The northern spring has arrived in England so it must be close to the first anniversary of leaving the corporate world and entering the new, exciting, less structured phase of my life about which I regularly blog . It has been a tumultuous year of change for the world as a whole and a transitional one for me and my family. Reflecting on the last year, what seems important now?
Firstly, I acknowledge that I am unusually privileged. For the moment, I have my health; something I do not take for granted having had surgery to remove a colon cancer 5 years ago. I do not feel like a survivor or that I won a battle. More realistically, I had the benefit of early diagnosis, the power of prayer, world-beating medical care in the U.S. (right place and time), a supportive family, and a positive mindset. An alarming number of my friends and colleagues have not been so lucky even when they also had most or all of these advantages.
I also have the freedom that a generous (hard earned) company pension brings. This large slice of good fortune is increasingly rare of course. I have opportunities and choices that most people do not. The luxury of being able to work, write and enjoy life in the proportions that I choose is precious indeed.
The year which saw the start of Brexit, Trump elected and the boss at my former employer become US Secretary of State has been bewildering. Even those developments are perhaps not so important if you are unfortunate enough to be close to the Syrian Civil War, a Rohingya in Myanmar or eking out a living in famine struck parts of Africa.
When I retired from the corporate world, I was sure, to the surprise of many of my colleagues, that I wanted to continue to use my skills. I was not ready for a permanent holiday. I set up a limited company in the UK to provide a launchpad for that part of my plan. Running a small business is an education in itself. Negotiating the regulatory minefield is not for the feint-hearted. The end of the UK tax year, in early April, triggered a number of time critical activities and surfaced a few problems with the monthly reporting that we had been slavishly doing. Turns out that the Government’s basic PAYE software does not synchronise data between two, networked laptops used for reporting the same account during the year. Even though the telephone help desk talked me through the remedy with great patience, I am sure many small business owners in the same situation would have blown a fuse in the process.
Building and publishing a website to showcase my business offer was relatively easy. Adapting it for mobile users turned out to be straightforward, as was linking the website to this regular blog. So far so good. Being heard above the din of the web and social media is more of a challenge. My Google Ads are most often clicked through in Pakistan, Ethiopia and Papua New Guinea. No problem with that but the occasional view in Tunbridge Wells would be good too. Most of the people accessing my blog are hackers or people hoping to get comments published including embedded links to their own websites selling toddler stair gates. Russian IP addresses recorded against failed logon attempts are spookily frequent; perhaps the only thing I have in common with PoTUS. The amateur blogger is forced into a daily routine of blocking obvious hackers, marking unwanted blog comments as spam and checking the availability of new add-ons to reduce the risk of robot attacks.
My new, time-rich lifestyle is an opportunity to indulge in writing; something I have long wanted to do. In addition to this blog, I have published a short story; again something that proved to be much easier than I had expected. Thus encouraged there is more in the pipeline.
The paid work I did in the last year amounted to about 25 days in total. More would be good but nobody can accuse me of having lost sight of the life work (sic) balance that I am striving for.
I still spent enough time on planes to get to silver status with British Airways but pretty much all of that was with my wife and mostly for pleasure. A key message of the pre-retirement workshop that my wife and I attended was to make sure to spend a little of the pension pot and have fun. Check that.
Having fun is surely a critical ingredient in postponing old age. Others, not always fun, are suggested in Younger Next Year. I do not claim to have done everything the book recommends but I have stuck to my plan and I do feel that I can entertain, for the time being, the illusion of feeling younger, more relaxed and fitter, than this time last year.
Change is good.