Thursday, May 5, 2011

Retiring in Ireland?

I met with a financial counselor the other day to set up a retirement plan. My day job is that of an elementary school teacher and, after 32 years, I am definitely ready to lay that chapter to rest. Writing and promoting my writing has become a full time job, actually, more than a full time job. I've been putting in 12 hour days creating, editing work that will be coming out in the next few months, preparing for speaking engagements and social networking. I no longer have the desire to spend my remaining years in the philanthropic practice of what teaching has become, a competitive struggle to engage children who have grown up with such sophisticated media that their attention spans have been reduced to sound bites. (No reflection on the students. I enjoy the students. It's the era that holds no allure for me.) Hence, the pre-retirement appointment.

Where, the counselor asked, are you planning to live when you retire? I have choices: my summer home near the southwest corner of Ireland, the spectacular Ring of Kerry, or my winter home, Lake Forest, California, a suburban community equally spaced between San Diego and Los Angeles, a mere 30 miles from the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant where smog occasionally lingers at the foot of the hills and residents are mailed iodine pills in case of a leak.

The choice, to most who dream of green, patchwork hills, stone fences and new lambs peppering the landscape, would seem obvious. But, not for me. The thing is, I am a creature addicted to convenience. I love ice in my drinks, grocery checkers who bag my groceries, air-conditioned buildings, cars with automatic transmission, garbage disposals, clothes' dryers, Mexican food, Broadband Internet Service, book stores and wide streets with traffic lights instead of life-threatening round-a-bouts. Yes, Ireland is beautiful, but so are the choices America offers and so are American prices. A cup of coffee and a pastry are still under $5. A bottle of wine can be had for under $20. When shopping for a mother-of-the-bride dress, I have 6 malls within a 30-mile radius. When I want to take a class there are multiple community colleges and universities, along with film festivals, movie theaters, white sand beaches and, blessedly, weather that typically hovers around 70 degrees.

I do love Ireland, the civilized practice of serving tea in a bone china pot complete with cups, saucers and silver sugar tongs, the richness of the butter, cream and cheese, the hydrangeas blooming in every imaginable color, the striking contrast of gray skies, green hills and golden daffodils, the friendliness of  teenagers, the lilt of the language, the wit of the population, the richness of its literature, the liveliness of its music. Yes, I love it, temporarily, for two months of the year and I appreciate it, but I am an American and there's no place like home.

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