Throughout my last year of work, as people found out that I was retiring at the end of the school session, certain questions and comments recurred: "Why?"; "Will you actually go?" and inevitably, "But what will you do?" People who knew how much I had loved my work as a teacher were bemused; they apparently found it difficult to identify me in other than my work persona. This rang a bell or two: when I announced in 1977 that I was stopping work following the birth of my first son (despite being the first woman in my school to have had the right to return to work after maternity leave) there was general surprise. I had been promoted early and I loved the school and my work. Seven years later, when I prepared to battle my way back into work when son number two went to school, again I was met with expressions of amazement. I had been neck deep in local Playgroup, as well as the emerging National Mother and Toddler Group movement, had been writing for the local paper and for women's magazines. Why would I want to change all that?
If you are by nature an enthusiast, if you are easily fired up by whatever you are involved in, and especially if you are vocal about the joy you get from what you do, others may find it terribly difficult to imagine you in "retirement". This is probably why so many rising 60s refuse to use the word itself. I understand why, but I would rather we reclaimed the word 'retirement' and showed all the bewildered onlookers what it really signifies in our lives. While never forgetting that for many, the ending of employment with a wage is not a positive thing for financial reasons, I am fortunate enough to have had work which earned me enough to save ferociously for this stage in my life and to me retirement is bringing the freedom to rediscover the self which was laminated over by the persona who was the senior manager and headteacher.