Retirement? What’s that? #6Trudy Dehue (70)
‘I still work just as hard’
This series is called Retirement? What’s that?, right?’ asks retired professor of sociology of science Trudy Dehue (70). ‘Why is that question mark there? I am most definitely retired. I still work just as hard, but I only do things I genuinely enjoy. I couldn’t be more retired if I tried.’
Questions like these are characteristic of Dehue. ‘Back in my day, we mainly talked about how things in science should be. Just like missionaries preaching their religion in Africa, we were always trying to refute people’s ideas.’
Current science sociologists would never do that, she thinks. ‘They’re in Africa to observe and to mainly ask questions: what do these people believe? They don’t draw their conclusions until much later. It’s a lot more precise.’
Happiness is a choice… That will make people incredibly unhappy
One of the issues she’s currently pondering is why students are so unhappy. ‘The current generation of students has been raised with the neoliberal way of thinking, which says that happiness is a choice. But that will make people incredibly unhappy.’ Her questions resulted in a course on the duty of happiness, which she taught at the Honours College at the University of Amsterdam, trying to find the answers with the help of her students. ‘It was fascinating.
She taught the course for three years, which included an extension. When she turned sixty-eight, she was done. ‘That was fine, because a lot of work goes into teaching an entire course. Individual lectures are a lot easier.’
And she gets more than enough invitation to give lectures: somewhere between twenty to forty a year. Even before she retired. ‘They’re great learning opportunities. One time, I got invited to the association of gynaecologists, but I also visited the Dutch society of abortion doctors. I enjoy that kind of variety very much.’
Dehue thinks she gets invited by so many people because she’d decided to no longer publish her work in English. ‘Just like the rest of my colleagues, I wrote in English, since that led ot international acclaim.’ But there was another side to it, she says. Dutch journalist and spokespeople didn’t understand her work very well. ‘I figured I’d make the switch. I want to contribute to society here. From then on, I wrote in Dutch.’
It worked. A publishing house noticed her Dutch articles and asked her to write a book, resulting in De depressie-epidemie (The depression epidemic), which aims to find out why depression is on the rise in a country like the Netherlands. It became a bit of a hype, she says.
Before, everything had to be done so quickly, but now I can finally work according to my own standards of quality
‘I spent five years in my office working on that book, and when I opened the door it was to flashing cameras. Every columnist was writing about it.’ She was invited to prestigious television programme Zomergasten and gave a host of lectures. Even now, fourteen years after the book was published, she’s still being asked.
Retirement also came with another perk: time. ‘I am able to be much more exact than ever before’, she says. ‘Before, everything had to be done so quickly, but now I can finally work according to my own standards of quality.’ She spent two years writing a chapter on what happens in the human womb during pregnancy. When she finally finished, her publisher loved it, but Dehue didn’t. Something was nagging at her. ‘So I unravelled the whole thing and started over.’
Because she now writes in Dutch, Dehue is no longer internationally recognised, but she is genuinely reaching people. ‘One time, I was crossing the Rozengracht in Amsterdam and I heard someone call my name: “Hey, Mrs. Dehue!” I yelled back, figuring it was a former student or something, but next thing I knew, a man cycled past me. He yelled back at me over his shoulder: “I loved your book!” Turns out I didn’t even know him. But I loved that.’
Retirement? What’s that?
Series | These scientists don’t know how to quit