I walk out of the office for the last time, early, as there is precious little point hanging around with nothing to do. It’s a sunny and actually hot afternoon. London looks oddly different. That might be because my head is held high and I am actually looking at the city’s architecture for once, not scurrying home with my eyes on the chewing gum spotted pavement.
It feels like the day I left school: other girls were crying, for reasons I simply couldn’t fathom. I veritably skipped down the school driveway with a huge sense of relief. No more stupid rules controlling my days. After 35 years of heavy duty consulting work, there are again no more stupid rules or obligations, ever. I feel completely relieved of all responsibilities for anyone or anything other than myself. Hurrah.
I’ve dreamed of this for years, on every one of those days I toiled through ten hours at a desk plus at least a two hour commute on a packed train or Tube. I realise I am lucky, a tail-end baby boomer with the benefit of a good education. But wait, I’m not going to feel guilty about hanging up my calculator, I’ve worked my arse off, tolerated years of misogyny, having to work so much harder and better than the men around me, and butted my head against the reinforced glass ceiling until it bled.
I’ve bought a house, privately educated two children – my choice – and earned enough to save for a modestly rainy day. I’m 56, tired of dealing with other people’s unchanging and repeated BS, - it's not the work, it's never the work, it's the people, Sartre's hell, and so I am unfurling my umbrella.
Colleagues, who don’t know me at all, think I am mad. ‘What are you going to do with yourself’ is the crassest of questions, and in recent weeks I have been sorely tempted to say something, but I’m too well brought up. So, what am I going to do with myself?
Starting tomorrow morning I am going to catch up on my sleep. A long lie in with a samovar of tea and the cracked spine of a new book is in order. My father reminded me he slept for almost a month when he retired. He advises planning to do very little until I am better. I wonder how long it will take me to feel normal again, assuming, of course, I actually recognise what that is.
Our unhealthy sleep patterns are forever in the news and, as a chronic insomniac, I am looking forward to no stress, interrupted nights, lighter circles around my eyes, and getting out of bed actually eager for the day.
Second is doing something about myself. I mean fitness and weight. Decades of sitting have left me with accountant’s bottom, and having my time eaten up by work means I am hopelessly, and possibly dangerously, unfit. A recent blood test told me I had elevated cholesterol and my GP said the word statins to me. I seldom walk 10,000 steps a day and riding my bike for five minutes in each direction to the Tube does not count for anything.
I’m not proud of this, but quite when you are supposed to swim, or go to the gym, or whatever when you have had a job like mine, children and a home to run, has been a mystery. So, it’s no more cheese sandwiches, crisps and four o'clock sweeties for me. I am going to fix the cholesterol with diet and exercise. I just need to figure how. Friends are telling me to use a personal trainer. I’ll let you know how that goes, once I locate my nearest gym.