Old But Not Over the Hill
Teaching Niche Movement
by Lucy French, 18th October 2022
For some stepping into retirement is a journey that is easy, while for others it’s a trial by fire! But like any major life journey, there is the possibility of sweetness gently waiting in the wings!
This is a story of how the grief of retirement unexpectedly transformed my life and led me to teach dance to a group of women who may be old, in terms of a number, but certainly not over the hill. Women who are hungry for moving with a new life so they can expand their horizons. Where their retirement is not an end, but the beginning of something new – where they are asking, as I did - who am I now, and where is this leading me?
It was covid that thrust me into sudden retirement from full time work. As a contractor, working as a change manager in the corporate world, work opportunities dried up overnight, which meant not only did my income drop from being very comfortable to extremely frugal, but the daily rhythm of my life completely changed too.
Although qualified as an Open Floor teacher, in hindsight I treated it more like a hobby rather than a vocation, and I wasn’t ready to teach online when covid hit. I needed to take care of myself, because depression hit me like a brick.
Consecutive lockdowns in Melbourne meant returning to full time work any time soon was a pipe dream. So I found myself going into survival mode – making major life decisions so I could live on the pension. But to reduce my rent I had to radically downsize, which at the time, was truly heartbreaking as I had to throw out or give away so many of my lovely things.
Soon I found myself entering a hidden world of being treated like a charity case, which was both shocking and painful. I’d always been proud of being a single woman who was financially independent. So, asking for help was strange and went against the grain.
Thankfully, I turned to the dance to support me and found wonderful teachers from all around the world, who offered flexible payments options and scholarships. In fact, I ended up dancing with some truly masterful teachers who enabled me to move with my underworld, and navigate it safely.
But it took me a whole year before I understood I had been in a profound state of grief. Grieving for my former full time working life (although I no longer enjoyed it) and the loss of identity it had given me. That was a shock!
why am I sharing my story with you? Because I found myself asking who
am I now and where to from here? The answer led me to something quite
unexpected and rather thrilling! Which energised and awakened a new
sense of purpose inside of me. I began to wonder was I alone in my
retirement experience, or were there others struggling with it too?
Lucy French, Open Floor teacher from Melbourne, Australia.
Although I had been teaching dance as a hobby, by profession I had been a senior change manager on large IT projects, until 2020. Years of experience taught me there is no one size fits all to change. It’s about diving deep into the organisation and understanding how that change impacts the business and its people so you can design a fit for business change approach. When Covid hit I suddenly retired due to lack of work and unexpectedly found myself diving into a world of grief, losing my identity and sense of self. Over time what gradually emerged was the birth of a new sense of purpose – one that truly values my age (70) and my life experience. This inspired me to design and explore a new dance approach for a group of senior citizens, who like me, may be old but not over the hill. This is my story.