“When people ask me, “What do you do?” I now say, “I’m a musician, a presenter, a broadcaster, a mother, a daughter, a sister and a friend”, Carole Moss tells me in the home in Bradford in West Yorkshire where she’s lived for over 30 years. And she adds firmly, “What I don’t say, is “I’m an ex-actor, or ex-teacher, or ex-anything.”
I first met Carole 10 years ago when we were on a course together, and was knocked out by her incredible ability to work in a group of people, seamlessly becoming the core of any group she is in.
I ask Carole how happy she was at work, where she finished her 30-year career at Bradford College as Head of Student Services; “I was extremely happy until near the end. A lot of nice people were leaving and I realised it was time for me to go too”. She remembers the time of leaving: “It’s quite important to manage your own exit. I managed mine carefully. I had 6 months notice, left in October and went away on a big trip in February. Part of the reason for this was so that I didn’t get involved in other activities too quickly and because I needed to celebrate the end of my career”. She added thoughtfully, “I felt bereaved, and I know a year is the time that people say you need to manage a bereavement, so I thought to myself this is how I am going to manage it. I’m not going to leap into anything”. Carole has strong views on the word “retirement”. “I haven’t retired”, she tells me firmly, “I’m just redirecting myself”.
“There’s nothing I’m missing in life now. I like living in a place that’s constantly changing because I want to be in the hub of things”, she tells me. “When I left work in 2005 I was perfectly healthy and I still had lots of energy but nothing to do with it. I was aware that it was adrenaline that kept me going at work from one half-hour appointment to the next. Fourteen months after I left, I got involved in a project as Director of the Saltaire Festival and I felt the adrenaline again and I didn’t like it. I like the pace I’ve adopted which is slower and more thoughtful”.
Slower her pace may be but Carole’s life is full and varied. As well as her continuing involvement in the Saltaire Festival (though no longer as Director), she is a member of a successful jazz band, Twelve Bars from Mars, writes and presents a great show on Bradford Community Broadcasting (BCB), gardens, cycles and organises “Walking Wednesdays” for a group of us ladies with free time to stretch our legs in the countryside and catch up with each other. Carole also works as a coach and supports trainees at BCB to seek work or get into training or volunteering. She is clear about what she does and the purpose it serves: ““I know I’m prone to being flattered, so there’s a danger I take on too much and I’ve had to learn to say ‘No’ to some things. I am very fortunate, as I have a really rich life in terms of people and activities. And while I have my health I want to be happy and not seek other things, just for the sake of doing more”.
And if this weren’t enough, shortly after leaving work, Carole decided that her life, though rich, varied and full of friends and family, lacked a partner. “I was keen to meet somebody”, she tells me, so I subscribed to Guardian soulmates [an online dating agency run by Britain’s main left-leaning broadsheet newspaper], and Lou came along on the last day of my subscription”, she tells me happily. I see him every weekend, either where he lives or he comes here, and I’m really involved with his children and his life, and his hobbies, and I still have my own life separate from him too.” She finishes off with this thought; “I’m not filling my life. But I take every opportunity that is fulfilling. And if I’m not excited by something, then I don’t do it”.
Carole’s Prime Time Tips are:
- Leave time between finishing and starting something new
- If you want to work, do something a bit different from what you used to do whilst using the skills that you have
- Put yourself out and about a bit and see what’s around you
- Try a few things out and see what you enjoy
- Learn to live in the spaces – experience the ups and downs. Be prepared to feel sad at what you’ve lost, and be ready to move on