Friday, February 26, 2010

On retirement

A friend and previous boss is retiring today after over 30 years in service to children. I've been thinking about her a lot in the past week or so, recalling the days leading up to my own farewell to a job I loved (and hated at the same time!). Don't know what made me do it, but I checked my files and found the following that I apparently wrote the day before my own last days. Thought I'd share it with you.

On Retirement

I’m officially retiring today. In less than an hour, the Board of Education will have a brief, unscheduled meeting to consider another district matter and, thrown on the agenda at the last minute, they will find the item that asks that they approve my retirement. My retirement.
I wonder if other potential retirees have such internal conflicts about the end of their careers. I wonder how long it took them to get to this point, where the letter is submitted to their boss and word gradually begins to filter through the building that, in less than 90 days, a new person will be sitting at the desk where once they worked.
It took me months. I vacillated between wanting not to do this job anymore and never wanting to quit, knowing I owed it to my husband, my children, my grandchildren and, most of all, myself to stop working, to be available, to pursue other interests. In the end, after a lot of internal discussions (that’s what I call talking to myself), I decided life is too short to spend it working, answering an alarm clock every morning, slogging through rain, snow or ice to get to the office, balancing a plethora of projects, completing them and moving on to the next. In short, the few negatives of this job won the argument and overrode the positives that kept me coming back, year after year.
That I’m tired of some parts of the routine is a given. I find the 6 a.m. wakeup harder each day. In spite of the beautiful farmland and livestock I pass on my way to and from the office, I’m tired of the commute. I’m tired of keeping up a professional wardrobe that spans four seasons. I’m tired of night meetings and being awake for hours afterward reliving every stressful moment.
Most of all, I’m weary of the disappointment that comes every year with the apathy and indifference of the people whose children get private school educations at public school prices from a staff that is top notch and an administration that cares more about kids than about getting enough sleep or taking care of their own health.
I dread another budget cycle with its countless meetings, graphs, charts, press releases and PowerPoint presentations, all geared toward trying to justify the cost of educating tomorrow’s leaders. It wouldn’t be so frightful if parents and school district staff thought it important enough to come out and voice and opinion. But for most of the years I’ve worked in public education, I’ve watched the numbers of people … real stakeholders … get lazy and surrender to the folks with an ax to grind or an agenda to promote and the budget is defeated once again. I’m frankly sick of the people, who benefit from their schools, refusing to pick up the tab for the cost and then watching as the municipal officials, with no idea of what it takes to fund a school district, slash huge amounts from the budget, forcing cuts in programs and services that, one way or another, impact their own kids. It is exhausting, infuriating and sad.
So this year, before that scenario plays itself out again, I’m leaving. I will read about the budget battles online in the comfort of my home office. I will learn who the new Board members are from profiles in the newspaper and I will hold my breath to see how both issues will affect such a wonderful school district. Not positively, I’m afraid. How do I know this? Reading handwriting on walls has become a secondary benefit of this job and all the signs point to big trouble ahead.
What I will miss are my colleagues, the people in my office building who have huge smiles and caring hearts. I will miss the bagels and cream cheese, the hot soft pretzels and mustard, the home-baked goodies that appear every day and the mountains of cookies at holidays. I will not miss the weight gain and the constant temptation for sugar overload just outside my office door.
I will miss the people, the teachers, the kids and the staff. I’ll miss talking politics with some and skirting the issue with others. I’ll miss feeling like what I do matters for something, makes a difference in the lives of those I write about. I’ll miss having stories to tell when I get home each evening. I’ll miss the interesting interaction and the challenges of the job.
But it’s really time to go. I’ve worked for 50 years, since my teenage years, and I’m ready now to do something just for me. No guarantees I won’t look back, maybe even drop in to say hello and catch up on what’s happening, but for the most part, I will be gone. I hope that doesn’t mean I’ll be forgotten.

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