Does work define you?

It’s often the ice breaker at some gathering with someone you don’t know you ask them or they ask you “What do you do?”

The course director at my counsellor training centre in one jokey moment gave the following advice that once qualified we could easily get rid of people we didn’t wish to converse with by saying “I’m a psychotherapist”.  He claimed the vast majority moved on from the conversation within less than five minutes and if they didn’t they were a potential client anyway so worth investing the time talking with them!

Well this suddenly has hit me – given my health situation my employer has offered me a voluntary severance package effective the end of this month.  I have a few days in which to say yes to it.  It’s a reasonably generous package actually.  I’m trying to figure out pension issues but I’m more than likely to say yes and figure that all out later.  But from 1st November I’ll have to say when asked “What do you do?”  “I’m retired”.   Now is staring me in the face there are a bunch of emotions, feelings, thoughts etc. that come to mind.

Was my career a success? 

Why does this matter?  Personal pride and ego I suppose.  Well I’ve worked since 1981 and moved through several companies and sectors all of which seemed happy to have me working for them.  I rose to a position with Director somewhere in the title at one point and on a very good salary too.  So from that point of view – yes.  There were a few times where I really felt my work did have some significant contribution to the company and the wider world.  So I have to say it was but I am someone who is inclined to view on the negative side though so I inevitably feel that I should have done more, better, larger etc.

What will I do now?

Well maybe write more blog posts!  (Sorry).  I’ve been off work a number of months now so I ought to be getting used to this but being sick and not working seems different from being retired – that’s dumb possibly but a mind block I have.  One thing I should do is recognise the health issues and take it easy.

What will people think of a 56 year old man who’s retired already?

Why this matters is something I need to question – who cares what others think anyway!  I’m worried though I’ll be thought a failure, or a shirker, lazy, or simply someone who wasn’t good enough to be kept on.  I suppose that all says far more about how I’m not yet comfortable viewing myself as a retired person.

Health Update

To update on my health – the symptoms have been largely the same, some subtle changes but via my GP and specialist we’re trying a new drug – the last week hasn’t been too bad so maybe that is having a good effect we’ll see if it continues, I’ve been lulled into false security before with this thing.  However when I take the drug it is like I’m on another planet for a while – most odd.  Also I’m to have some more tests and a referral to a neurologist in the new year too to review all of my “complex case”.


About furtheron

Music and guitar obsessive who is a recovering alcoholic to boot
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6 Responses to Does work define you?

  1. Hope your docs get it all figured out. Here in the States “early retirement”starts at 55 and most people are.jealous of those able to take it, so don’t feel selfconscious. You’ve earned it.

  2. Ainsobriety says:

    I’m planning for freedom 55. Most of my friends have retired around that ages.
    But the struggle to identify yourself as something is real.

    I felt it when I was on maternity leave and people were like, oh, your a stay at home mom. And I clung to the idea that I was an engineer with a good jobs waiting for me.

    Over the years I have worked fewer hours and embraced the mom title. I know better know that satisfaction can be found in many different ways.

    That said, there’s a lot of time between 56 and the inevitable. I expect you will find something else that interests you. Not necessarily for money, but to give yourself that sense of being needed.

    I hope the drugs work. I often pause and am thankful for my current health and mobility. It is a gift.


  3. annastk76 says:

    I hope your health issues come right and that there are other ways to try if one doesn’t work out.

    How work identifies us, or rather if we feel it does, is an interesting one. I can see what you mean about retiring and perhaps feeling a bit lost, especially if it turns out to be sooner than maybe you expected. Personally, I find myself cringing when asked what I do – what people mean of course is what I do FOR A LIVING and what pays the bills. This is not my passion however, but it’s weird how I don’t introduce myself as a writer and silversmith because those two passions aren’t what pays my bills! And saying “oh, I’m a PA” feels a bit crappy because it’s someone I do ONLY to pay the bills – fine, it’s OK and I’d even say that most of the time I like it plus I work for really nice people, but it’s not ME so I’m in actual fact mostly hesitant to say I’m a PA when asked what I do. Perhaps I just read too much into it, I dunno…

    Anyway. This got me thinking!

    Hope your health situation improves.

    All the best,


  4. Are you serious? I think retiring in m 50’s would be heaven on earth. My answered prayers. How could anyone misconstrue that as a negative? Only a workaholic who’ll never enjoy peace of mind.

  5. Hi Graham!
    I know some people who retired that age and loved it!
    I retired at 60. It was hard for me at first, but now I love it!
    I think everyone is different.
    I was a workaholic, and spent all my time in school, even on weekends.
    That made it harder.
    I sure hope your new medicine keeps helping!

  6. daisyfae says:

    Catching up with my blogmates – i understand all of these ruminations! i had the privilege of having the last few years of my career to plan for it, and get it all sorted. i retired at 55 after 36 years with the federal government (started at 19 years old). There was/is guilt, but i’m definitely working through that – and having a significant portion of my energy devoted to working for charity has helped my head manage the guilt!

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