The agony los­ing of your job at 59

Daily Mail - - Inspire - by Mar­ion McGil­vary

My birthday had ar­rived. the prac­tice run for one of the big­gies. Fifty-nine. a year off the Sil­ver Surfer Club at the cinema, and not far off a bus pass.

a year off an age i’d never given much thought of get­ting to, as though it was some­thing that hap­pened to other peo­ple and not me. i’d never be that old surely, be­cause i’d just stay 40 for ever.

My part­ner took me to Stock­holm on a mini-break to cel­e­brate. in de­cem­ber. Surely the equiv­a­lent of a neon sign that i was some­what aged — rein­deer and snow up to your an­kles, dark at 3pm — hardly a teen­srUs he­do­nis­tic get­away.

but still, i was hang­ing on to the idea of my­self as cool and rel­e­vant. Up un­til i came back to work and got called into the boss’s of­fice. he was apolo­getic and re­gret­ful, but the mes­sage was the same — my job was be­ing made re­dun­dant. then i felt old. re­ally old. and use­less. What’s worse, i cried. all pro­fes­sion­al­ism flew out the win­dow with the last ves­tiges of my pride. ten years into a job i loved, with peo­ple i gen­uinely liked, and poof, the niche i’d carved out for my­self was no longer deemed nec­es­sary. My job was sur­plus and thereby i was, too. and at my age, it felt like en­forced re­tire­ment.

it was like the end of my mar­riage. in many ways it was the end of a mar­riage — it’s just i’d un­wisely wed my­self, and a huge chunk of my self-es­teem and iden­tity, to a com­pany. i loved it, but it no longer loved me back.

Non­sense, of course. it’s a busi­ness, not ‘day care for adults’ and cuts needed to be made. it just so hap­pened i was one of the peo­ple at the sharp end of the scis­sors.

i had wielded those scis­sors my­self, so i could hardly crawl into a cor­ner and bleat ‘poor lit­tle me’. but, heck, i did it any­way. i went home and snug­gled up with a bot­tle of own brand vodka and a loo roll (i was classy in grief). i wailed. i wor­ried.

i counted up my iSas, while imag­in­ing the glee­ful schaden­freude felt by oth­ers whose re­dun­dancy let­ters i’d had to type.

Of course, none of those peo­ple would care one way or the other, since they were all off liv­ing their mostly hap­pier, more lu­cra­tive lives in other com­pa­nies with morn­ing pi­lates classes and sab­bat­i­cals, but i still had to find a way to hold on to a sense of my own im­por­tance. that was the hard­est thing to swal­low. My dis­pens­abil­ity. Not es­sen­tial. Not needed. Weak­est link.

YOU don’t need a course in psy­chol­ogy to know that when these sort of events be­fall us, they are not self- con­tained and of them­selves, but also act as a trig­ger to all the real and imag­ined times we’ve felt ir­rel­e­vant.

in my case, the list is long — when my hus­band of 25 years shuf­fled off with an­other woman; when all my kids went to col­lege one af­ter the other like a tag team; when my for­mer agent didn’t like my book, or rather, when her as­sis­tant didn’t; when i lost a pre­vi­ous job as a colum­nist on a news­pa­per and prac­ti­cally every friend i’d made while do­ing it.

but i was 42 then, and could still lift the phone and call on my con­tacts. My novel was as yet un­writ­ten and un­pub­lished. i had a good chunk of en­ergy and verve left to rein­vent my­self. but a year off the big 60, i felt washed up. rub­bish. Not even re­cy­cled rub­bish, but plain old, stick it in a land­fill dross. i was also con­sumed by de­spair. Who would i be now? Who wants to em­ploy a woman with the be­gin­nings of arthri­tis?

it’s all fair and fine for the Gov­ern­ment sud­denly to de­cide i have to work un­til 68 to get my state pen­sion, but they didn’t pass this on to my em­ployer, who needed me to slip grace­fully out the door.

af­ter a decade of be­ing pli­able and fit­ting into the spaces that fall empty be­cause no­body else wants to fill them, my role was like a cus­tom-made suit by Vivi­enne West­wood, but with odd tucks and pleats and un­even ends — it fit­ted beau­ti­fully, but was quite in­de­scrib­ably dif­fer­ent from any­one else’s. i had come to see my­self, pos­si­bly er­ro­neously, as the mother hen of the of­fice, al­beit with a rather sharp beak. i knew where the bod­ies were buried, along with the old files, the com­pany his­tory, and what was frowned on.

i felt cen­tral to the place in a way a mother runs a home — with all the re­spon­si­bil­ity, not too much re­spect and none of the power. i liked it. i felt lucky to have it. but overnight i be­came pe­riph­eral.

My job was re­dun­dant, but there was good news. Of a sort. i could stay on in a much- re­duced ca­pac­ity, cut my hours, my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, and, ef­fec­tively, gain a small seat on the side­lines.

Pride wouldn’t let me. My bank bal­ance dis­agreed. bet­ter to have some money com­ing in than none. and it meant not go­ing cold tur­key with un­em­ploy­ment.

yes, i had to suck up a loss of sta­tus, if only in my own head, but the deal was fair, the de­sire to have me do less and dif­fer­ently came from a good place, and if i could man­age to stuff my di­min­ished ego into the same place as the de­serted wife and failed au­thor, i could make the best of it.

i’d clean the house (ahem). i’d lose weight. ( i didn’t, on the con­trary i bal­looned.) i’d walk ev­ery­where. (i sat on the sofa a lot.) i’d write an­other novel. (didn’t even open the lap­top.) i’d travel. (have you seen how much a re­turn to Ed­in­burgh costs?) time trick­led through my fin­gers like pound coins when you break a twenty.

HOW­EVER, a month in to my re­duced hours/ wages/re­spon­si­bil­ity and i was rolling around in the lovely free time like an oiled up sun­bather on a lilo.

Work be­came the equiv­a­lent of a week­end ac­tiv­ity, with the week free to do what­ever i liked. i did cog­ni­tive be­hav­iour ther­apy (Cbt) with a psy­chol­o­gist. i signed up for life coach­ing to force me out of the rut (which has me writ­ing again). i did an em­broi­dery class. i made a quilt. i be­gan vol­un­teer­ing to im­prove child lit­er­acy, and next month i’m get­ting a puppy.

in fact, eight months on, i’ve never been hap­pier. Money is still a con­cern, but as psy­chol­o­gists ac­knowl­edge, more time makes you hap­pier than more money.

it has been a good les­son to me on hu­mil­ity, and i now recog­nise what i truly value and the foun­da­tions of my self-worth — it cer­tainly doesn’t come from mak­ing a fine spread­sheet or get­ting the away day or­gan­ised.

it comes from creating a beau­ti­ful gar­ment or lis­ten­ing to the birds in the garden that i have the leisure to en­joy — and the abil­ity to do all those things i al­ways promised my­self i would do if i only had time. Ex­cept clean­ing the house. that’s still a bit of a tip.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.