Saturday, June 24, 2006

One giant leap

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.


geogirl said...

"Living at risk is jumping off a cliff and building your wings on the way down." - Ray Bradbury

Don't you love it when your kids throw your own words back in your face. But what wise words they were. Mater, the whole time you were educating yourself, you were educating your children too. It seems you set quite a good example.

"Risk must be taken, because the gratest hazzard in life is to risk nothing.

You may avoid suffering and sorrow, but you simply cannot learn, feel, change, grow, or live.

Only a person who knows risk is free." - UNKNOWN

The Mater said...

Geo, dear Internet friend, I love what you just wrote! All of your thoughts.

The Ray Bradbury quote will be my motto for the next few months :>)

Many thanks!

Tree said...

My email is down!
Panicked, then went to sleep, the woke up and realized I should just have commented on your blog!
We'll get the email up and running and I'll get back to you!

s@bd said...


go for it - you'll regret it if you don't

if the universe loves you as much as i do (and i hardly even know you) you'll be landing in a feather bed

Neurotic Mom said...

You'll never know what will happen if you never try it then spend the next few years wondering "what if".

Take the jump, have fun and enjoy the experiences.


Mills said...

Go for it girl! You deserve it! I can't wait for my chance to do the same! Don't worry about landing...just keep flying!

sogalitno said...

Leap and the net will appear.

i know the feeling i am doing the same kind of thing.

let go and enjoy! they will LOVE having you around.

Simon said...

You're inspirational, Mater. And I love you just a little bit for mentioning Yoda.

The landing may or may not be soft, but I don't doubt you'll be standing on your own two feet shortly thereafter.

I mean, how many street corners in the Berkshires can ALREADY have an accordian-wielding pan handler??

The Mater said...

Oh Simon, just a little bit?

Thanks all of you for such loving support :>)

I love the image of the pan-handling accordionist but am hoping to find other options!

Anonymous said...

I am so proud of you. Ms. Mater I just wanted to thank you for the kind post you put on my site. You have inspired me to do more there and in my life.

Thank you so much!

velocibadgergirl said...

Geogirl, that is my favorite Ray Bradbury quote EVER!

Good luck, Mater! I look forward to many humorous and touching stories in the next few months. I'm sure the moving process will be an adventure!

velocibadgergirl said...

PS I suddenly remember the way I heard him say it at a lecture once:

"Don't just stand there wondering if you can fly. Jump off the damn cliff and build your wings on the way down!"

David said...

MIL -- were so proud of you! Can't wait to head out on the hiking trails with you on weekends . . . impromptu backyard BBQs . . . watching the girls faces when you tell them you're here to stay! And, really, what's the worst that could happen? You'll sublet above that smokeless nightclub, and we'll bring you picnic dinners for a while. It's going to be great!

Carpe Diem!

The Mater said...

vcbg, you have me LOL because geo's Bradbury quote also reminds me of the time, when I was in my early 40s, that I took adult swimming lessons. Never learned to swim as a child and had a fear of deep water. Instructor made us "jump in" - and later go off a diving board (with a life jacket then) - it was a "just do it" experience and it felt so freeing!

I survived and felt proud of myself for finding my wings! I'll try to draw on that memory now.

Thanks guys!

Kim said...

Wishing you the softest of landings in my favorite place on earth.

The Mater said...

Thanks SIL for the encouraging words.

Smokeless nightclubs and corner street gigs ... not your typical senior moments, but then I'm not your typical senior :>)

Neurotic Mom said...

You know for a job you could always set up a tour of your daughter's haunted house LOL

Anonymous said...

Gee...with David talking about all the hiking and BBQs and backyard fun...I think I'M going to move up there too!! ;-)

Oh Mater, if you end up on a street corner playing the accordian I promise I will drive up there and throw coins in your cup!

The Mater said...

Can you throw dollar bills instead?!

I need all the start-up capital I can get :>)

Lou said...

Good for you! And good luck!

Contrary said...

Tell ya what, Mater, I don't really want to wait two years to move to NH, so you and I can be room mates until Pookie and the kids come up. I'll be the slob with the cigar in the corner of my mouth and you can be the neatnik with the constant allergy issues.

What do you think, Felix?

Signed, your pal, Oscar

kelly said...

Oh, I'm all teary reading your beautiful post. I would love to have my mother move to be close to us but am so happy she's able to be near my sister and her children. You are very brave and beautiful, and your family is so lucky to have you.

Anonymous said...

I find some information here.

The Lioness said...

How extraordinary you are! Mazel tov, and good luck with your journey.We are our own salvation indeed.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Added a new value add to my blog this weekend - a news widget from I always wanted to show latest news for my keywords in my sidebar. It was very easy with this widget. Just a small copy paste and it was done. Great indeed.