Last Monday was a "missing" kind of day. Maybe it was the gray skies and the fact that the weather seemed to be edging toward winter (it is, after all, January), but more likely, the feeling has been building.
This time last year, I was making decisions about retirement. Now, I'm actually living out the decision.
For the most part, it's been fantastic. The best part is that after 15 years, I'm finally a stay-at-home mom, which is something I've longed for all along. I'm here when my daughter leaves in the morning, and most days, I'm here when she comes home. Some days we talk, some days she makes a beeline for the TV remote, but the point is, I'm here.
During the day, when she's at school and my husband is at work, I get to do my thing in a quiet house. "My thing" has been writing, planning classes and presentations and rehearsing these presentations with the microwave and dining room furniture as my audience.
Sometimes, though, I need to relocate my "office" because even a quiet house can be loaded with distractions, and when the writing is going slowly, the distractions call more loudly. Often, on days like that, I head to Starbucks to write.
Last Thursday, after finishing up a blog draft at Starbucks, I decided to hit my favorite consignment shop. Getting dressed that morning had been challenging, and it was time for something new.
The store was quiet. In fact, for over an hour, I was the only customer. The clerk kindly hauled the many things I pulled off the racks into the dressing room, and eventually we got to talking. When she found out I had recently retired, she asked me how I liked it and what I was doing. When I finished telling her, she thanked me, saying she'd needed a good retirement story.
As I returned to my stack of sweaters, I began to wonder why she'd needed a good retirement story, and so when I went out to pay for my selections, I asked her.
As it turned out, she, too, was a recently retired educator having a "missing" kind of day. While there were many aspects of the job she'd been happy to leave behind, there were things she missed, leaving her to wonder at times if her decision had been a good one. And running into people who felt it was their right to couch rudeness in allegedly amusing terms ("did you hit the lottery?") did little to strengthen her faith in her decision.
I believe that we are put where we are for a reason, and I have no doubt that I was supposed to go to the consignment store that day, and I was supposed to talk to that clerk. We were strangers, yet kindred spirits, trying to find secure footing in a place that was, at times, much more foreign that we'd expected it to be. After three decades (more or less) of something that offered security, but had ceased to be a good fit, there were days when the new, uncharted territory felt rocky and threatening rather than expansive and liberating. On those days, the words of naysayers and know-it-alls rang louder than conversations with supportive friends, and made what had been a difficult decision more difficult again - for a time.
No path is perfect - no decision without a downside. For teachers who love their jobs, saying goodbye to kids and colleagues is a very emotional experience. I think I cried every day for a month last winter. I know I cried when I turned in my letter of intent, and every time I thought about leaving the people who had become my second family, I wondered if I truly knew what I was doing.
But two roads diverged - the family path and the career path. At one point, they had intersected, and it seemed possible to follow both. But in the end, the right road for me was the one less traveled by, and though Robert Frost said "that has made all the difference," he never promised the road wouldn't be uphill in places.
It's at those times that I'm grateful to have companions alongside me on the road I have chosen.