Sunday, January 29, 2012

Going Into Retirement (In My Mind)


Woke this morning when I felt like waking. It's an odd thing in this alarm clock world to just let my body tell me when I'm done with sleep. Odd to wake without panic, trepidation, or guilt. I just came awake and lay there thinking how lovely it was to be awake and not have any pressing business. The kids had already gotten up and gone downstairs with the dog and kitten. My wife stirred beside me and eventually we too went downstairs, got some breakfast, and all that good stuff. Later the kids were off to Hebrew school and my wife said that she was going to go to the supermarket. I was left at home with the dog and kitten.

I cleaned up the breakfast stuff, put in a load of wash, picked up some odds and ends around the house, stripped the beds, and scooped the litter. Throughout all of this I was thinking how nice it would be to be retired from my day job as a teacher. I have one friend who is retired and she makes it sound good. Another friend just started a half-year sabbatical and that sounds good to me. But, at the moment, retirement and sabbatical aren't good options for me.

Instead, I'm wondering how I can live the retired life but still show up and work five days a week. I don't think it's impossible. I'm not even sure it needs to be difficult.

I like the fact that I woke this morning in no rush whatsoever. Can I do that during the work week? Sure. Of course. I just need to get up a little earlier and have my things prepared for the day. In many ways I've gotten started on this by laying out my clothes, emptying the dishwasher, and getting in a shower and shave before going to bed the night before. If I get to bed a bit earlier, go to sleep, and let myself awaken at five, I'll have plenty of time to come down to the nook and write. What a way to start a morning.

Then, at work, what would it take to feel retired? Enjoying myself and not rushing about. I just need to do the things that I love and share them with kids. I love to write, I love to read. And more and more I really like talking to kids without  necessarily feeling the need to talk down to them as teacher to student. Then, after they go home for the day, I can investigate the writing they have done that day as a researcher, a curious soul interested in what it is they have to show me.

It's about shifting my mood and the ways in which I think about things. I can be retired if I just behave as though I were.

And then I can come home and, as I have for years, be retired for the evening. I've worked into habits of not bringing work home with me. I don't want to do that to my family. There is no job so important to me that I want to take that much time away from my family to do it. I know too many people for whom it's a matter of course that they will give up hours attending to that work. That's their choice and I hope they're happy with it. For me, the job isn't enough of a draw to bring home. Instead, it's the writing that I take time out for. I'm okay with that. That's the work that really matters. That's the work I won't ever retire from. That's the work I almost never take a holiday from. It is its own holiday.

I suppose what I'm trying to tell myself (by explaining a feeling to all of you in as logical a fashion as I can) is that I make of my life what I want to. I have for a very long time felt that I was a victim of the forces of life around me. I felt that the world was too much for me to change. Maybe it is, but my world is small enough that I can turn it any which way I choose to.

So this week I'm going to retire for five days. I'll still go to work and act like I'm not retired. I'll make it so that no one can tell. I'll still do the job and do it as well as I know how. But in my mind, I'm retired and just there to enjoy myself, to see what it's all about and to find the fun in it. I'm not working for the paycheck, though I'll still gladly accept it and the accompanying health insurance. I'm not even going to be working. I'm going to play. And as always, I'll write on.