Lucy Kellaway, Math Teacher

Lucy Kellaway, a columnist for The Financial Times, announced she is retiring, not just to become a math teacher but also to pave the way for late career professionals to turn to teaching as a next career. Good for her. We admire anyone who chooses to teach, and choosing to do so at 58 is brave. We will miss her trenchant pieces. We did not always agree, but she always stimulated our interest.

We were a bit taken aback by a recent column, which deemed “pathetic” anyone who demands deference in the present based on past achievements. Statements like “I was the Prime Minister,” or “I was a judge.” Ms. Kellaway does not plan to tell people she meets that she worked at the FT for decades, apparently because she doesn’t want to trade on the FT’s name.

We would take a different tack. We agree that she will not, and likely should not, demand deference based solely on past affiliations. But her years at the FT are part of who she is and what she did. And her career continues to be worthy of note. No reason to hide it, we think.

Our careers shaped not only our identities, but also the way we think and the way people see us. We are very proud of those careers, and will always be lawyers at heart. We can no more distance ourselves from those personas than we can become taller or younger. We know that was the past, and we know we cannot rely on our old titles to demand respect now. We don’t want to. On the contrary, we are building a new brand to reflect what we are doing now. But that brand incorporates our old ones. Retirement was, for sure, a hard break from our careers, but it was not a hard break from who we are and continue to be.

So when we talk about ourselves we will announce with pride our prior careers and institutional affiliations, but we will not rest on those laurels. We are having too much fun moving forward. Ms. Kellaway, we predict, will do the same, once she gets going, and she too will see that her past is a platform for her new persona. We admire her, and wish her the best.

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