Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Retirement At Last

It’s official. After 35 years, I am now retired from my day job. No more will I drag myself out of bed before dawn, stumble blindly into the kitchen for a cup of tea, squint at the print in the Los Angeles Times, shower, dress and make my way across the street to the little school in the woods where I taught elementary school, mostly 6th grade, for three decades.

People ask if I’ll miss teaching. They want to know what I’ll do with my days. How will I survive the boredom, the lack of structure, the reduced income? Will I be challenged, motivated, lonely? They are my friends and they care. I appreciate their concern. Really, I do. And their questions are legitimate. Some teachers live to work. They define themselves by their profession which, despite what we read in newspapers, is a noble one filled, for the most part, with the caliber of person you can safely entrust your children to for ten months a year. But teaching is also a draining profession, requiring tremendous reserves of patience, emotional strength and organization, not among my strongest points. 

So, in answer to all of the well-meaning questions: No, I won’t be bored. I will wake up with the light, drink a second cup of tea, read the newspaper from cover to cover, swim or walk for 40 minutes a day and do whatever else I feel like. Structure isn’t something I crave and, as for reduced income, the teachers in my district took a 15% pay cut in 2008 and it hasn’t been completely returned yet, never mind a raise. My pension check will be business as usual and I’m very grateful for it. Many have much less. Many have nothing at all. Many do not live in a land of warm sunshine and blue water and ocean breezes. I am blessed. 

Instead of falling asleep at the keyboard at 11 pm having written very little worth reading, I will write during the day when my mind is actually functioning and, yes, it will be challenging and motivating although sometimes it won’t. I will also do all those things I should have done and never did because I didn’t want to waste my precious free time scrubbing the contact paper in my cupboards, cleaning out the crumbs in the silverware drawer or refolding the towels in the linen closet.

I will drink kale and blueberry shakes. I will visit old friends who live in Los Angeles and eat lunch at Jewish delicatessens. I will make pie with my new pastry blender. I will teach my grandson his numbers and colors. We will build sandcastles and walk on the beach and recite nursery rhymes. This summer, with my husband, I will explore the haunts of Merlin and King Arthur in Cornwall. In the winters to come, we will visit Morocco and Tuscany, Australia and New Zealand. In the fall, New England, Canada and Amish country beckons.

No, I won’t be bored and, yes, I am truly blessed.