Monday, May 6, 2013

Turning Pages


A few years ago I decided to stop teaching.  The reasons I turned down an adjunct faculty job at SSU (after working as a team-teacher there for a year; after being a member of the Theatre Arts faculty at SRJC for about seven years; after teaching drama and public speaking at a high school...) were many, and varied.  I must admit I would do it again if the opportunity presented itself. 
I would just say "No!"  ("Thank you anyway, I totally appreciate the offer...")

We call it retirement.  On my bad days I think of it as quitting.  On my good days I know I've just turned another page in the story of my life.    

This is not the first page I've turned (having enjoyed many interests and jobs over the years), and it's not likely to be the last.  EXCEPT....sometimes I have trouble focusing on the words of the next chapter. I miss all my students, who loved to learn.  And they taught me so much!  "Learning" is the best part of life, in many ways.  I miss teaching.  I'm still learning. 

NOTE:  Even after you turn 62 and begin to muddle through each un-structured day (thinking about what to do, now that you're definitely-too-old-to-find-another-job-in-this-economy) you continue to learn.

Isn't that why we carry our iPhones everywhere?  We can look stuff up on a moment's notice.  You don't know where that African country is?  Wait, I can show you on my phone....   

I love looking stuff up.  But I still struggle with figuring out what to do with my days.  Life's lessons are many, and varied.  Sometimes they are so varied they seem to splatter on the wall and it's difficult to make sense of them.  Writing I write....     

Retirement Lesson #1:  Learn how to be okay-without-a-job, when at a social gathering. 

For the first year or so, when someone said, "So what do you do?" my brain would always think "Not a goddam thing" while my mouth formed all the appropriate phrases regarding being retired and having enough time to fully enjoy my hobbies, like competing in dog agility. 

Then there would be that little silence that often greets the phrase "dog agility."   

So I would try to explain agility to non-agility people...but my words, more often than not, would fall on deaf ears.  After the first year, my explanations got really short.  How do you define dog agility to actors and academics??

Occasionally someone would really seem to be listening though, so I would start sharing how much dog agility has contributed to my life:
countless opportunities for learning
physical fitness
living in the moment
personal growth
the love and attention of my wonderful dogs

But it's not the same as putting up a play, writing a book, painting masterpieces, or making clay pots.  It would seem that I'm not actually building a tangible object for regular people.  I'm not teaching anybody anything.  It would seem that I'm no longer "in the arts," that I've sequestered myself into a small group of odd dog people, that I've become somewhat foreign....  

...and I find myself at fewer social events.  Even when I am there, I'm pretty darn quiet. 

This is probably a common by-product of retirement. 

One thing for sure:  I know, in my heart of hearts, that we dog agility people ARE contributing to our communities.  If not to the community-at-large (by doing our best to be fit and goal-oriented), then we are at least contributing to the community-of-people-who-enjoy-dogs.  We are showing them just how much they can enjoy their dogs.  We are showing them just how much their dogs can enjoy them.  MUCH!!!   Doesn't that count for something? 

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