Well, actually, retirement can go on forever. When I was a teacher, I looked forward to the days of doing nothing. Or traveling and playing. But now, well, it’s the endless summer. The only end is death at this point, so I’ve got to create lots of new beginnings. It’s just too weird to think of something not ending. Ironic, isn’t it, because so many people think they want to live forever. It’s like not having a goal, or a finish line, or a product. I guess we could just look at life as a sand mandala; in other words, just an ongoing meditation. And maybe that’s what I have to do now – create new metaphors, new visions. Maybe I’m finally just living in the present moment because it’s finally hitting me that this is all there is. I don’t mean existentially. I think there is the great beyond / infinite intelligence / something other than this material form that we find ourselves in. But when you get down to it, all you really have is NOW. So, I guess, in retirement, I could sit with that, get used to being in the Now, giving up the idea of goals and deadlines. It might be useful to me; a shift that I need. Or is it?
I was sitting with a group of women who meet every Tuesday called “Savvy over 60”. What’s not to like? They’re a bunch of women my age who are mostly liberal and we discuss all sorts of interesting things. Anyway, one day we were discussing ‘purpose’ as in ‘what’s my purpose in life’? Especially now that we’re retired, we’re older, we don’t have to do anything at all if we don’t want to. Most of us agreed that we didn’t feel purposeless because we simply found things to do other than our jobs, or raising children. Our purpose is to BE, to LIVE, to EXPERIENCE. We’re still relevant. We would like to believe that our experience can be translated to wisdom, if anyone asked. (we were thinking of bringing a group of younger women to the group one day and sharing our long-lived ideas). We volunteer, take care of grandkids, work part time, do art, get involved in activism, and so forth. I pondered whether or not we actually have to DO anything to have a purpose in life. I mean, does a homeless person (sorry – political correctness now asserts that I have to call them “people without housing”) wander around thinking what his purpose is? How many people really ponder this question? Maybe everyone’s purpose is simply to be part of the divine drama. Act 1, scene 5, chapter 17. Life at 60. Life at 20. What is the purpose of each person’s life, or the purpose of life itself? Why do some of us put such importance on this question?
So, here I am, finally retired. I had looked forward to it for several years. Not because I didn’t love my work, but because I was tired, getting burnt out. The job is the daily grind, the profession is much more lofty. I loved the profession, I loved the act of teaching, and the art of creating curriculum. Actually, the whole package was art, as well as a science. I could call it being a teacher, but being an educator is really more comprehensive; plus, it sounds more sophisticated.
When I first retired, I hit the ground running, which I suppose is an apt metaphor, because ‘hitting the ground’ can lead to injury, and I am currently not walking much. I couldn’t wait to travel. It’s what I was planning for, what I was saving money for, what I planned to do until I tired of it. I had renewed my passport right before the pandemic hit in 2020. Not only could I not travel due to a worldwide shelter-in-place, but I couldn’t move much anyway due to back issues. So, that thwarted my plans.
Actually, 8 years earlier I had a ticket in my hands to Chile, which got sideswiped by a job that I took instead. After that, I was with a man who wasn’t quite ready for traveling internationally yet, so we didn’t plan any for awhile. So, I was waiting for retirement. I’d have disposable income and lots of time on my hands.
And I was doing it. In the 5 months since I retired (May 27, 2022 to be exact) I went to Los Angeles, Florida, Sedona, Flagstaff, Oregon, San FranCisco, and Alaska. I had more trips planned. And then, my back went out. Badly. I canceled 2 impending trips. All of these detours have made me reevaluate my outlook. Maybe I’m supposed to find a life before I start to travel, because when I’m done, what will I come back to? What will my life be? On the other hand, maybe traveling could lead me to the next thing. The next man. The next job – for money or volunteering. The next adventure. I’m confused, I admit it.
And that’s when it started to hit me. What is my purpose? Do I need one? And I really do miss being that person in my job. I had a community there – even if I didn’t socialize with most of the people outside of the work environment, I had people that I saw every day, people who understood what I was going through, and vice versa. I had people to talk to, I had lots of things to keep me busy, I was being challenged every day – sometimes in a good way, sometimes not. I was useful. My mind was always working. I had hundreds of things to do on a daily basis, and although sometimes it was overwhelming, it was also invigorating. Most of all, I was well respected, well liked, I made a difference in people’s lives, I was revered. I was really good at what I did, not that I didn’t have my flaws, but overall, most people didn’t do what I did. I had a special position – being a gifted teacher – for 16 years. It wasn’t like a regular teaching job. I used to work with teachers all over the school, and students of all ages. I mentored, I facilitated many projects, I coordinated big events, and people.
And the actual teaching part – I Love teaching. I love the act of it. I love the interaction, the lecturing, an the presentation. I love disseminating information to people, explaining information, and the exhilaration of public speaking. When I am teaching and it’s going well, which is most of the time, I am completely in the zone. I am not all that cognizant of pain, there is no outside world, it is one of the few times in life when I am truly present. (dancing and writing and a few other things come to mind). I am one with everything, I am in the moment. It is a natural high; a moving meditation. Obviously, in the real world, there are times when dealing with students, because they are children, or because they are human, because they are emotional – all of these variables – could make a lesson less than pleasant. But when I’m in the groove, there’s very little like it in the world.
And then, there’s retirement. I’ve had to cloister myself in my house for the past few months because my back went out again, and while it’s been an interesting experience, forcing me to become self-reflective and introspective, I also am suddenly facing a blank slate.
There is a part of me that wants to create a whole new To Do list, and another part of me that wants to Do very little. Even thinking about what to do next makes me want to crawl onto the couch and binge watch another show. It could be because my energy levels have been going into healing and meditation and before that, crying regularly. Maybe I just can’t fathom what to do next. I get ideas from time to time, and then I don’t know how I would roll them out, so I table them to a list somewhere.
I promise to continue in my next post. After all, I’ve got time.