Well, it's official. I've given in my letter of intention to the boss, shared my retirement news with my colleagues, and will announce to close family and friends this weekend just what I'm about to do.
What I'm about to do is huge. After spending the first six decades of my life in my immediate area, I am packing up my worldly belongings and traveling up to the Berkshires to be near daughter and family. No job, no apartment, no medical coverage. I've decided to forego the metaphorical parachute and do a free fall.
It's taken me a long time to make this decision. I can blame part of my resistance on the stars. I'm a Pisces. For those of you who don't dabble in this kind of stuff, Pisces are the old souls of the universe. They like to dream and draw their energy from the mystical and musical. Artsy-fartsy types, slow to change. Philosophers. Think Yoda.
Dreaming doesn't pay the bills though.
The fact that I've been earning my paychecks for the past 19 years as a university administrator (fancy term for paper pusher) leads me to believe that the universe does, indeed, have a warped sense of humor. I'd rather be playing my accordion or writing fanfic than figuring out how many courses we have to offer at which campus for the new semester. Then there are the mandatory board meetings. I give it my best shot but they usually turn into bored meetings much of the time. My Muse nudges me into doodling or scribbling on the backside of a legal pad often producing some brilliant ideas for my fanfic.
What I've loved about working in higher education, though, are the students. I work with a diverse adult population, students returning to school to finish what they had started years before. This is always challenging and fun - to see the unique persons in front of you, hear their often inspiring stories, and advise, coach, motivate them to succeed. Working with adults is never boring. It's often complicated, frustrating and exhausting but it's also very rewarding when the students succeed against sometimes heavy odds. I consider myself a cheerleader, standing on the sidelines and rooting them on. I hope, by advocating for and believing in them, that I've made some small difference in their lives. We are kindred spirits.
I never went to college until my kids were in grade school. At first it was terrifying. I had been out of high school almost twenty years. I came home from the first night of my first class in a cold sweat. Sat down on my daughter's bed and gently woke her up. Jenn was about twelve at the time. I told her that maybe I had made a mistake, taken on too much. Silence. And then a tiny voice of wisdom: "Mom, you always tell us to finish what you start." It was time to walk the walk.
As a non-traditional student, it took nine years to the bachelor's degree and another four to my master's. I did homework at the kitchen table with my children. Pulled all-nighters to make term-paper deadlines. Watched them grow and succeed in their studies beyond my wildest expectations just as I was growing in the classroom too. I graduated with the B.A. the same year my son graduated from high school. What fun that was! I now see my own students reaching the same milestone with their kids.
It's been good, all good. I am not rich in money from a career in higher ed but very rich in memories from having served such a special population.
Now, though, my heart lies elsewhere. A new generation is opening up to the world of learning, my grandkids. I want to be there to share in some of their discoveries.
I hope the universe provides a soft landing.