Retirement

I think about all the times in my life I’ve thought I knew what I was doing only to look back and see that I had no clue. This is another one. I was a little less occluded than in times past when I retired but occluded nonetheless.

I’ve been learning all these months. Like a lot of newly retired people I have a work habit meaning I’m used to a certain level of work all the time every day. In my case it was pretty intense. When I quit the co-op I plead something like “PTSD” from teaching. I don’t think I was understood. I don’t think anyone here really gets what it is like to be a “freeway flyer” in California and teach at more than one “institute of higher learning” and patch together an income, often with little or no job security.

One of my new friends here — a wonderful woman that I really like — made a point about that. “College teachers don’t know what it means. I taught all day every day.” She was a public school art teacher. I listened politely and got the “hidden” message which was “How can you as a college teacher begin to know what REAL teaching is like?” I’m not sure but I think her model is the normal college teacher with tenure who teaches 3 or 4 classes/semester and doesn’t some committee work and gets a sabbatical every seven years or so.

That was never me. I taught 7 classes most semesters, 2 classes most summers, and all were writing classes which is an immense grading load. I usually taught six days a week and often drove 40+ miles to teach ONE class. I was also expected to maintain my professionality at a higher level than my tenured colleagues. To remain competitive I had to be ahead of the curve learning the necessary educational software and I had to be able to adapt very quickly to any changes in administrative policy anywhere I taught. I was obliged to publish and to attend conferences, but on my own dime. It was hard work. And, as time went by and it became clear I would never have tenure and that the people I taught were turning into unrecognizable creatures thanks to No Child Left Behind, it became absolutely painful to walk into a classroom. I lived for moments of light and fresh air, an intelligent engaged student, a student who would accept a challenge to learn, someone who was simply nice. I had learned the difference between sucking up and genuine interest, and the sucking up made me angrier than being told to “Fuck off” did. I’d long loved teaching, but at the end, I thought it was a complete waste of my time. I wasn’t, personally, going anywhere with it. It had become a dead end.

Relentlessly. I had no status anywhere I taught and yet as obliged to get along with everyone, never rock a boat, make all my students happy etc. etc. When I wasn’t teaching I was prepping or grading or learning how to use new software or examining texts. I was ALWAYS teaching.

For the most part, I’ve come to a peaceful place with teaching since I retired. I had things I wanted to say, and I’ve said them on a different blogging site (Medium) and, I think, reached a few people with some points that might be useful. And I was done…

But “PTSD”? Sure. Besides having dealt with physical threats and attacks of other natures — complaints from students to, no less, the President of the university once, verbal attacks, the frustration of students unhappy with their grades, the criticism of bosses who knew nothing about what I taught and couldn’t possibly have done it (didn’t do it, when it came to it), I have endured thousands of chaotic meetings. There are few things I hate more than being trapped in a small space around a table with a bunch of people who are pushing their own agendas.

I taught business communication which included how to have a good meeting. First rule, consider the comfort of the people there, ie. don’t meet at dinner time without eating. Second rule, limit the amount of time people can speak, including discussion. All of this enveloped in that most important thing; respect each other.

So now it seems once again Goethe’s words are my best friends…

“Hold your powers together for something good and let everything go that is for you without result and is not suited to you.” Conversations with Eckermann

6 thoughts on “Retirement

  1. I loved your comment to me that when you ‘kicked the habit’ (whatever prompt that was) of work, you had no withdrawal symptoms. I have worked with women with 20+ years at the company–just like me!–and when they retired, they never looked back. It took removing themselves from the job to realize how great it was to not have to put up with all the crap they put up with. I have a bit to go but I tuck away all these little gems of information (like this post!) and await the magic moment. Thanks for the reinforcement, Martha. And comments like you wrote about just make retirement all the sweeter. Some people live in their own little world….

  2. Sometimes I think people have useful denial because they don’t have a choice but to keep working – but when being able to NOT do their job
    becomes a possibility and the denial starts to break down, the
    truth emerges. Most jobs have become misery, I think, and
    yet employers only flog their employees harder.
    I don’t know how teachers do it.

  3. Maybe I could rename my blog to ‘freeway flyer’ — I should quit the miles. But I actually don’t mind the driving. Hmmm maybe I’m in ‘useful denial’ stage too?
    Congratulations on having the courage to take your helmet off.

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