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Retiring from service, not retiring from life

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No matter what job we do, there are certain characteristics we all share in retirement. But military retirement can have its own benefits and drawbacks. Here, former soldier Gordon Kinghorn shares his feelings on retiring from service.
 
There are a few things unique to military retirement. For starters, the trouble with spending the majority of one’s working life as a soldier is that few of us who have spent our productive years within the military fold can claim any lasting achievement.
 
After all, architects will have their buildings and many other constructions to be remembered by. Bridge builders and motorway labourers alike, may take comfort from the fact that throughout their working lives, they adroitly contributed to the construction of countless highways, byways and viaducts that ‘help us all get from A to B’.
 
Up to the moment of retirement, I experienced a consistently good time when working in uniform, and humbly earned considerable recognition for my efforts. However, there were, of course, occasional and unenviable periods of peril, each ruefully undertaken in the name of executing one’s duties to protect that trinity of national bastions: Queen, Corps and Regiment.
 

Live rounds and landmines

Despite the ‘comes-with-the-job-turbulence’ of my occupation, I, [thankfully] sensed little more than a frisson permeating my physical frame and psyche throughout my long and intoxicating soldiering life. I had my fair share of firing-off live rounds from my MOD rifle and the regular negotiation of land mines, those that were buried shallowly on given main supply routes to and from the martial bases.
 
However, I have yet to meet a soldier of my age who would willingly exchange his or her career for another. Nevertheless, those of us who survived the nightmare of operational conflict are now faced with new and all-together unfriendlier enemies. Those of personal antiquity and surviving in a world that, as senior citizens, we no longer understand.
 

From service to retirement

Curiously, since retirement earlier this year, I have realised that all of us – whether  we used to be white collar workers, yellow or orange-clad labourers or, green-skinned fighting machines, share something in common  – in that no one truly informed us about the psychological ambiguity that comes with our respective seniority and everything that goes with it in today’s world.
 
We are the children of our times and are subsequently affected by the climate in which we now live. If we don’t scrutinise carefully the atmosphere in which we, the ‘Baby Boomer Brigade’ currently exist, there is little hope that we will become mentally supple enough to tackle the years that lie ahead.
 

Struggling with retired life

From my perspective, I have struggled a little to adapt as a full-time retiree. The Britain of 2014 is a long way removed from the country in which I started my employment during the summer of ’65 – this stark realisation suggests to me that I have been guilty of sleep-walking my way through life over the past 50 years and not comprehending the situation.
 
Or, more to the point, not focussing on just how quickly things have changed and how it has affected society as a whole.
 
I have struggled a little to adapt as a full-time retiree. The Britain of 2014 is a long way removed from the country in which I started my employment during the summer of ’65.
Our working lives possibly disguised the intensity and swiftness of the so-called progress of the modern world. Parents, such as myself, simply rolled-with-the-punches.
 
We raised our broods, and stayed in our jobs to keep the ’Hovis’ on the table and a roof over their heads – in the hope that our offspring would survive, strive and ultimately succeed in a nation we thought we still understood. Then we retired and experienced first-hand that many of us have been left behind.
 

Adapting to today’s world

Civilisation today has gained a taste for freedom and apparently no longer wishes to be deferential to anything or anybody that represents authority, or to a way of life that we once knew. The same may be said for communities.
 
The neighbourly infrastructure that defined the UK has transformed itself into a series of fragmented private and enclosed cells – AKA, private homes.
 
It strikes me that 21st Century humanity is happily cocooned in a state of solitude. Gone are the times of the alleged ‘good old days’ that I have alluded to, which saw picnics in the park and annual caravan holidays on the Scottish borders.
 
To say little of leaving one’s front door unlocked and remaining content in the knowledge that we had trusty neighbours who would ’keep an eye out’ for anything untoward occurring within our home – it never did!
 
Although, even through my rose coloured spectacles, I realise that not everything was perfect back then.
 
From the numerous retired friends and acquaintances I have, many are indeed becoming more disenchanted about living in a nation that is slowly starting to forget them – each recognising that the bulk of civilisation today is wholeheartedly hell-bent on fleeing from a culture that is considered antiquated and without place.
 
In their considered opinion, our fast eroding values our now being elbowed-out as mankind chases happiness and fulfilment from the insignificant, insensitive, destructive and perilous aspects of life – well-divorced from the things that made our nation notably compete with the best of them.
 

A generation thing

As I wrestle with some of the observations of retirees such as myself, I do think that maybe we are all guilty of overlooking the shortcomings of our own generation.
 
This, for me, is the sixties, when we ignorantly emerged from our meagre tenement homes and aggressively engaged in marches to ban the bomb, voiced opposition to the war in Vietnam, threw rotten eggs at parliamentary representatives visiting the Scottish capital city, then dropped-out, smoked dope and hazily participated in all that the sexual revolution could offer.
 
My parents were, rightfully so in some respects, utterly appalled by it all, apart from an elderly (retired) single aunt of mine. I believe to this day that she was a little jealous and possibly slightly miffed that the dawn of that then new age had not evolved during her own youth of the 1920s.
 
But the entire point of the sexually permissive age was solely to shock both parental and governmental authority of the period, which saw my father frequently yelling: ‘These hippies today don’t know they are bloody born!’
 
I intend to reconfigure my attitude and make these retirement years the happiest and most all-embracing passage of my entire existence

Making retirement the happiest years of my life

With that in mind, and in-keeping with a teenage pledge, never to sound like him at any stage during the course of my lifetime, I intend to reconfigure my attitude and make these retirement years the happiest and most all-embracing passage of my entire existence.
 
This is a  more plausible option in one’s quest for a deeply loving, hugely understanding and more purposeful period of superannuating – providing one’s grown children never inform one that they intend to embark on a career in politics… of course.
 
Do you have a retirement story to share? Or would you like to comment on Gordon’s personal story? Use the comments section below to join the conversation.
 
This article has been commissioned by retiresavvy and any opinions voiced are the author's own.

Comments

I thought this was a very heartfelt and honest blog post. I'm actually surprised I haven't seen more new-retirees write about how the world has changed etc. I can so imagine, as a busy dad of two young kids, that the world does whizz past me in many respects and when I become an empty nester I'll suddenly wonder where all that time went.
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