I think it was reaching 70 that did it. My energy seemed to be less and my eyesight and hearing both weren’t what they were. I needed shorter days, less stress. More than ever I was aware of my potential to make a difference, but also of my limitations. And I started to think how much longer I could do this work?
My work, like many of yours, is a mixture of excitement and drudgery. The excitement comes from things like attending conferences, travelling the world and being part of changing the way we think about HIV. For example the last couple of years I’ve been managing a chunk of the U=-U campaign, the best and most exciting work ever, and I’ve basked in a string of victories on that front. Standing on the stage with my colleagues at IAS2017 in Paris, for example, and shouting “U=U” over and over again in a humungous auditorium as the conference ground to a halt was perhaps the pinnacle of a long career. It gets no better than this.
Wait, maybe once. I got a medal from the Queen.
Then there is the drudgery. As publisher of PositiveLite.com I also handle the business end of our work. We have a bank account, we have bills to pay, financial statements to pore over, a tax return to prepare each year. There is tons of correspondence too. None of that is fun stuff and I dislike the time spent doing it.
So why do it? Sometimes it’s easier to keep doing it than to stop.
I googled for guidance. “HIV and retirement” produced several hits, almost all of them on one of two topics: healthcare and income. Quality of life issues? Nah. Nobody seems interested enough to write about, yet alone do research, on poz seniors who continue to work. Instead people aging with HIV, all of us, are horribly pathologized – seen as a collection of medical problems who probably need help – at every turn. I resist that.
Most people retire at 65 or thereabouts. I didn’t. I sailed right past that birthday without even noticing. And I’m not alone. I have a string of colleagues around my age doing valuable work, all theoretically past their past due date. We are, I’ve argued, an important resource; I wrote about that here. My views got vandalized by an unsympathetic youngster. The point is though, that important to the community or not, we are sacrificing something – those retirement years spent doing what seniors do. It’s telling that I hardly know. I’d like a chance to find out. Afternoon naps maybe? Lawn bowling? Cards? Who knows!
Do I intend to do something about it? My body is saying yes, my mind no.
There is a medium. It would be attractive, I think, to reduce my workload, ridding myself of the drudgery while retaining some of the fun stuff. Few get the chance to be that selective. I think I could make it work.
Watch this space.