23 April 2015

On Retirement (Not!)

It is that time of year. (I am interested to what the word ‘it’ refers in a sentence such as the previous. Obviously, the word addresses the season, or the month to which the earth in its spin has arrived.  But the pronoun here doesn’t seem to have any antecedent, even if I consider that its antecedent, in fact, follows it. And so I think that ‘it’ in sentences such as the one with which I started this piece, refers more to my state of mind. “It” refers to whatever flows through my consciousness as a result of the specific time of the year—in this case, Spring and the approaching end of another semester and academic year on campus.) And though ends of the year always trouble me, this year in particular has caused me the experience of angst.
    Certainly, that time of life has arrived. For almost with whom I speak—even sometimes with myself—the conversation begins with the question, “When are you going to retire?” or “Are you retiring this year?” At this very moment the University campus is abuzz with the offer of a buy-out for a select group of qualified staff who would be willing to allow their present positions to be purchased for a specific quantity of monies (not all that much, actually, to my mind), and be terminated and head off in relative quiet into retirement.
      The easy question asks in retirement from what one would retire, and the easy answer is that retirement would be from a position at the University: no more teacher, no more books, no more student’s dirty looks. More, there would be no more meetings required to attend, no more involvement with the distasteful politics that emanate from the guardians of the educational silos and protected disciplines, and no further entrapment in the vines heavy with sour grapes. In the latter states there is something appealing, no doubt, to these offers. But I often (though not always) enjoy the students’ looks, and I have learned over the years somehow to avoid these academic ensnarements, or at least to find some way to distract myself from their tedium. I love the classroom, obviously, for I have chosen to spend my life in them.  
     Perhaps I am offended by the question of the presumption that my age demands that I consider retirement. I am, certainly, of retirement age. That is, my legal standard I have lived sufficient years to cease the obligation of going to work. The classroom is effort but I am lucky to say here that it has rarely been work. Perhaps I take umbrage at the idea that I have become (have always been?) ineffective and that retirement would relieve the classroom of what some might consider one more bad teacher. I resist the idea that I am tired, though at the end of a day and a week, well, I am fatigued, but whether the quantity of that fatigue exceeds qualitatively the fatigue I experienced when I was young (and in my prime!), I sincerely doubt.  Utah Phillips sings the plaint of another retiree,
He used up my labor, he used up my time
He plundered my body and squandered my mind
Then he gave me a pension, some handouts and wine
And told me I'm all used up
I am no longer a new pretty face, but I do not experience exhaustion. No, I am hardly used up: indeed, my curiosity continues to inspire my intellectual movement and I sense there will never be enough time; the materials pile up about me and I am constantly in the market for another desk and another bookshelf. I continue to haunt the book stores and the Reviews of Books that arrive regularly to my mailbox. I suppose more than a fear of not having a place to go, there is no other place I’d rather be than in the classroom. I have spoken with my dearest that it would be nice to have the option, but the reality remains that I am not finished and not ready (or prepared?) for retirement.

     And I will try to avoid those conversations that begin with the question, “Are you going to retire?” Arlo Guthrie once gave me the question I prefer, “Did you think of anything on down the line.” Hell, yeah!,


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