Existential Questions Never Go Away :(

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.


13 thoughts on “Existential Questions Never Go Away :(

  1. Such a powerful post, Martha. And it hit home with me. I truly was looking at retirement the end of this year. But then at the end of last year I was given a cancer diagnosis. My employer was there for me every step of the way. I return to work next week and have decided that I still need good insurance so retirement is being put off…until next December. And I am not getting any younger. But I do return to work a stronger woman. I, too, will not surrender to habits that no longer fit. Which, for me, is the stress at work that I allowed to consume me. No more. Thanks for exactly what I needed to read.

    • I’m glad it hit home somewhere! I never imagined retiring from teaching but there I was, TWO YEARS AGO TODAY walking away from the university forever. I didn’t realize that as I wrote this post; Facebook (bless it’s little heart) reminded me. I found that there were habits that were unconscious or maybe it was just behavior or survival stragedies or what I thought was normal life. I don’t know. It’s been a constant awakening…

  2. I’m thinking of embroidering a pillow with your last thoughts, “..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,” so I can sleep on them and they can slowly sink in. Being true to myself as I now am is something I struggle with, and, like you, I suppose to a certain extent I always will.

    • Wow, that would be cool — you could edit it and make it easier. “Today I will be the person I want to be; I will do the things that pertain to me; I will not surrender to habits of being that no longer fit.” Wow…as I typed that, I realized it belongs to one of my paintings, too.

      It’s very difficult — I know for certain that as teachers it can’t be easy abandoning the “role” of helper and all the other things we have been.

      We should meet some time as we live in the same state. That would be fun.

      • I agree, Martha, meeting would be great fun. We should keep it in mind whenever we know we’ll be traveling somewhere near one another. I can see the edited version of your thoughts on more than my pillow; I see it on a poster or card, illustrated by you, and hung in dorm rooms and senior centers or sent to friends and loved ones who seem to be in need of its message. For now, though, I have copied it and put it in my favorite quotes file with your name on it.

      • 🙂 I might paint it on my kitchen wall. I used to have a quotation from William Blake, “The eagle never lost so much time, as when he submitted to learn of the crow.” Of course, crows are smart and science won out over metaphors, but I still like the idea. In the next kitchen I had William Blake again, “He who binds to himself a joy
        Does the winged life destroy
        He who kisses the joy as it flies
        Lives in eternity’s sunrise”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s