Thursday, February 19, 2015

Last and First, Past and Present

In my last post, I remarked, yet again, how life throws the sad and the beautiful at us simultaneously, and leaves it to us to try to reconcile them.

Currently, I find myself poised between two other potential oppositions that somehow also twine themselves: Lasts and Firsts. Yesterday, I sat through the Last Library Instruction Session I will ever sit through with a 1st-year English class -- after having monitored at least thirty of these over the years. (Our university requires that all students take 1st-year English, and by then requiring all 1st-year English classes to include a mandatory Library Session, ensures that the student body, via the service English class, acquires rudimentary research skills. The librarians understandably insist that we, the course instructors, accompany our students -- and it gets a wee bit tedious by the, um, 3rd time!)

Today I'm invigilating my last mid-term exam essays, and over the next few days will be marking my last mid-terms. Then I'll only have a Last set of Research Papers and of Final Exams. There isn't much regret about finishing with marking, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have mixed feelings about some of the letting go.

That said, though, one of my colleagues commented today that I was grinning again. Apparently, I've been caught in that particular facial configuration rather often lately, and she suspects it might have something to do with my upcoming retirement.

So yes, I may have been thinking about Firsts. First summer not having to prepare myself for a return to classes. First year being able to contemplate travelling in the shoulder season. First opportunity to see Europe in the Fall. Perhaps even the winter.

Meanwhile, First time travelling to Paris with my sister happens in May.  Paul and I are planning on a more extended trip later in the year (we weren't sure what would happen with his mother, so had sketched only a loose potential itinerary). My sister and I had talked, over the past few years, about the possibility of a trip together, and the timing seems right this year. We're both excited about it -- my Next Trip to Paris Pinterest board is overflowing with far too many possibilities for a one-week trip, and it will also be our first time to hang out in Paris with a nephew (he'll be in London at the time and plans to Eurostar it over for a day or two).

This awareness of Lasts and Firsts represents a significant small click for me in my perception of retirement's possible effects. More, perhaps, to follow, if I'm at all able to articulate this wee epiphany. Otherwise, perhaps you'll be able to sense it in my gradually shifting mood and focus. Were I able to formulate a question to elicit your comments, I guess it would be something about the number of steps in your own acceptance of retirement. I know some who have woken up one day, realized they were ready, and happily handed in two weeks' notice with never a regret in the following years. That's not an option in my field, and I can see that some might like watching retirement move closer and closer until they were finally able to put down the binoculars and embrace. Personally, having decided, I've found it tough to generate the necessary enthusiasm to do the good job I want to do. Thankfully, the teeny click I experienced the other day may have done the trick and I'll be happy enough to move through the next 3 or 4 months. But I'm curious to compare pathways. . . . even if they're imaginary and/or future ones.

23 comments:

  1. Oh my, I think I'm about a year or so behind you. While I still love teaching, I have less patience and enthusiasm for grading, attending meetings and such. I find myself thinking about non summer travel, activities I have put on hold, etc. more and more often. As you had to do, I would have to notify my university in advance. My colleagues are announcing their retirements two years out in the hope that someone will find the money to hire replacements since we are 25% down in number from five years ago. So retirement is certainly on the horizon.

    Lynn

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    1. So much here that echoes what I feel -- the big change at universities, particularly in the humanities (and also how that change is reflective of huge social changes in the age of the internet) makes so much of our work exhausting and demoralizing. I know I will miss teaching but I'm imagining I won't miss feeling tired and cranky and discouraged.

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  2. My retirement was sudden. And has provoked something like a self makeover. So, NBD:). I sense you're really, really ready.

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    1. I'm definitely ready, a bit apprehensive, but also quite excited. Hoping for an exploration of self with more room for integrity of my whole being. Pipe dream, probably. We'll see.

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  3. I am hoping to never retire. But my position depends on NIH funding, and it has become very difficult to get it.

    I've been dreading losing my 16-yo son to college. But today we made our first college visit, to a school that I think would be ideal for him, and I loved seeing him there and having him see himself going there. (No guarantee of admission, of course...) So I may deal with "retirement" as a mother better than I'd expected.

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    1. I hope you don't have to retire unless/until you want to. And I'm so happy for you that your college visit with your son went well. I suspect you'll deal quite well with "retirement" as a mother, especially because it never really happens either. . . ;-)

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  4. I still enjoyed working but wanted the freedom to find other ways to learn and teach. I was so glad to have the time to visit my dad during his year in Extended Care and to spend time with my mum. You will probably find the energy to try some new activities and to give up some old ones,

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    1. I've said it before: You are a good example of retiring well!

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  5. The cusp is always the most interesting place to be, isn't it? :-)

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    1. Only if you put the word "interesting" under a certain wry pressure! ;-)

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  6. Oh yes, I get this.
    Yesterday a colleague called to let me know that he will be retiring on March 31st - a quick decision - it had just come to him that it was time. This time last year I was thinking 'my last trip to the mainland, my last big Volunteer Appreciation'......and then I signed another contract. It doesn't sound like you're really mourning the 'lasts' and you're anticipating the 'firsts'. Perfect. Enjoy every minute of this time between.

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    1. I don't think I am mourning the 'lasts' right now, although I do still wonder if that may come retrospectively. But life is so full of possibilities, I'm sure I'll be fine. I do wish there could be more institutional support for exploring possibilities, transitional steps of scaling back. Instead, there's a sense of some gleeful hand-rubbing as more senior, more expensive faculty get replaced by (often) cheap sessionals and (less frequently) less expensive new faculty.

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  7. Like "Pondside" I also was ready to retire...and then was offered the opportunity to stay for one more semester. To teach a program I had created...and so I bargained. I asked to have two "sections" (high school speak for two classes) of the same course. That meant I would be on a 2/3 contract. I took a leave without pay for my other 1/3 contract. I resigned my headship, said my good-byes to a couple of board committees and then spent a wonderful semester teaching a course I loved!! And NOT dealing with all the other stuff which had been stressing me out for years. Friends kept saying..."What are you ON???" as I smiled my way to the end of the semester. It was fabulous because I divested myself of the admin. jobs and was able to focus on the really important stuff ... the kids. I agree with Lisa...you're ready, girl. But enjoy the ride for the next few weeks.

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    1. This sounds like an ideal phasing-out. My problem over the past 3 or 4 months has been that as much as I know I ought to be enjoying this last year, I've been depressed and tired and guilty about feeling that way. And stuck because of the commitment to the courses, too specific to find substitutes for. Luckily, something has shifted and I feel as if I may now be able to, as you say, "enjoy the ride."

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  8. A good friend at work sent an email yesterday that she's retiring on Feb. 27. I'll miss having a confidant who knows the players. I still can't made a decision about my retirement, except to tell them officially that I'm not going when I turn 65 next month. My brother thinks I'll never retire. I'm considering possiblilites now but still the job is still mostly good, the regular pay check even better. Plus without a partner I think there is less incentive. Mind you if I'm going to do anything adventurous and strenuous in retirement, sooner rather than later should be the plan. I'm becoming more aware that my time is limited and some things will become more difficult with age.

    I can see how leaving could be bittersweet. But it sounds like you won't be sitting around lamenting your old job for very long! ;)

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    1. Up until a couple of years ago, I imagined I wouldn't retire, even at 65. I'd say if you have meaningful work that you like and that pays decently, why stop? The other proviso would be that you are quite sure you haven't left anything undone that you will regret terribly should your situation or fitness change. But even then, it's a balance, and we don't necessarily get everything we have on our list -- I do hope you'll keep chiming in here, so I can follow your decision. . .

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  9. There's never an ideal time to retire from pre-school education . Get one particularly vulnerable child ready to face Big School and there's a new one with saucer eyes and trembling bottom lip to convince that other children can be quite nice .

    Quite happily retired now , I do still miss building dinosaurs with Plasticine or a castle from Lego but on the other hand I don't ever have to go to another staff meeting again !


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    1. Yes, that would be work that I, too, would really miss. Not the staff meetings, though!

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  10. I knew it was time to retire when I was catching every cold going around and ended up with pneumonia that required me to take 5 weeks off work...school can be such a germ pool. Retirement is a lifestyle change and one that has many perks. Spending time with my grandchildren, learning new things, traveling are all gifts that I appreciate now that I am retired. I sense a readiness in your post and feel confident that you will be happy with the decision that you have made.

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    1. You seem to enjoy your retirement very much, and I suspect I'm going to get the hang of mine quickly as well! ;-)

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  11. Yes to the constant colds. Spring break and I am down with another. And meetings. Time constraints. Pressure to progress. And someone else's timetable. It takes away all the pleasure of the job.

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    1. And the changed timetable to adjust to, every new term, crossing fingers that it might be a happy one. . . that I won't miss!

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    2. Meant to add: Take care of that cold -- hope you manage a good rest, even some pampering, over spring break.

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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