Retirement is a funny kind of animal. Alive and independent, it morphs and grows and even changes its stripes, depending on the day, the hour or the season.
When I first retired, I fought the life of leisure. Hard. Because I'd retired early, I ignored all the advice not to make any commitments right out of the gate. I was anxious to make commitments -- preferably those with paychecks attached -- as long as I could do them on my own terms. That, after all, had been what retirement was all about for me.
The teaching bug that bit me way back when I was a school counseling intern had done a pretty thorough job of infecting me, and so I sought teaching opportunities that I could weave around time spent writing and parenting. I taught writing and organization and time management classes when I had plenty of time to manage. And then the job teaching at the college level came along, and I was in heaven.
Still am, although at this time of the semester, even heaven on earth is subject to fits of exhaustion and even cat naps don't always rejuvenate all of the nine lives I lead. It's a good life, though -- commitments on my own terms, feeding the desire to enlighten that still runs deep and still managing to squeeze my writing in around the edges.
And so when I run into people who don't know about all the stripes of my retirement, they're surprised by what I'm up to; some are practically indignant. "Well, that doesn't sound like retirement!"
Hmm. And what is it that retirement is supposed to sound like? Cruises? Bonbons? Endless days of leisure?
At some point, I hope my retirement will hold all of those things. But at the moment, I'm not ready to divest my life of its fullness. And I'm sort of surprised that anyone who knows me expects otherwise.
But one of the interesting things that happens when you retire is that you find out who it is who really does know you. Leaving my colleagues behind was the hardest part of saying good-bye to the profession I embraced for 27 years, but over the last two years, the difference between friends and colleagues has come into sharper focus.
And therein lies the joy of life at any age. Retired or not, we never know what each day will bring, and if we can embrace the spots or stripes or cheetah-like speed of the day that presents itself, we can revel in the craziness, even on the days we wish we were eating bonbons.
I don't want to be the poster child for retirement; I never signed on for that. I especially don't want to be a disappointment to the people who long for days filled with cruises, catnaps and leisure time. Some days, I long for those things too, but I'm not ready to sit back and be a role model just yet.
Which is probably something anyone who knows me already knows.