“A thousand moments I had just taken for granted―mostly because I had assumed that there would be a thousand more.”
~ Morgan Matson
One thing I have discovered is that as much as I intend to follow a particular path or course of action, all too often the original idea evolves and the details change. Fortunately, I am pretty good at “going with the flow” so I tend not to become overly frustrated. I do however, have an issue with “flakiness” – in others and in myself. So making a public commitment to doing something and then not following through is something that causes me a great deal of angst and I tend to get down on myself.
The point of all this is that some months ago, knowing that I would be retiring at the end of May, 2019, I wrote a blog post in which I committed to a process that I would follow to help guide me to “meaningful and purposeful activities” that would fill my days after leaving a 30 plus year career in education. It would surely be seamless and a veritable “walk-in-the-park”, as it were. . . . . HA!
The reality is that every single work day whether as a teacher, counselor, dean of students or principal (all roles that I fulfilled at one time or another) contained within it the possibility of making a (at times significant) difference in a life. That was particularly true for students but may also have been the case for parents, teachers or even other staff members in the school. To be completely honest, there were many days that, for whatever reason, I took this for granted.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for a moment believe that my presence in the lives of others didn’t make a difference. I do believe that I made a difference. I think this was especially true once I realized that I belonged in the middle school. Working with early adolescent kids, their parents and teachers, I was definitely able to make an impact.
The last six years of my career have been spent working at a middle school in Lagos, Nigeria. My wife and I decided to make a journey out of our return trip from Africa to the Pacific Northwest, where we now own a condo. We spent two weeks in Spain, visited a dear friend in Beirut, Lebanon and then spent our two final weeks in the Philippines. Since arriving at “home” we have spent the last month settling into our new home, taking care of medical and dental appointments, establishing same time zone contact with friends and relatives and enjoying long, daily walks.
Despite the obvious priority these items take in everyone’s lives, I must admit that I have a nagging sense that something is “out of whack” here. Shouldn’t I be rejoicing in the fact that I no longer need to collect a paycheck to afford to live anymore? If so, why do I feel this hole? Shouldn’t feel just a tiny bit smug when I see our friends’ social media posts about heading back to work, with the accompanying stresses and strains of getting ready for a brand new school year?
One thing is certain, I don’t miss the insane craziness that is part of a new school year, especially in a third world country where I spent the last 6 years of my career. I do, however miss being a part of a team of first class educators who give a part of their heart and soul every day in the best interest of the kids in their care!
I am becoming more and more at peace with the idea that nothing will ever take the place of being an educator. I was so proud of and loved being able to reply to a person who asked me what I did for a living with the proclamation, “I am a Middle School Principal”. Having to add the word ‘retired’ in front of these words only serves to feed my sense of loss. Hopefully, I will get past that soon and having an open mind and an open heart will lead me in the direction of some new and exciting opportunities. I’m sure there are activities that will provide the meaning and purpose that I am longing for. But for the time being I admit that I am enjoying waking up without the assistance of an alarm most mornings.
In love and intense gratitude,
PS Thanks to everyone who has helped to add to my sense of loss. Had you not given so much to my life, I may have never known what I was missing.