For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.–T. S. Eliot (“Little Gidding”)
How is it possible that one little day on the calendar can incite in me such eager anticipation and fearful dread at the same time?
I have been looking forward to this day all year–counting down to it, planning for it, dreaming about it, and smiling from one bejeweled ear to the other every time this day has been mentioned. But now that it has finally arrived, I am fighting to keep my oatmeal down, my chin up and my tears at bay.
Fickle woman. Silly goose.
I don’t “officially” retire until the end of June, but today is the last day of the school year for our students–the last day I will be their principal, the last day I will witness their silly, sing-song antics in the hallway, the last day any of them will give me a hug or a fist bump or a high five, the last day any of them will wave to me from the bus window, and the last time ever any of them will tell me to “Have a good night, Mrs. E! Have a good weekend! Have a great summer!”
Some of them don’t do their homework, and some of them require repeated explanations on the importance of being respectful to their teachers or nice to their peers. Some of them wear clothing that leaves too little to the imagination, while others say things (innocently or intentionally, I’m seldom sure) that make even me blush. They are sometimes smelly, often goofy, and almost always unpredictable. They test my patience, push my buttons, threaten my sanity, and make me tired.
And yet . . . and yet . . . they are each of them beautiful and strong, creative and kind, talented and funny, and they have unlimited potential swirling just below the surface, waiting for the right dose of maturity to bring it bursting through. (They don’t recognize the symptoms, but I do.) With their high-pitched squeals, hiccupy giggles and goofy grins, they have made me smile, again and again and again, and like so many other students before them in the past thirty years, they have stolen their way into my heart.
ENOUGH ALREADY. Stop it. It was great while it lasted, but it’s over (by your choice), and it’s time to move on. Suck it up (you big crybaby). It’s time to stop dwelling on what has been and start focusing on what will be.
It’s time to purchase that retirement “dream car” and prioritize the “bucket list” travel itinerary. Do I re-visit L.A. and D.C. before or after a dream vacation in Key West? And even though flying would get me to my destinations faster, should I instead plan a few leisurely, scenic road trips in that dream car? Hmm. Decisions, decisions.
It’s time to turn off the alarm clock and wake with the song birds instead of the tree frogs. It’s time to nap when I want to and stay up late just because I can (late, of course, being defined as anytime past 9 p.m.).
It’s time to discover the sweet, stress-free bliss of self-imposed ignorance.
It’s time to stash all the boring principal clothes in the back of a basement closet and pull out all the free-flowing, color-splashed Mother Earth hippie chick clothes for daily wear. (“This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” baby!)
It’s time to be a little more courageous and a little less timid, and it’s time to occasionally do something so spontaneous or say something so outrageous that witnesses will look at each other in alarm and whisper behind their hands, “Did she really just do/say THAT?” Yep, she sure did.
It’s time to be a little more patient and a little less demanding and to try harder to “go with the flow.” (This one may take a while.)
And speaking of patience, it’s time to extract the lead from my right foot and slow down at least to a speed that might allow me to argue a ticket down to a warning. Retired people shouldn’t be in such a hurry, right?
It’s time to stop talking about getting a tattoo . . .
It’s time to learn the names of all the Missouri wildflowers so that when I’m traipsing through chigger-infested ditches to get that “perfect” shot of a tiny purple bloom, I’ll know what I’m shooting. And speaking of photography, it’s time to take a million more pictures to improve my photography skills (reading all the manuals might be a good idea, too) so that when I finally have enough money saved up for that new macro lens that makes me drool, I’ll feel like I deserve it.
It’s time to watch all the reruns of The Big Bang Theory to convince myself that there are bigger geeks out there–and all the reruns of Malcolm in the Middle to convince myself that our family really isn’t that dysfunctional after all.
It’s time to learn how to make tiramisu so sinfully decadent and gelato so melt-in-your-mouth marvelous that I can eat dessert for breakfast, served with a sultry side dish of Nina Simone, and be in heaven for the rest of the day.
It’s time to start following my doctor’s orders by drinking a little less soda and a little more wine.
It’s time to start honing my powers of persuasion and argumentation (with just the right amount of sarcasm) so that I can challenge each of my sons to a battle of wits in the hopes that, with enough practice, I might someday actually win one of those battles.
It’s time to read the 17 unopened books stacked by my bedside, it’s time to pedal my bike on faraway trails, and it’s time to pet my dog. It’s time to feel the sunshine on my upturned face, the wet grass beneath my bare feet, and the cool breeze in my hair.
And it’s time to start working on that first book.
For all those people who have questioned, “How are you going to spend all your time? Aren’t you afraid you’ll get bored?” you don’t need to worry about me; if I can just get through the emotional mess of today, I’ve got the rest of this retirement gig covered. And if I do happen to run low on ideas 5-10 years from now, I can always add housecleaning to the list (but that’s only if I get desperate). Until then . . .
It’s time for me to smile.
The most sacred place dwells within our heart,
where dreams are born and secrets sleep,
a mystical refuge of darkness and light, fear and conquest, adventure and discovery, challenge and transformation.
Our heart speaks for our soul every moment while we are alive.
Listen . . . as the whispering beat repeats: be…gin, be…gin, be…gin.
It’s really that simple. Just begin . . . again.
“No, this is not the beginning of a new chapter in my life;
this is the beginning of a new book!
That first book is already closed, ended, and tossed into the seas;
this new book is newly opened, has just begun!
Look, it is the first page! And it is a beautiful one!”
― C. Joy Bell