Thursday, April 30, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

The last few weeks are the hardest

The April 15th retirement party and dinner was actually fun. The party was fairly small— not too many folks retiring in these hard times.


I skipped the English Department retirement party. How many retirement parties can one take? Also, some of the folks I never want to see again would probably have been there.


 The last few weeks really are the hardest. One of my colleagues who has seen many of his age cohort retire told me, “They all said when you make the final decision to retire all those dissatisfactions  you repressed-- so you could keep on going day after day—rise to the surface. When you’re no longer facing years on the same job, it’s safe to acknowledge that you’re burning out."


 I have some really good students this semester. I was afraid I would get the class from hell my last semester but fortunately that didn’t happen. So I have some good students who deserve good teaching and I am trying to hold up my end.  I want to end this thing honorably, but I am exhausted.


In teaching, no matter hard you work, it’s never  enough. There are always classes you could have prepared better, papers you could have graded more carefully, students you could have tried harder to reach etc etc.


I will soon be facing my last stack of papers to grade. It’s the paper grading that drives so many of us into early retirement. A friend (a retired Women’s Studies professor) told me she had a dinner for a group of retired academics and they all said that last set of papers is the hardest to get through.  In your mind, you’re already retired, but the papers are still there.


From the perspective of someone with a really hard job, I guess I sound like an impossible whiner. Okay, I’m not scrubbing floors, emptying bedpans or washing dishes for a living, but teaching really does take an emotional toll.


Well, time to stop whining and get back to grading those papers.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Retirement parties

I’ve never been much for special occasions and my husband is even worse. His aversion to celebrations has pushed me even further in that direction. We don’t even celebrate our wedding anniversary.

So now there is the retirement party conundrum. I’m uncomfortable with occasions like this. When the wonderful people I’ve worked with in the Women’s Studies program suggested a retirement party for me, I countered with "how about a passing the torch event?”

I was much more comfortable with this and thought it would be better for the program. The new Women’s Studies coordinator would have a chance to share her vision and hear colleagues' ideas for future program development.

So with this shift in focus, I started looking forward to the party and really enjoyed it. Many of the people I like best at the college were there and I am so happy there is a wonderful person to take over the program I built—-my little legacy. There’s nothing worse than putting your heart and soul into building something and then have it fall apart when you move on.

The College wide retirement party on April 15 won’t be so much fun. It won’t be a small group of people I really like and respect. One of the really good things about retirement is that there are some people I will never see again. (When you work in a place for a long time, you can develop deep friendships and deep animosities.)

My husband is retiring at the same time; we were an office romance 30 years ago. He is not the kind of person who holds grudges and doesn’t mind chit-chatting with old adversaries. I sometimes see him talking amiably with the worst person in the college, a person who once viciously attacked him.

I’ve often wanted to be as even tempered as he and once said to him, “I wish I could get over things as quickly, as easily as you do.” His reply: “I wish I could care about things the way you do.”

I have more intense friendships and more intense hatreds; this is playing it self out in saying good-bye (or good riddance) to my colleagues.

Of course, some are really good friends and my relationship with them will continue, but I will have to put some effort into maintaining the ties.

More on this after April 15 retirement party.