A friend of mine, an Oxford graduate, who recently retired from running the research and analysis company she had founded, has set about reskilling herself in a completely different way. She is taking courses in plumbing, carpentry and basic electrics. Her rationale is as follows: when she was working she was far too busy to put up shelves, rewire plugs or replace a broken loo seat. This last is particularly on my mind as the one at home urgently needs replacing.
Now this is an interesting reversal of what people usually do once the pressures of full time work ease off. I have already written about the number of artistic friends I have who are honing their artistic skills in anticipation of forthcoming freedom (and bemoaned my inability to follow suit: https://damesnet.com/?p=899). Others are looking to learn a new language. But this is the only example I personally know of someone with great intellectual ability choosing to develop her manual skills.
We all know that lifelong learning is both desirable and good for the brain, but why should the focus be on the creative or cerebral type of activity? The important thing is to be learning something new so that our thinking and motor patterns don’t get stuck in the time-honoured grooves we have developed over the years. There is also the fact that with us all expected to live for much longer than we assumed during our misspent youth (what, you mean that yours wasn’t?) then we could at least inject a bit of variety as the years go by.
So for those who have spent most of their working life sitting at a desk in front of a computer, what could be more rewarding or fulfilling than ‘taking back control’ of the many minor domestic repairs that so many of us, or at least yours truly, can’t be bothered to take on. The last time I did any carpentry was making a wooden stool at junior school when I was about 10. It never got finished because I caught whooping cough and was quarantined at home for what felt like a lifetime. It’s probably about time I had another go – at carpentry, not infectious diseases.
I write this with feeling, as I have spent the last few hours waiting in for the plumber to arrive, and am seething with frustration. How much better it would be if I could simply tackle the job myself with confidence? Conversely, if I had those skills already, I might be itching to investigate the mysteries of ancient Greek once I had finally hung up my spanners and wrenches.
So here are a number of possibilities for people in different occupations to consider once they have a bit more time on their hands or are simply contemplating a change of direction:
Current job New activity
Plasterer Theoretical physics
Marine biologist Dressmaking
Gardener Web design
Chef Traffic warden
Fund manager Tree surgeon
Electrician President of the USA