Retirement

What’s on my mind today

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For some odd reason I was thinking about retirement today. For those that don’t know me, I am 46 and I love my work, so I was quite shocked that retirement was on my mind. Before you or I start to jump to conclusions, I’d like for us to agree not to be too competitive about the jumping. I am nowhere near retirement and most likely I’ll be one of those that hangs on until the bitter end avoiding or refusing to acknowledge any of the less-than-totally-subtle hints or suggestions. So, why today of all days was this on my mind?

Earlier this morning the name of a beloved colleague who retired last year came up and we instantly began reminiscing about him, retelling funny stories and wondering what he is up to and whether he misses us or the students. After some brief discussion, we agreed that while he probably did miss us to an extent, he probably just didn’t miss us enough to actually want to see us — sort of like how I feel about my favourite pen — which makes “miss” probably the wrong word to use in the first place.

I have always enjoyed the retirement speeches at the end of the school year. They are usually touching and sweet and, especially when I was a new teacher, they were a chance to get to know the younger version of the retiree which was invariably very different from the older teacher whom I barely knew. There are usually well-written speeches spoken from the heart and slideshows often accompanied by songs or well-intentioned barbs and often spouses and children come along. Along with the laughs and, if well planned, the cream puffs and fresh fruit, there are always some tears from the retiring teacher.

It is hard not to sit in the audience and think of how it will feel to be up there myself someday, as the one retiring. Will others care? Will they be sad to see me go? Will they insist on giving me a vest? I wouldn’t mind a new vest by the way. I imagine that it will be very odd to leave behind a major part of my identity and what has provided me a sense of worth for all of these years. I imagine that I will get choked up when I think back on all of the students I’ve worked with and tried my best to help as well as all of my wonderful colleagues and how odd it will feel to be leaving it all behind.

My friend who retired last year left such an impact on the school and on myself. He was there primarily for the students and that never wavered. Though I was only fortunate enough to work with him for the last 7 years of his lengthy career, I could see that he never lost his passion and his energy for his work and that he always had his priorities straight. When he stood up there, in front of the staff to be sent off, he seemed uncomfortable as he never demanded the spotlight or the stage. He was the type that didn’t want or need accolades.

As I sat in my office remembering not only his speech but countless other speeches it got me thinking about my legacy and how important that is to me. My goal in my work life is to make an impact and not to be forgotten. I want to be thought of as someone who worked hard, had a sense of humour and really cared about the students. I think I am doing a pretty good job at this midpoint of my career. Retirement, at least for me, is far in the future, but it is interesting to think about how I am doing at the moment from the perspective of standing up there in front of my colleagues, many of whom will be younger and will only know me as an older counsellor.

I know that if I ever didn’t feel strongly about what I was doing, or was just going through the motions, I would leave. I am a genuine person and that is what makes me good at my job as a counsellor and if I ever didn’t really feel it any longer, I couldn’t and wouldn’t stay. I would hate the idea of being bored with my job and how boring that would make me feel and appear to others. I would hate to be one of those teachers or counsellors whom everyone knows doesn’t like their work — I don’t know how they do it and I know that I couldn’t. I also know that I won’t be the person who hangs on longer than they should, although I can totally see myself working into my later years as I, hopefully, will still love it and feel as much satisfaction as I do now.

I love the balance I have with work, family, writing, exercise and cooking and I consider myself so lucky to have everything that I do. All of the boxes that needs to be checked on a regular basis are being checked. While I’d love to have more time in general to relax with my family, I have a great busy life and enjoy the challenges I face and responsibilities I have. Retirement seems so far in the future and it is not on my mind on a regular basis. I life in the present and occasionally in the past when time permits. I do have just about as many years ahead of me as I do behind and I still feel young and energetic and I look forward to working with my students and helping them navigate adolescence for many years to come.

That’s enough seriousness for one piece of writing. Don’t worry, I’ll be back to my normal self next time.

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