When Retired Doesn’t Mean Retired

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So, I have been “medically” retired. I am now Michael Smith Prison Officer (retired). But I’m not. Not really. My medical retirement pension is on a lower tier which means two things: 1) I’ll get the pension until I shuffle off this mortal coil and 2) It is a damned small amount.

Not enough to live on and the amounts of benefit I am eligible for are very small and not at all certain. I am eligible for a lump sum, but taking that will drop my yearly pension payment by well over 1500 pounds per year. I also have a slight financial problem that is not going to go away and if I take the lump sum, my situation being what it is, said lump sum will disappear into my creditors’ pockets.

Dear me!

I have gone and spoken to the “not-so-helpful” folks at the Citizen’s Advise Bureau (admittedly it was not their fault, it was my circumstances) and found that I seemed to fall into a giant crack where no real benefits actually applied. I cannot get any of my state pension as a “top-up” as I am under even the earliest age where you can retire. I have a feeling that I will get the same response from the American Social Security folks.

I have often used the phrase “between a rock and a hard place” and each time I used that phrase I honestly felt that I was “in” that metaphorical place. It is amazing how naive we can be in our lives. I now truly understand what that phrase really means; I have only now come to realise that my lack of understanding was normal and I am now in that place.

I have always been a flexible chap, not exceedingly so, but flexible nonetheless. I always knew that I could bounce back from almost anything and I could usually turn my hand at anything.

But now?

I am completely utterly lost.

The one problem with my current circumstance is the heart problem. Because of the condition of my aortic tear, my local cardiologist won’t even assess my fitness for cardio rehabilitation. Not until I’ve had my second follow-on appointment with my surgeon in February. So I have no idea what I can or cannot do in the area of work. I do know I cannot do my old job in the prison service because I cannot have any contact with prisoners; hence my medical retirement.

But the heart problem aside, I don’t even have a CV (resume) on file to apply for work. I have not had a CV for ten years. My last “game plan” was to retire from the Prison Service. We all know how that turned out.

I have learned to my consternation that being medically retired is not the same as being retired. In fact, if you look at it from the benefit point of view, I’m not. I don’t know about the disabled side as I cannot really fill in any forms or get a straight answer until I get my medical retirement paperwork and monies finalized. That will not happen for at least six weeks.

Theoretically, I now have six weeks to get things sorted out, but that is not likely to happen, either. I have discovered that you cannot plan for benefits or income support. I also don’t know if I will get my next pay packet as promised so that I can pay for another month’s rent or even eat. I will be able to contact the financial folks who were helping me to sort my finances but since I’ve no longer got a job, will have to cease ( I suspect) their efforts on my behalf.

I now have to “update” my CV (which of course means writing from scratch) and tailor it to meet the latest CV requirements. I have already look to see what jobs I might be qualified for (not a lot) and who might be interested in hiring a 54 year-old ex-prison officer with a dodgy aorta.

I would consider busking (that quaint English custom on standing on street corners and singing or dancing for coins from the general public) but I don’t think my voice is in fine form and the dancing could be dangerous to my heath; not to mention my inherent lack of coordination in relation to dancing. I briefly considered applying to Tesco as a shelf stocker but I’m not sure they’d have me.

My YouTube channel has not even made enough to warrant a payment yet; there is a threshold of 60 pounds that I am miles away from. I have held onto a “deliver pamphlets” job advert where I could, according to the advert, make up to 500 pounds a week. I am not sure how many pamphlets I would have to deliver for that huge sum of money, but I suspect it is way more than I could deliver in my current state of healing.

But I will continue to look on the bright side. Any other alternative point of view is just not going to happen. As one wise man once said, “You’ve got to laugh, ain’t you? Otherwise you’d cry.”

So as another wise man once said, “Laugh? I nearly paid my television license.” I know, it’s something of a “local” saying, but strangely appropriate.

So I’ll leave you with this little fact: Retired doesn’t really mean retired when it is a medical retirement; at least in this country and if you are under the age of 55. I hope this proves to be helpful to someone who may be facing a similar situation. If not, they say that misery loves company and I have lots of room here in the space between a rock and a hard place; so welcome to my little world.

I’ll put some coffee on and get the cards; I’ll deal.

5 card stud anyone?

Jobs

English: Chris rock at the Madagascar 2 premie...
English: Chris rock at the Madagascar 2 premiere in Israel. עברית: כריס רוק בבכורה של מדגסקר 2 בישראל (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The comic Chris Rock does a brilliantly funny routine about jobs versus careers. Chris says, ” When you’ve got a job there’s too much time. When you have a career you don’t have enough time.” “People who have careers need to learn to shut the f**k up around people who have jobs. Don’t let your career make someone else sad!” I love his whole routine about the differences between the two.

It did make me think though. My whole life has been spent doing jobs. When I was younger  I had an idea of what I wanted to do for a career. But that, unfortunately, never panned out. And I have had jobs that, like Chris says, made me shout, “I HATE THIS JOB…I HATE IT!

So what differentiates a job from a career? The definition I hear most folks use is this: “I can’t believe how lucky I am to get paid to do this! I’d do it (what-ever it is) for free!” This is always said by someone who has a career. You know who I mean; actors, musicians, writers, etc. I have never heard someone who has a job say this. By job I mean; street sweepers, meat packers, factory workers, et al.

But not everyone has the same idea of what defines a job or a career. I personally think the main difference between the two deals with passion. Most people work jobs that they loathe, just so they have the money to (besides taking care of their basic needs) indulge their passions. At the risk of sounding like a school ma-arm I will go ahead a call these passions hobbies.

Most people have hobbies. Whether they collect stamps, train-spot, or bird watch these folks all share a common feeling. A passion for their hobby. Most of us have to live our lives working jobs that enable us to indulge our passions. A select few have  been lucky enough to get paid to ‘work’ at their hobbies.

So while it is irritating to not have the privilege of getting paid for our passions, we can at least take comfort in knowing that a lot of folks share our fate. And like the old saying goes, “Misery loves company.”

Rushing

RUSHING IS DANGEROUS ANY TIME - ANY PLACE^ - N...

I’ve been in a hurry my whole life. When I was a youngster (that’s teenager, really) I was convinced that if I didn’t hurry up and “grow-up” I’d somehow miss the boat. I also wanted to do as many different things as possible. I had the usual suspects in my itinerary, travel, fame (or a monetary equivalent), freedom, and of course the all important career.

I changed my career goals as often as most folks change their underwear. My career choices ranged from: Lawyer – school took too long, Doctor – see Lawyer, Police – poor pay, Military – very poor pay (of course I did wind up in the Air Force, but that wasn’t a planned career move), Archaeology – pay non-existent. The list was endless.  Then one day I had an epiphany – on the career front anyway –  I could be an actor! Rather than try to pursue all those careers, I could act like all those folks.

So, I enrolled in the High School Drama Department. I became a card carrying Thespian and I was proud to be one. Then that “being in a hurry” thing got in the way again. I started working for who ever wanted me. I made the lady who gave me my first chance vie for my time. We had, quite understandably, a huge falling out. I quit the Drama Department in a fit of rage. This had a house of cards effect. I lost the chance at my almost guaranteed scholarship to university, and my impetus. In my hurry to get where I wanted, by rushing ahead impervious to those around me, I screwed up.

I did try (several times) to get back on the “acting train” – moving to LA in the late 70’s, and then nothing for almost 12 years. I did a little stage work when I moved to England, some extra work here and in Holland. I did the odd commercial, a lot of adverts for the Armed Forces Radio & Television Network in Holland. More extra work in the 90’s along with some voice-over work, and then…nothing.

I was still in a hurry with everything else though. While my “career” stalled out, I was rushing to do other things. Getting married – twice, divorced – twice, fatherhood – twice, changing jobs – again more often, than most folks change their underwear, moving – like a grasshopper. My life didn’t slow down until about ten years into my second marriage. Then it ground to a shuddering halt.

Now I’m single again, I’ve found that old habit of being in a hurry has resurfaced, albeit for a different reason now, I’m rushing to try get some old business taken care of. It is not often we get second chances in life. I’ve had more than my fair share of  ”second chances,” and this time I’m planning on getting it right.

I think I’ve cracked it finally. I think I’ve figured out how I can fulfil my natural proclivity for rushing while still taking my time. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do and I’ve started already – still in a hurry – but this time, I’m paying attention. I’m going to look at the sign posts as I speed up the last roads of my life. I’ll try to avoid the detours when I can, and enjoy the scenery when I can’t.

I guess that’s the only advantage of rushing, if you get sidetracked, you can still get back on your path. A little older, hopefully wiser and still able to enjoy the trip.