Wasting Away My Way

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I haven’t approached retirement in the typical sense. I don’t think I sufficiently prepared myself for having hours of free time. I had worked twelve to sixteen hour days for decades and stopping suddenly felt terribly strange to me. Because I had measured my worth by how much I accomplished, I felt a yawning hole when I was free to decide whether I would sleep in or rise early, labor at something meaningful or just wile the day away enjoying the view. It rather quickly became apparent to me that I was one of the people who needed a purpose to feel happy and somehow in those early weeks of retirement there was little that I did that gave me a sense of meaning. 

I found great joy in writing each day, but that only took a few hours and then a whole stretch of time lay before me. Thanks to a good friend I landed a part time tutoring gig that made my blood rush again and brought a smile to my face. I was doing the kind of things that had always brought me peace of mind. 

Eventually I had written an entire book which I have yet to publish. Someone in my family seems to have an emergency that takes most of my attention and the funds that I have saved to get a cover designed each time that I get very close to offering my memoir for public view. I sometimes wonder if my mother is sending me a message that I need to take another look at what I have written since it is mostly about her. 

My tutoring led to becoming a home school mathematics teacher, a job that I had never imagined doing. I’m a cheerleader for public education but I soon learned that there is a very big world of kids who quite earnestly learn in small groups without all of the complications of larger schools. It became my new obsession to work with them. 

I’m proud to say that two of my first home school students have earned Associates’ degrees and are planning for further training as an electrician and a pilot. It made my heart sing to see how well they did in their college level mathematics classes and now I am working to send another group on to higher education. I suppose that teaching is in my bones and I will do it until I no longer have the energy to plan the lessons, present concepts, grade papers and evaluate progress. For now continuing to teach in like a lifeline for me. I would rather be doing it than almost anything else.

I found that traveling was a panacea for my boredom as well. Not even the pandemic interrupted my wanderlust that I believe game from my father, a man who had set a goal to visit all of the states. He was almost there when he died and I suspect that his next journeys would have taken him across the globe. I saw him get a faraway look in his eyes whenever he listened to a cousin speaking of his work in Libya. Surely conquering the world was next on his list.

Things are slow right now. My students are off for the summer and our focus is on my father-in-law whose health and life has been upended since March. Most of my time these days revolves around getting him well and preparing for a future that may include moving him into our home to live. Leisure time and traveling are on the back burner for the moment. 

I know I need to exercise more and get that book published once and for all. I have tasks that need to be done around the house. The only ones that I enjoy doing are those revolving around my plants that I nurture as though they were my children. I remember a teacher from long ago insisting that we can only love people, not animals or things. I disagree with her soundly because I have sincerely loved my pets and my plants as well. I would amend her admonition to instruct that we should only love living things but then I would have to leave out mountains and landscapes that warm my heart.

I suppose that I have learned that it is mostly a waste of time to attempt to change someone’s political views. If they want guidance they will ask and then they will generally listen, ask questions, want to know more. Debating their points of view is little more than a good way to lose friends, but not influence them. Nonetheless I love writing opinion pieces more than anything even as I see such essays turning off my readers. I suppose it is because I really wanted to be in charge of the editorial page of my high school newspaper and instead I was relegated to editing the news. That is when I became a lover of facts even though a little voice kept telling me that I really wanted to influence the way people think. 

I like my life and I’m not ashamed to admit that I do my best to fill every hour of everyday with tasks that seem meaningful. That is my definition of fun so I will no doubt carry on just the way I have barring any accident or life changing incident. I’m a firm believer in celebrating the diverse ways in which we each decide to live. I enjoy watching the passing parade of humans and marveling out how different we all are while still have the commonality of wanting to have the freedom to live in our own personal ways. Some spend their days on the beach, others watch birds. I’m all for whatever floats your boat as long as you don’t try to sink mine. I’ve found a rhythm that suits me well. I hope I can keep it humming along while I waste away my way.