July 1st, I became my own woman. I no longer “owe my soul to the company store” and I couldn’t be happier. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed my time as a high school English teacher. Not every day and not every class, but that’s true with any job. There are always good days and bad and as long as there are more of the former than the latter, everything’s fine.
The list of positives for leaving that life, however, is long. No more getting up at 5:45, leaving the house at 6:25 A.M. for a forty-minute commute on sunny mornings, a hour and a half on snowy ones. In fact, no more driving through snowstorms to reach the only open district in two counties! I won’t have to step between two teenagers, each bent on knocking the socks of the other. No more papers to grade, egos to soothe (mostly those of the parents), or state hoops to jump through.
There are some pieces of the job, however, that I will miss. The metaphorical talk around the watercooler – the interaction with my colleagues that might, or might not, have anything to do with school. The serendipitous meeting in the hallway, the social conversations...catching up on everyone's outside life as well as venting about the latest State Ed. regulation. Being home now, I won’t have anyone other than family and the occasional bumping into someone in the grocery store. I begin to understand why my mother would end up talking with her former co-workers for an hour when those random meetings occurred. Not only lots to catch up on, but a hunger for conversation with someone other than family.
Believe it or not, I’ll actually miss the ride to and from school. Yes, it was long, but I did a lot of thinking during that time. On my way up, I often planned out lessons, rehearsed questions and tried to think of all the answers students might come up with during discussion so I would be ready with follow-ups. On the way home, my thoughts often shifted to my current work-in-progress and I’d spend the time drafting a scene, playing around with a plot point or even coming up with brand new stories. So I will miss the thinking time the drive gave me.
And I will miss the kids. Don’t tell them that, but I will. They kept me young. I know the latest crazes, the current heartthrobs, the best video games on the market, because of the conversations we had before class started and in those one or two minutes at the end before the bell rang (which didn’t happen often, but I took full advantage when it did). They kept me on my feet (often literally) and my brain active. Who will keep me young now? I’m not ready to grow old and out of touch.
People keep asking me if I miss school yet. I don’t. For one, I’ve only been retired for a week. For another, this is still just summer vacation to me. Of course, it’s a summer vacation without lesson plans to write, books to read for class, or workshops to attend (all the normal activities I do every summer). In that sense, things feel a little weird. I’ll see an article online or in the newspaper and think, “That’ll be a good one to use in my English 11 class when we read The Crucible” and then remember, I’ll never teach The Crucible and all the issues that surround it, again. And it doesn’t feel sad and I don’t rejoice. It just feels...odd.
Other teachers, those who have retired from the stress of the classroom, tell me I won’t really feel the oddity until September. When everyone else goes back to school – and I don’t. My husband’s already warned me not to get in the way of his September routine. He’s an instructor at Finger Lakes Community College. He also directs several high school shows throughout the school year (three of them – two straight shows and a musical). AND he paints – his art is currently in several galleries around western New York. This is the reverse of the stereotypical male now being home and getting in the wife’s way. :)
Of course, for me, the word “retirement” is a misnomer. I won’t be teaching in the New York State public education system, true. But I’ll be writing full-time and that’s very exciting to me. Figuring out my new schedule – one I’ve been dreaming about for years now – is an entirely new adventure. Where other people see this rite of passage as an ending of a career, I see it more as the beginning of a new one. Or rather, the logical extension of a part-time career into the full-time arena.
The past six months have been full. Closing up three established homes and dealing with the remains, closing up a classroom and saying goodbye to a life that I’ve lead for thirty-three years...to suddenly be unfettered and free? I cannot describe the exhilaration, the joy, the sense of relief.
So look for more writing from me, both non-fic and fiction. I hope to become prolific as my schedule settles out and routine kicks in. I might even write a few more books under my own name (C.F. Duprey) as well as more by Diana Hunter, Mystic Shade and Diana Allandale. I want to redesign my website, develop more writing workshops, and be more active in writing communities. And I’ll have the time!
Play safe, everyone!
The newly-retired, much more relaxed,