Three years ago I wrote a post about aging and all that has and hasn't changed for me over the years. I also mentioned (in a subsequent response to a comment) that retirement was three years in the offing. Now I'm three years older and retirement is a mere five weeks away. I am tremendously excited about having free time, about not having to get up every morning and hurry off to work, about spending more time with my grandchildren without having to rush home at the beginning of the work week. I have a bucket list three miles long and can't wait to get started on it. There are some things about working (besides the regular paycheck) I will miss, though.
First and foremost I will miss daily contact with children. I've been working in the public school system for almost twenty years and find that being around young people is both immensely satisfying and outright challenging. Though they can be as opinionated as the adults that surround them, most children are more willing to open up to new ideas, to be fascinated by conflicting information, to make an attempt to learn a new skill or be beguiled by a new concept. They are quick to dispense hugs and they love to share.
It's a lesson in human resilience to watch these little beings grow and change over the course of a school year. I've worked at every grade level but the last few years have been focused on second grade. Second graders arrive in September at age seven little, scared, and excited, still carrying first grade anxieties about being full time students but ready to be "big kids" if given half the chance. They come equipped with already strong personalities that suggest nature
as well as nurture plays a huge part in who and what they will become. By the end of second grade they read more confidently, write in complete sentences (hopefully), have mastered addition and subtraction, swagger a bit on the playground and speak up more in the classroom.
Their takes on life are often much more concrete than mine. They restate with confidence the things they hear at home or church or from other teachers and sometimes older schoolmates. I'm impressed with what they understand of modern technology and often amazed at what they think they understand about politics. A brash young fellow told me he would vote Republican in November if he could because the Democrats were taking soda out of schools and, as he liked to drink soda every day, he would be forced to drink "plain old water, yuk!" if President Obama were to be reelected. Another little tyke asked me if I thought her "ass was sexy. My mother said it is."
I will miss the insider camaraderie that exists between my co-workers though I will not miss the frustrations that come with the job. I will most definitely not miss supervising 48 of someone else's little darlings in the cafeteria or the cacophony of slamming lockers and end of day confusion as I herd them off to the open maws of the waiting buses.
What I look forward to most about retirement are the hours I get to reconfigure, the daylight hours I can spend out of doors instead of locked up in a building. As a first grader I ran away from school twice before the teachers assigned me a personal watchdog. The idea of staying all day in a stuffy building, no matter how many books it held, was abhorrent. I still feel the same way almost 60 years later! A meager social security stipend will necessitate returning a few days a month to sub. I will bite the bullet and do it (and probably enjoy it), but the time I spend hiking and biking and gardening and exploring and traveling and drawing and painting and dreaming and playing with the grandchildren and reading and napping will overshadow any days spent holed up in a classroom.