Instagram ‘s a funny thing. As I scrolled and liked my way through the day’s posts I came across Retiring_Not_Shy and smiled. Clever. Funny. A woman who models my kind of clothes. Months pass and I post a shout-out for people to be interviewed for my book 50 Faces: 50 Lives. Jan is among those who responds and we agree to each write an article – I’ll write one on dementia care for her blog, (retiringnotshy.com.au) and Jan will write her story for 50 Faces: 50 Lives. Now all we both need is the time to make this happen! Jan wrote her article about a month ago. But at my end. life happened. My website imploded and I ran from web page designer to IT tech-support to internet provider and then lockdown struck. But finally, the problem was solved.
I’m delighted to share with you Jan’s story. What struck me about this woman in her 60’s is that her “retired” life is really the way she seems to have always lived. A life of exploration, reinvention and change. Looking for opportunities, finding purpose, enjoying people, learning along the way and making every day count.
It was great to read her story. I hope that you enjoy it too. Thanks Jan…….
Growing up on the land
I was born at Coonamble NSW, and spent the first 16 years of my life living on a sheep farm near Quambone. Quambone was our nearest village, about 24 kilometres away along a sandy dirt road. I grew up surrounded by cousins and neighbours who might as well be related, we were so close.
My parents were very social and most weekends there was cricket or tennis with a ‘ladies bring a plate’ event afterwards. And every second Sunday it was to Mass in Quambone, followed by a car boot picnic breakfast. Life was fun.
I was the youngest of seven children, life was always busy on the land and for me pretty much idyllic. I studied my Primary School lessons by Correspondence and typically had a 3 day weekend. But sadly, when I was 7 my youngest sister (then 20) had a shocking car accident which saw my parents absent for weeks at a time, and my middle sister left responsible for my schooling and care – bless her!
At the age of 12 I went to boarding school in Sydney which was tough but also a respite, and then completed my schooling at the local high school once my parents moved off the land.
Early career and travels.
Unlike some of my friends I left school with no real career or further study aspirations. I moved to Sydney and thanks to the mother of a very good friend I did the traditional nannying job (badly) until my HSC results arrived. I then happily stumbled into a job at Manly Public Library, which became the first of many happy times working in that sector.
At the age of 25 I left my job and, with a friend, embarked on the ‘must do’ SE Asian backpacking trail. How did we survive? I have no idea really. We flew to Bali and from there travelled overland and overwater through Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal and India. These were magical times with wonderful memories. From India we flew to Paris, as at that time the route through Afghanistan looked somewhat unfriendly. I still feel sad not to have been able to travel through those West Asian and Middle Eastern countries – I am sure the Hindu Kush calls my name at times. From Paris (the first of many visits), we travelled to London where I had a brief stint being a chamber maid (badly) at the Savoy Hotel.
On arriving home, I discovered that work was no longer as easy to secure, I had too much experience (and too high a pay grade) and not enough qualifications to go with it. I embarked on a Bachelor of Arts (Library Science) part time, and found a job at a public library nearby the College. Having completed my degree I then began a transition into the IT industry, mostly focussed on library technologies.
Travel continued to be a passion and I travelled regularly to SE Asia and the Pacific Islands. This passion continues and together with my now partner I have greatly enjoyed exploring France, Italy and Spain amongst other destinations. Oh for the pandemic to be under control and travel to be back on the agenda.
A peripatetic lifestyle
I have variously lived in Sydney, then Melbourne, back to Sydney, to Port Stephens and then back to Melbourne where my now partner Rowan and I started our life together. We were fortunate to live in the wonderful inner Melbourne community of Kensington where we renovated an early 20th Century weatherboard cottage. At this time, Rowan was working in the IT industry and I was combining some counselling and healing work with working in his wine tourism industry – multi talented or a dilettante? I will leave that for you to decide. I had already had a stint at being a ceramic artist.
After several years in Melbourne, we moved to the beautiful Victorian location of Mallacoota in far East Gippsland. We decided this was ‘it’ and had a home built to our specifications and thought we were ready to retire. This was a mistake on many fronts. We had made the classic mistake of thinking that somewhere nice to holiday at was necessarily also a great place to live. After a few years of living there we realised that it wasn’t the place for us, for lots of reasons, and so we began scouting for a new location.
Finding our feet in Noosaville
We were incredibly fortunate to buy a home in Noosaville before the world went mad and prices went through the roof. We had it tenanted for 3 years and then moved in a couple of years ago.
It has been the best move ever. All the things we were missing are now close by – restaurants, airports, medical facilities, shopping, and Brisbane only just over an hour away. We have also found a rich social life as well as opportunities for meaningful work, both paid and unpaid.
Rowan has taken up a Directorship with the Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation which he greatly enjoys, and I have started a very small-scale modelling career. Who would have thought that in my late sixties I would commence modelling! This has been a fun and fulfilling job working with local businesses on the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane and learning how to best work with professional photographers.
Like most people that answer lies with the COVID Gods right now. Our international travel dreams have been curtailed, although we have been fortunate to have had two domestic trips in the past 18 months. We have focussed on some home renovations and upgrades, and enjoying the company of family and friends as we are able.
Earlier this year I was on the National Organising Committee for the Women’s March for Justice, which was an exhausting and exhilarating experience. I have stepped away from that for the moment, but remain connected to the team.
Making the most of life in retirement
This is such an interesting time of life, one in which we can either focus on contraction or on expansion.
What do I mean by that?
Well ,there is no doubt that my physical health isn’t as good as it once was and I don’t have the energy I once had. But I choose not to focus on that and instead focus on the expansion in my life – the modelling, the social opportunities in this community, and many other joys. I like to look on the bright side, so when I find my body really is no longer happy with the concept of high heels then I find the fun in styling my clothes with comfortable sneakers. When we can’t travel overseas, we travel domestically. When we can’t see friends and family in person, we have online catch ups. For us it’s a choice to look on the bright side of life.
I have seen others close to me contract their horizons before they needed to, and I am determined to keep pushing at the edges of my boundaries to the greatest extent possible. I manage my health to the very best I can, without punishing myself, and I enjoy engagement in both the face to face and online world.
I recommend staying engaged, and wherever possible taking the opportunity to mix with younger persons, there is no better way to stay young at heart.
Retirement, we call it rewirement, can be the best time of your life. Go grab it!