While many made New Year’s resolutions to get their living space in tidy order, I labored to clear out my office. The one I vacated provided ample space and multiple bookshelves to hold my linguistic, literature, composition, and Montessori books. A large window overlooked a limestone building of little architectural interest, and took up most of the scenery. However, to the right, if I stood up, a partial view of trees could be seen. In business, the corner office is usually the coveted one, and that is the office I had up until last Friday. Lest one thinks I’m nostalgic for that space, rest assured, I am not, for at home I have several cozy areas where I write. I have had nice visits with colleagues ever since I gave notice of my leaving, and I enjoyed each and every one of them. Last Friday I sat down with a colleague whom I met 25+ years ago. We share a sense of history of the campus that few others do. Yet there are others I will remain in relatively close contact because of friendship.
I turned over the last of the keys to the office door, left the filing cabinet key and drawer keys in place. My friend and I hugged again, and then I left the building. Bidding adieu to her and others proved melancholy, even as I kept my eyes riveted on the future. The routine of these many years had embedded itself with a sort of comfort level during the best and the worst of times, which is a part of the landscape of a job. I’ve spoken about leaving a long time job for months with those who have either retired or resigned. Most informed me, “When it’s time to go, you’ll know.” Indeed, their sage counsel reverberated in my ears. My decision involved no drama. Instead, retiring simply felt right so that I could embark upon the next phase of my life.
As the New Year beckons me, I now lack excuses for not ridding my closets and drawers of clothing, papers, and miscellaneous pieces of the past. The time de-clutter my living space is now. The moment to reinvent my life invigorates me. My eyes are focused on the present. The possibilities of the future with writing seem boundless.
As the winter sun sets on 2016, I would like to acknowledge that not everything went awry; stellar experiences surfaced, too. Casting an eye over the landscape brings noteworthy events to the forefront with the dawning of a New Year.
The publication of my second book in the Spirited Constellations trilogy: Spirited Constellations: Travels highlighted the year for me. The second edition of my first book, Spirited Constellations, was also published. The third book in the trilogy is also well underway, and could possibly be published near the end of 2017, if not sooner.
2016 also saw me completing the first book in a new series I’m writing. This book will be published in early 2017. Vastly different from the Spirited Constellations book, the series ignited my imagination further, for I like these characters as much as I do those in the Spirited Constellations trio.
At the Indiana University Bloomington 2016 Writers’ Conference in June, I embarked on a-here-to-with unknown kind of writing: the prose poem. Had anyone told me I would one day be writing poetry, I would have laughed uproariously! Yet I did it! Under the amazing prose poet Amelia Martens, I plucked up my courage and began work on my first ever prose poem! I even went out on a limb and did a public reading of the poem in Bloomington for the conference participants. Stretching my writing wings into the province of prose poetry proved an exhilarating experience.
Not wanting to stay too long at the fair, I finally decided to retire after 25+ years from my place of employment. I did this in order to enter the next phase of my professional life, one that includes much more writing. In talking with others who have retired or resigned from their positions, the common thread was, “I knew when it was time.” Time isn’t something readily available on anyone’s side, no matter what the Rolling Stones sang. My 2016 November birthday awakened in me a turning point. With little fanfare, without drama, with my two-week’s notice, with a heart full of anticipation ready to turn the page, and with a smile on my face, I walked away.
On Friday, December 16, 2016, I retired out of my current job. Since I have been talking about it off and on for at least the past 18-24 months, I have to say that I wasn’t as shocked, as others in my workplace were. Let me set forth my rationale for pulling the hypothetical trigger on this move: Egregious job dissatisfaction.
Therefore, I hit the Send key last Friday; I sent my letter of retirement to the appropriate personnel, following instructions from IU Bloomington’s HR personnel. Having never retired before, emotions bubbled to the surface, particularly the one akin to jumping off a cliff into an abyss. I dove in, but a strange thing happened: I surfaced in an instant! I felt buoyant, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders! I smiled non-stop throughout the rest of the workday. I felt serene.
Come what may, I have liberated myself from my perceived entrapment. My only regret is that I decided not to teach next semester, a course I dearly love, a history of English course. I need a breather, yet it will be odd: my life has been divided into teaching MW/TR blocks of time for years. Perhaps it will be again down the road.
I am eager to begin The Next Chapter of My Life. Already I feel reinvigorated. After all, I am not retiring from life, far from it. Ever since Friday night, for the first time in almost two years, I have been sleeping through the night. “All is calm/All is bright.”
For some weeks I had been happily anticipating attending my cousin Jimmy’s retirement party. His amazing wife sent one of the most creative invitations I had ever seen: A brown-tone rectangular card with a train engine roaring toward the reader. The back of the card made me smile too, for it was the caboose of said train traveling into the distance, leaving in its wake all sorts of train tracks veering in different directions. Speaking of the caboose, I always wondered why the trains did away with the caboose. It always seemed like the exclamation point at the end of the train, a moment to wave as the train roared on to its destination. The overarching aesthetic behind this most eclectic of invitations was, in fact, Jimmy’s retirement from the Norfolk Suffolk Railroad after 42 years of fantastic work.
Jimmy went to work “on the rails” when he was 18 years old. It seemed wildly romantic to me to think of him as he traveled the country on a train. Of course, I had been reading a lot of Agatha Christie at that time, and Murder on the Orient Express, one of my favorites, beckoned me to travel by rail. Ultimately, I became familiar with European trains during my years of traveling back and forth to Europe. As far as train travel went in this country, I really could count only the South Shore electric train that I would board to go into Chicago. While Jimmy’s climb up the railroad ladder, both on the trains and in the corporate train sector became second nature to him, I harbor the notion that to have worked 42 years with the trains means he must have genuinely loved his work. I do not believe anyone knows the ins and outs of the railroad business like Jimmy does.
Jimmy has three brothers and three sisters, in-laws, and lots of nieces and nephews. He and his family are grand, and I love them all, for I know too that Jimmy is good to us all. The fact that they are converging tonight to celebrate Jimmy makes me smile. How I wish I could join them! Sadly, I had to have emergency oral surgery on both sides of my mouth last week. The periodontics and implant specialist said by May or June all should be well. I’ve been on large amounts of prescription medication, and can eat only soft foods and liquids. No alcohol, no spicy foods, no crunchy foods, no salty foods, and no hard foods – the list seems endless. The silver lining is that all of my clothes fit better, and I am becoming a smoothie-making expert of sorts. Aside from the food limitations are the speaking constrictions that I had not anticipated. My mouth aches after prolonged conversations. My pronunciation is carefully articulated because I know I have trouble articulating ‘s’, which made for an interesting class I taught on phonetics this past week. Since I am from a family of great talkers, we all have the “gift of gab”, as my dear late mama used to say, it would be arduous at best to not be able to converse at length with my relatives tonight, pain factor aside.
Returning to the man of the moment, Jimmy is a person of varied interests, most of which have to do with motion. He pursues an avid interest in sports cars, particularly those of a vintage variety. Motorcycles continually offer him the promise of the open road [very Jack Kerouac]. Vacationing at his family’s Florida headquarters gives him continuing opportunities for boating. He is a man in motion, though I have seen photos of Jimmy lounging in his picturesque backyard simply enjoying being in the moment. Another of his talents is digitally remastering old Christmas songs, putting them on CD’s, and giving them to us as Christmas presents. Throughout the years, I have acquired a fine collection of Jimmy’s CD’s, which always ring in Christmas cheer. He is a wizard at all he does. His many talents continually impress me.
All I can do is raise my strawberry, banana, mango, Greek yogurt, soy protein powder smoothie to my dear cousin Jimmy tonight in my home, and toast him with a hearty, “Well done, Cousin! You leave an impressive legacy and lesson to us all: Find something you love, and go for it! Congratulations, Jimmy! I am with you in spirit tonight with love. You really are the exclamation point at the end of the train!”
This past July a weighty packet arrived. Peering at the return address, it revealed my university’s logo from Human Resources [HR]. Dire thoughts raced through my mind: Could it be I was losing my job? Would it disclose abruptly reduced health benefits? Had a mailing error occurred? I plucked up my courage and with trepidation, opened the oversized envelope.
I was being offered an “early retirement incentive” package.
As I waded through the 30-odd pages of the “incentive”, I harkened back to the feeling I had when an autumn day’s mail congratulated me and welcomed me to AARP. I panicked; “I’m not old enough,” I cried. Apparently AARP thought otherwise. A blue funk came over me. My world tilted. Each time that outfit sends me correspondence; I shred it without reading it. Frankly, I don’t give two hoots and a holler about some celebrity on the cover rhapsodizing about how grand 50/60/70+ is, pontificating about how these are the best years. I assume they are all sitting pretty in the Cat Bird seat with their millions and their air-brushed faces [Botoxed, lifted, and stretched to the max]. For those of us living in the real world, early retirement is not a viable option.
Nevertheless, I sent my financial advisor the early retirement incentive paraphernalia to review. He phoned me and said, “No!” He asked me if I wanted to retire early, if I was miserable in my work, if there existed a medical need. “No,” I responded. With the sluggish economy, my daughter in law school, and the satisfaction I still derive [on most days] from my work, he advised against grabbing the offer. I felt relieved. To quote Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener”, I would prefer not to.