Wednesday, February 3, 2016

4 Things that are Different 4 Years Later

Four years ago at this time, I'd just turned in my letter of intent as the first step in my retirement journey. Things were emotional, to say the least. My family was less than thrilled with my decision -- the part of my family that lives in my house, anyway -- and I was alternately exhilarated and terrified. I was just beginning to share the news with my colleagues, very few of whom had seen it coming, as I was about a decade younger than retirement age. I was crying a lot, praying a lot and trying to act as though everything was normal, when, in fact, it was about as far from normal as my professional life had ever been.

Four years later, things are different. I still worry about money -- but I know very few parents of high school seniors that aren't thinking about money. A lot of other things have changed, though -- nearly all for the better.

My daughter, who was finishing middle school when I made this decision, is now finishing high school, and on the cusp of changes of her own. In the intervening four years, I've gotten to spend much more time with her than I would have if I'd stayed where I was. I'm here every morning when she leaves for school, and accessible nearly every day after school. I'm around most days when she and her friends come by for lunch, and though I make myself scarce so they can have their privacy, I love that I'm here. When she leaves for college next fall, I'll expect that I'll treasure these four years even more than I do now.

My job is different, yet the same. I always thought I'd continue to work part time as a counselor, but when that door closed, I was more surprised than sad. As it turned out, being an educator was rooted in me more deeply. While I initially sought out jobs in community education to earn an additional paycheck because that was what I knew, once I got back into the classroom, I realized it was a part of who I am as well. And, though a part of me always thought it would be fun to teach at the college level, I never imagined leaving elementary education behind. Then again, I never imagined it would look the way it does today.

My writing is an enormous part of my life, which came as a surprise to no one. When I shared my intention to retire, all of my colleagues asked me if I planned to write. I'm not sure I'm cut out to be a full-time writer -- I'm used to the stimulation and interaction teaching brings -- but I love that writing of some kind happens nearly every day in this no-longer-new lifestyle. While I've been blogging for close to a decade, I didn't blog regularly until I retired. Though I had two nonfiction books published while I was working, I didn't publish a novel until after I retired -- and then, I had two out within two years. The combination of writing and teaching fills -- and drains -- the creative part of my personality.

My schedule is much more within my control. The first year, I had almost too much time on my hands, and last semester, I had almost none. But the pace of the days is up to me much more than it every was. While I still plan my day around classes, I don't have to report to a place of business (except when I teach), and though I get up to see my daughter off to school every morning (much more for me than for her), I can go back to bed when she leaves if I want to (and, as a non-morning person, I often want to). I can work until noon, take a long lunch, and make up the hours in the evening -- and I often do -- which is a great option for a night owl. My schedule now shifts three times a year instead of twice, and that is still taking some getting used to, but I love the freedom that comes with it.
We never know for sure the impact of the decisions we're making when we make them. We can hope, pray and project, but every new choice carries new risk -- risk that inspires fear we can overcome only in the face of deadlines that force us to choose. Sink or swim. Now or never.

Maybe there's something to be said for the magic wands and crystal balls of fairy tales.

Or maybe they unnecessarily complicate leaps of faith.


  1. I remember that decision phase of your life, Lisa. I told you at the time that I totally supported your retirement , For all the reasons you have listed here. I'm so happy it is worked out well for you! Anything that allows you more time with your children or with your writing is positive. Blessings!

  2. Thank you, Linda. It was definitely a tough call, and I am grateful everything has worked out as it has. Now I just need to work in that long overdue trip to Williamsburg!