I’ll admit. Since retiring and moving and going through some huge changes, I have not known a lot of things that we all take for granted. Like who am I, what I stand for, what I am doing — that stuff.
I expected that. I don’t think you can leave a career of 35 years without losing some sense of your identity. One thing about being a teacher is that one is needed INTENSELY. Part of my sense of self has always been “People need me.” I grew up in a household with a sick dad and a little brother — “We need you, Martha Ann.” Being needed = being loved. Perfect training for a teacher. But who was I without that?
My first year after retiring was a year of experimentation — and growth that I wasn’t even aware of. The self was still amorphous, cloudy, lacking direction and presence.
Not long ago — really just in this past month — I had a sudden strong, visceral reaction against some things and some people with whom I’ve been involved almost since I moved back to Colorado. It was bewildering and demanded some consideration. Then I realized that at 65 the question is the same as it is at 15 but the context is different; there is some urgency. The cloud was dissipating.
I saw that the kind of compromise I was happy to make at 40 something is absurd now. For one thing, THIS is how the story turns out for me. I’m not building a life any more. I’m living a life. If I were to die in 10 years it would already be old age. Regardless of how long I live, I do not have a long stretch of physically fit years in front of me; I have some and I need to make the most of them. I asked myself, “Who do I want to be during these 10 years? How do I want to live my life? Who is the person I want to be when I step out into the world every day?” And it was all suddenly very clear that all I need to do is be certain that every day I am the person I want to be; I do the things that rightfully pertain to me; I do not surrender to habits of being that no longer fit.