Friday, September 11, 2015

                               Teacher Retirement Ten Years Later

     Ten years ago, I took the plunge. I left my oxygen in my classroom, my identity on my desk, my purpose locked in a file cabinet, and I ventured into a new world. This new planet called “Retirement” had no requirements, no structure, no boundaries, no beginnings and endings, and no bells. Some teachers counted the days; I was terrified. Leaving the classroom certainly isn’t for sissies. I know one thing for certain: if you’re a jock  or if you have unlimited funds, you will have no problem. If, on the other hand, your funds are limited, and you are a person who needs structure, purpose and identity, the road is not without potholes or detours.

    When I was teaching, I couldn’t wait for a “snow day” so I could go to lunch and enjoy more than seventeen minutes to digest my food. When I was teaching, I looked forward to vacations  when I could lie in the sunshine with a good read and block out lesson planning, paper correcting and long boring meetings. But here’s the reality for me:  lunches get old and fattening and vacations cost a lot. Days can be long and empty without purpose, identity and excitement. I have found that sports can be fun for a while, but for me, that’s not enough. Travel is wonderful, but the trips I have yet to take are very expensive and don’t last long enough. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy sports or don’t look forward to a wonderful experience in another country. It just means that, for me, it’s not enough. I have tried it all. I found that I long for structure, purpose and identity. Some people don’t need these; I do. I have found that if I want some P.I.E. (purpose, identity, excitement), I need to find the exact
ingredients myself, and when the P.I.E. gets stale, I must create a new one.It has to be a P.I.E. with just the right amount of each ingredient: intellectual stimulation, work, fun and accomplishment. For me, the P.I.E. cycles usually last about three years.

     I have enjoyed many new and exciting ventures in the last ten years. I have written books, given concerts, delivered speeches, run fundraisers, volunteered on Boards, laid in the sun, lunched with friends, traveled to many foreign countries, met hundreds of new people and made some “forever” friends. It didn’t just fall in my lap, however. I had to seek out many of these experiences, and I had to work hard to make them fit my needs. It’s been wonderful, but the real challenge is finding the balance for me personally. 
     My advice to teachers who are considering retirement is this:

  1. Have plenty of travel money set aside
  2. Have hobbies and projects that you enjoy
  3. Be sure you are “ready” to leave the classroom, for it’s a very special place, and if you love it, you will indeed miss it.
  4. Be sure to consider the roles your spouse, your family, your friendships and your needs will  play in your daily routine.
  5. Know how to entertain yourself without the salary you are currently enjoying.
  6. Keep expectations realistic.
  7. Don’t expect your new life to be without disappointments. 
  8. Think outside the box about how you want to spend your days.
  9. Don’t be afraid to risk things you’ve never thought to try.
  10. Don’t forget to keep in touch with at least a few students and colleagues; former students and friends will provide you with constant joy and fulfillment.

     I’m on year two of Cycle Four. It’s always rewarding, sometimes stressful. It’s always fun, sometimes  tedious. It’s always a learning experience, sometimes frustrating. It’s not perfect, but nothing is. Did I leave at the right time? Yes, but if I could have worked in our new home state, I would have taught another five years. As it is, I teach a course at the university now and then, tutor when I feel like it, and perform when I’m in the mood. The big bonus about retirement is you have the CHOICE.  Just got back from a five-mile bike ride, a nice chat with Mr. Wonderful on our favorite bench overlooking the Intracoastal. Time to go to the Opening lecture for our next semester at the University. La vie est belle.