The other day in the mail, I received an invitation from the district superintendent to attend the annual retirement reception. Technically, I am still employed as a teacher, using up my sick days during these last few months when I haven’t been teaching. After that, I leave the profession, leave the district, and will “retire due to disability.”
Until rather recently, “retirement” was way off in the future. When my hair would be grayer, my son would be an adult, and my age would be written as “sixty-something.” Except, I am still a brunette, my five-year-old son will start kindergarten in the fall, and I’m thirty-seven.
And at thirty-seven years of age, retirement doesn’t mean what I thought it would.
I had thought retirement might mean relocating closer to the ocean. It doesn’t. We’re still living in the same home we’ve lived in for the last nine years with no plans on moving anytime soon.
I had thought retirement might mean finally owning a convertible. It doesn’t. A 1965 cherry red Mustang convertible will still stay in my fantasies, because my 2003 blue Honda Civic is already paid for.
I had thought retirement might mean days of spontaneity with no set schedules to follow. It doesn’t. My days revolve around my son’s current pre-school schedule and will be amended when he starts kindergarten in August.
Retirement does mean leaving one’s job. Our society generally associates retirement with one’s age and years of service. (I had twelve years of service). Many people voluntarily make the decision to retire after calculating their living expenses and the new-take-home pay they can expect.
And I did have a choice. I could have ignored my doctor’s advice. I could have kept teaching. But, it got to the point where I didn’t like who I was when I was still working. I was someone constantly fatigued, constantly in pain, and constantly unhappy. And selfishly, I had to stop thinking about other people’s children and start focusing on my own. I wanted my son to know a happier mommy, and hopefully, a healthier mommy. And that’s why I retired.
So for now, retirement means that while my son’s at school, I have some leisure time. A lunch with a friend, writing time, errands -- it’s my choice. I’ll open the sunroof on my car. My husband and I will wander around the Venice Canals while our son is in school. It’s not the retirement I had originally planned, but as I’m constantly learning, life doesn’t always go as planned.