Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Retirement: The Becoming Years

RETIREMENT. Holy buckets. Did I ever think I’d do this? No, I thought I’d teach college English till they pried the grading pen from my cold, cramped hand. But as of May of this year, I will retire from my full-time, 25-year teaching career. (I can’t even believe I’ve had a 25-year career, since Inner Me is still in her 20s.)

I’ve been working since I was 14, when I started as an A&W carhop. For those too young to know what that is, I carried trays of food to people’s cars and hooked the trays on their rolled down car windows. In a brown and orange mini dress. I once served fried chicken and root beer to a man who jumped the parking curb, drove his Caddy through the plate glass storefront and up to the counter, then rolled down his window and ordered. When I looked wide-eyed at my boss and asked what I should do, my boss said, “Get him his chicken.” Ah…good times.

From that time on, I had brief jobless stints, but mostly I worked: waitress, fast-food counter, bartender, janitor, lunch truck driver, bank teller, retail clerk, life skills assistant for adults with disabilities, nursing assistant, surgical prep tech, Extension Office secretary, gig musician, and eventually, college instructor. Much of that time, I was also a full-time parent. Sometimes a single parent. Some of that time, I also took uni classes part- or full-time. That’s about fifty years of wearing what is now a sky-high stack of hats.

It’s scary, I’ll admit. This might surprise you, but I am NOT a relaxed person. I am a compulsive, hyper-responsible worker. I’m not good at “idle.” If I haven’t mentioned it before, I suffer from the HHN-i gene (for more on this anomaly read https://uncanneryrow.blogspot.com/2011/05/rescue-me.html), that makes it super-hard for me to CHILL. But no worries. I’m already busy compiling a TO-DO list for my retirement years (note the timing of some of these depends on our ability to finally be decent, caring human beings and do what we must to tackle the pandemic). In my ideal post-career world, here’s some of what I’ll be doing… 

1. Write. Write. Write. 
2. Read. Read. Read (stuff I WANT to read, not stuff I HAVE to read). 
3. Improve my DAILY meditation practice, my antidote to the HHN-i disorder. 
4. Sing & play guitar/ukulele every day. Work on the uke version of "Smoke on the Water."
5. Hang out with my kids and grandkids until they start dropping hints about "bad fish" or "privacy" or "how much your birds miss you."
6. Take many road trips with Ray: Porter Sculpture Park, Montrose, SD; Spam Museum, Austin, MN; an endless list. 
7. Learn Irish (already started on both Duolingo and Rosetta Stone. After almost a year, I can say “Ta tortair agam” (I have a turtle) and “Ta leabhar si an nuachtan” (she reads the newspaper). Handy. 
8. Travel with Mom, wherever/whenever she gets a hankerin’ to go. 
9. Visit out-of-town family & friends. 
10. Go camping. Camp in the Badlands, and stay up late enough to hear the coyote choir.
11. Get back to my Good Old Irish Walks. 
12. Wait…go back to Ireland! Walk THERE! Pleasepleaseplease… 
13. Knit; finish Christmas gifts by Christmas. 
14. Have long, chatty, catch-up coffees with friends. 
15. Raise canaries. Stare at them. Talk to them. Post a nauseating number of photos of them. 
16. Kayak and garden during South Dakota’s lovely three-week summer. 
17. Perfect my mad napping skilz. 
18. Get down and dirty with Ancestry.com. Find my Irish Donegal ancestors.
19. Teach an online class now & then. 
20. Really clean my house (unrealistic pipe dream). 
21. Unpack the boxes still in the basement from the last move (7 years ago…no rush). 
22. Declutter, unburden, simplify, minimize, downsize. 
23. BE instead of DO. 

It’s a pretty ambitious list, I know (Note to Self: see #23 above). I’m also one of the world’s great procrastinators, so the list could end up on a bulletin board shoved in the back of a closet, behind my senior prom dress (“Killing Me Softly” was the spotlight song), or the fringed leather jacket I lived in throughout the 70s, or the tub of PEZ dispensers (Note to Self: see #22 above). 

In my late teens and early 20s, I had a vision of myself: One day I’d become an idealistic, poor-but-happy, guitar-playing-Joni-Mitchell-singing, recluse hippie writer. Maybe it won’t work out EXACTLY as I imagined, but I feel like I’m about to bring that vision to life. And it only took me a lifetime. ;)

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