On May 14th, 2020, I retired from my job of many years as a college professor. It was during the early days of the Covid pandemic, and while there was a lot of uncertainty in that regard, I had no hesitation as I moved on to the next stage of life. So this week’s blog post is a reflection on the past year.
I made the decision to retire two years before the actual date. I wanted plenty of time to get the financial side of things in place. I also like to plan ahead and let ideas “sink in”, so the lead time was beneficial in that respect. I didn’t share my decision with anyone at work until the last year I planned to be there. I also found a fun countdown app for my phone that had pictures of palm trees similar to the photo above. It had the time down to weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds. I found it entertaining, and a good conversation starter.
Things were moving along smoothly in the fall semester of 2020, and the search for my successor was starting. I was luckily able to participate in that process. This gave my students and the College time to get ready for the change in leadership, and also allowed me to wrap up some long term projects. There were also some funny moments. My desk top computer had a very old modem and monitor. When they weren’t working well, I asked the IT department for a date when they would be replaced. Their first response was that they heard I was retiring, as if that meant I didn’t need a functional computer for the 10 months I would still be there. But they did finally get some new equipment installed, and I was able to use it.
One of my retired friends told me the last year would fly by, and she was right. It also gave me a new perspective on decisions that faculty were involved in. When you have an unknown amount of time left to work, you are more vested in the impact of certain decisions. With this in mind, I tried not to offer my opinion on things I wouldn’t be around to experience. Unless it involved something with legal implications, and then I usually couldn’t help myself. I remained engaged and hopefully served as a resource due to working for a lot of different leaders, and having served on almost every committee imaginable.
The year was moving along at a rapid clip until the middle of March, when the pandemic hit the Midwest, and we seemed to shut down overnight. It also meant moving the entire curriculum online, and making sure my adjunct instructors and students were navigating this monumental transition that we pulled off in less than a week. I am eternally grateful to my part time faculty and former students for rising to the occasion, and finishing the semester on time. We learned a lot, and had some fun moments too as working and studying from home became the norm. Family members inadvertently “attending” classes as they walked through a room. Very relaxed students with hoodies covering their faces and pets draped around their shoulders or in their lap. And we had to develop some rules, such as turning on your camera during class so that we knew who was present.
My last visit to campus was in May, when I cleaned out my office. I didn’t bring much home, but there was one gem on my bulletin board that made the trip. It was an old cartoon, where a person is going to a meeting at a new office. When they arrive, they tell the receptionist they are looking for a conference room called Where Hope Goes to Die. She says it is down the hall, near the Rectangle of Futility. It still makes me laugh.
Even though my last days were not what I envisioned, I happily settled in for my new life. I spent the first month enjoying my ability to stay up late and sleep in as long as I wanted in the morning. Heavenly for a natural night owl. I also started on some long delayed house projects, like cleaning junk drawers and closets. We weren’t going to restaurants, so we started cooking new recipes and enjoying old favorites. I also rediscovered my love of baking. Unfortunately, I also rediscovered my love of eating way too much of everything I baked. Case in point would be cinnamon roles. I found my tried and true recipe to make these from scratch, but they didn’t rise very well. I baked them anyway, and they looked flat and bizarre, at best. Did this stop me from eating them? No. Sugar, butter, and cinnamon should never go to waste.
Warmer weather brought the ability to get outside and play some socially distant golf, and float around a friend’s pool every week after we played. So fun after being isolated for so long. I also played pickleball, which is a cross between tennis and racket ball, played on a smaller court. Ideal for older folks. And great exercise for those who over ate their baked goods.
We tried to stay in touch via Zoom calls with our extended family, who were living in two countries, four states and four different time zones. We managed to put this together a few times, even though some cameras were pointing at the ceiling, and schedules could be hard to coordinate. During one call, my then four year old granddaughter said “This is chaos!”. How right she was. But it was good to connect because we were still unable to visit in person.
August was an interesting month because I wasn’t going back to the classroom for the first time in decades. I had a nagging feeling, that I couldn’t quite shake, that I was behind and needed to get ready. I was able to play fall golf for the first time in years. But as October came along, and outdoor sports closed for the season, it was time to focus on activities at home again. Netflix was a great escape, and we got caught up on several series we hadn’t had time to watch in pre-Covid days.
The holidays were hard without sharing them with family, and winter weather settled in for its usual stay. But I had fun writing this blog, and keeping in touch with family via phone calls and video chats. And I watched along with everyone else as vaccines were developed and tested in a record amount of time. It was a huge relief to get the Pfizer version of the shot in February and March. Our public health department and medical professionals did an outstanding job of getting the vaccines distributed, and they continue to do so.
Overall, I have found that being retired is one of the best stages of life. In many ways it reminds me of middle school. That is the last time I remember having loads of free time, playing sports, hanging out with friends, and minimal responsibilities. So for me, retirement has been a lot like middle school, but with money, a permanent boyfriend/spouse, and a driver’s license. What’s not to love about that?
If you are thinking of retiring, I highly recommend it. You will know when the time is right, and hopefully will be able to do so on your own terms and timetable. And check out the free retirement countdown app with the palm trees. It will come in handy!