Sally, my colleague and hall-mate is standing by my office door, “Professor Beaman, you are wanted in the lunchroom.”
I reply, “Oh, please give me 10 minutes.” A student and I are in my office discussing end-of-term work. Another is leaning against the wall outside my office waiting for a similar interview.
Sally, in what seems like only 5 minutes has returned, foregoing formality and blurting out, “Marian, you are wanted in the lunchroom now! I see her audible “now” printed in oversized letters, blinking neon. I know she is serious and wants me to come with her. “Why is she so insistent?” I wonder.
Following her down the hallway where our offices are catty-cornered from each other, I walk through the English Department office doors and into the faculty lounge where more than twenty bodies are crammed in, including my husband’s. “What is going on?” I wonder and then hear a cacophonous yell, “Surprise!”
I can’t stop trembling. My body overheats, but then grows cold. Shocked out of my wits and still shaking, I finally settle into the delights of a Mad Hatter Tea Party, in honor of my retirement.
That scene unfolded nine years ago this past month, back in 2008.
Scenes from May 2008, Career Ending
If you ask me, I still look a little bit stunned after big surprise . . .
A few weeks after the party, I took grandson Curtis back to the college as an initiation to my professional life and to say a final goodbye to my office
What Are You Going to Do When You Retire?
Before my 21-year tenure at Florida State College ended, I was often asked, “What are you going to DO when you retire?” Asking myself the same question, I addressed my quandary by reading Dr. George Vaillant’s book about his landmark study of Aging Well, Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life. I took notes. I read a stack of other books! I bought a Rosetta Stone course to brush up on French while I figured out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.
My teaching life had been supremely fulfilling; however, in an effort to insert new blood into the department (and pay smaller salaries, I gathered), the College had lured me into an incentive that would phase into retirement over a 5-year period. Now my five years had dwindled to a month at most, and my connection to the college would be severed June 30: Gone would be interaction with students in the classroom, camaraderie with colleagues. Cut off! In an instant!
An Ending is Also a Beginning
“When you retire, your past and your future meet at a moment of new beginning,” an inscription on another farewell card.
But how would I begin? After nearly 45 years in education, I imagined falling off a cliff into nothingness, a thought that to me now seems hilarious, ridiculous – even ludicrous.
My colleagues had solutions for me, advice from their cards:
- Indulge yourself.
- Add five days to your weekend,
- Take a couple of months off and become a beach bum.
However, dear Aunt Ruthie’s had practical ideas for me. Her retirement card laid out a plan of action. Here it is – salient points underscored, the punctuation intact.
My dear Marian – You’ve earned it! Now enjoy it! You’re free at last; sweet dreams !!! There is another world out here that may need some innovations. (shall I whisper a few?? [Rest homes, children’s hospitals, prisons etc.] There are some rest homes that have folks who seldom ever have a visitor or anyone to read to them a sad ending to one’s life — (Just ask the person in charge of the rest home – they can suggest names.)
I have written (through Prison Fellowship) to a man whose parents were killed in a violent accident – he’s been in for probably closs close to 20 years – he writes to me “Dear Mom or “Dear Mother” — it seems nobody cares. He’s been up for parole one time and hopes to make it out soon. — He’s from the south. But what if no one cares?
Lots of love, Ruthie
Note: We knew about Aunt Ruthie’s care for this man and were aware she corresponded with him. But we had misgivings and unanswered questions. Why was he imprisoned? Did he kill his parents? What would happen when he got out and tried to find her?
My Retirement Plan Unfolds
- My aunt and mother, then both in their early nineties required more attention. As time went on I visited more often, planning for their increasing needs for care and valuing our time together. I spent time with grandchildren!
- Then I discovered blogging and the writing life . . .
Since 2013 when I began blogging, my writing life has expanded. I spend hours alone, reflecting – and tapping words on a computer.
More and more I value the contemplative life and ponder questions that would have seemed impractical years ago. Instead of “What do I want to do?” I ask a new question:
Who Do I want to BE?
One Answer, from psychoanalyst Carl Jung in This is the Antidote for Digital Narcissism
The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.
That’s advice I can live with with!
Are you anticipating retirement? In retirement already? In another phase, maybe unnamed? Plan never to retire?
Coming next: Wordless Wednesday