This time last year I started the long process, (it took nearly 7 months) of applying for early retirement on ill-health grounds. It was a tough time for me emotionally as I loved teaching and was passionate about what I was doing but it had got to the point at which the physical strain on my body was simply too much. It's been a real rollercoaster since then, but I can now look back and say that not only was it the right decision for me physically it has led to me being the happiest and most relaxed I've been since this whole saga started about four years ago.
The hardest thing for me was to stop feeling guilty about the fact I was no longer working and to really learn to relax at home. It just felt so wrong to be getting up late, maybe spending most of the morning (if not the whole day) in my dressing gown and pyjamas when others were working hard. Two specific things helped me come to terms with this. The first was when my application for ill-health retirement was successful. I no longer felt guilty about being on sick leave , I no longer felt that I had just given in or was just being lazy when I should be working. It really felt as though I have been given permission (as in a sense I was) to stop.
I was still though finding it hard to relax, I still felt I should be doing things, that I should be active and found I was getting into a cycle of overdoing things one day only to spend the next recovering. I felt guilty doing things that I enjoyed.
At the beginning of April this year I was taken out for a, "belated" retirement lunch by my nephew who was on a visit from Australia. His is easy to talk to and very perceptive. I can't remember the exact words, but in response to my explaining how I felt about retiring he said something along the lines of "You've spent your working life helping others. Now it's time for you."
Although I didn't realise it at the time those words have resonated with me since. For the 30+ years of my teaching career I had worked to teach and support children with a whole range of special educational needs and disabilities. I'd been Child Protection Lead in five schools, had managed countless cases and the designated teacher for children in care, I'd always worked as hard as I could with and for these children. He was right, it was ME time now, time to enjoy life, do more of the things I enjoy doing, embrace new opportunities and RELAX.
12 months ago I would never have believed that my jewellery would be on sale in a London museum thought that I would be working on an exclusive collection for vintage and designer boutique. I've been interviewed the two local papers about my business and how it grew out of my becoming disabled and I've even modelled a glossy magazine. I'm developing a more relaxed casual style of dressing including my first ever pair of dungarees. I have bright pink highlights in my hair and am contemplating getting my first tattoo. I have made new friends both in the real world and online and I'm full of confidence,excitement and curiosity about what the next twelve months will bring, and friends and family have commented on the positive differences they see in me now.
Recently my six-year-old grandson, Tom asked me why I no longer worked. I explained to him that big had become too difficult and too painful for me to carry on teaching and so I'd had to stop and retire. He considered this a moment and then replied "but you get to see more of us now and that's good!"
He's right, it is good for the reason he gave and for so many others.
Oh, and I have two new feathered friends living with me.