sounds so familiar. To continue your own analogy, you’re showing great insight by recognising that some of your existing rope will need to loosen and maybe become a few strands smaller – not weaker, but finer, smoother, more defined. And it’s sensible to feel slightly anxious – all those thousands of days have created an identity that is deeply embedded, and the thought of that changing is surely a challenge to your equilibrium. There is no point in saying ‘Don’t fear it, it will be ok’, because it is scary and it won’t feel ok for a while. You are about to step onto an emotional, introspective, roller-coaster and the ride will challenge your sense of self. Try to have no expectations, keep looking outwards and forwards, and open yourself up to experiences and opportunities that don’t take you back to the comfort of former ways and former places. One thing I have learned from retirement is it brings a great gift with it – the gift of time. Time to reveal a new self, to allow yourself to differentiate between what you think you ought to be doing, and what you actually want to do, and above all – time to just sit back, and let the next steps come to you. As they will. And they may well be things that you had absolutely never thought about before – because you didn’t have time to let them in. So just breathe. And let it happen.
Thank you. I am looking forward to enjoying tea with you very much x
A lovely poem by Sophie Sabbage, The Cancer Whisperer, posted on Twitter for me by my friend Liz Clough. As she says different context but never the less seems apt. Posted as Image at the end of my blog.
Very interesting and honest. I worked an entire career in one school and was totally absorbed in my work. I loved every day. Yet retirement suits me surprisingly well. Why? How?
Well, I think that the strong persona that you develop in a people-centred vocation like nursing or teaching is incredibly transferable. I niw interact with #gbdoc friends just like I used to with students. I write blogs just like I used to write UCAS references. Your skills will switch effortlessly to new challenges. But the lack of pressure, obligation and accountability is liberating. I hope you will find likewise.
Oh, and it’s good to retire when still firing on all cylinders. Leave them asking for more!!
I look forward to following what’s next for you.
The word “retirement” means many things to many people. For me, who initially had retirement “happen” to me, not by choice, it has meant the opportunity to try things I wouldn’t have tried before, to learn and practice as a holistic therapist, to be able to help/assist/guide/advocate and put care in place for friends and relatives who weren’t able to do those things themselves. It meant a short period back in the NHS doing what I most loved, until I realised that the care I could give was no longer something that was considered “appropriate”. Everything had to be targeted, timed and monitored. No more supporting, observing and monitoring as well as boosting those in need of comfort – or breast feeding help.
There was a Court case – not related to anything I had ever experienced before , that had we not fought would have meant we would have lost our health, as well as our home. (We settled out of court and I am gagged and now we have a different home), but that was very different and very unexpected.
When that was over I sat and thought about my skill set – honed over slightly more years than Annie’s, but also nursing based …the principles are the same. I thought what I liked to do – “help” people, across a wide range of colours, creeds and backgrounds. So I became a Registrar (Births , Marriages and Deaths – but nothing like Love, Lies & Marriage TV programme I can assure you.) .
The training was intense and I found it very very difficult indeed. I wondered if I was too old? There is a lot of learning, a lot of rules, and a tremendous amount of process that I thought I would never get the hang of.
But I persevered and now, two years in I am a safe pair of hands.
But – I don’t seem to be able to rest as I too am on the move..again, having finally gained a post with the CQC. But not in Nursing, in Social Care…same skill set being put to play in a different arena….this time added too by virtue of the personal experiences I have had over the past decade within the Social Care Arena.
So finally I think I now understand what Charles Handy was referring too when he wrote of having a Portfolio Career ..that I so diligently studied as an NHS Management Trainee back in 199. It took me a while didn’t it?
And – there is always researching your family tree and taking a DNA test to find out what your ethnic pool is,, and finding you have a birth father alive and well in Vancouver who knew nothing about you and a whole new half family to boot – that also keeps one occupied…just in case……..
.So to Anne – my very first internet friend – I say go forth, let things find you but also learn to accept that sometimes No, I am sorry I don’t think thats right for me is OK. And the very best of luck. And its also OK not to have every day filled.
Thanks for sharing this blog eloquently expressing the plans you’ve got for your transition. One which reflects so many experiences and resonates with so many, myself included presently. Am reminded of the quote ‘When you reach the end of what you should know, you will be at the beginning of what you should sense’. Keep us informed of your progress.
Fabulous new adventures await you and I look forward to hearing all about them
Maybe a wee spell as a TCV someday 😉 x