This Is It: The End of the Beginning

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.

“Boldness, be my friend.”–Shakespeare, Cymbeline, Act I, scene 6

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.
Royce Addington

“The years skip along easily; it’s the days that are tough.”–Unknown

“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 

About icedteawithlemon

I have recently retired from a 30-year career in education in one of the best school districts in the world. I hope to spend my second life reading, writing, photographing, traveling, biking, cheering on my favorite baseball team (the St. Louis Cardinals), and soaking up glorious sunshine. In my spare time I enjoy playing with my pet tarantulas, trying out new flavors of chewing gum, and knitting socks for prison inmates. I'm almost positive that in a past life I was one of the Seven Dwarfs (most likely "Grumpy"), and in my next life I'm going to be either a taste tester for Hershey's or a model for Victoria's Secret's new line, "Bloomers for Boomers." I want to travel country back roads, singing Vanilla Ice songs at every karaoke bar and rating bathroom cleanliness at every truckstop. And someday I plan to own a private beach where skinny girls aren't allowed. I want to be a writer when I grow up. "Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake."--Henry David Thoreau
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18 Responses to This Is It: The End of the Beginning

  1. emjayandthem says:

    Well done; you’ve earned the tears and you’ve earned the cake that comes after them 🙂 Enjoy … sniff sniff!

  2. warren gunter says:

    a wise man told me something that has stuck with me over the years. we have to step out of our comfort zone once in a while. by doing so, we can grow as a person. it creates new challenges. keeps us alive. if anyone can do this whole “new beginning”, its you. i have faith that you will not only take this head on, but will succeed in everything you do. i am looking forward to reading more about it on your blog. keep your chin up and your lovely smile big.

    • Thank you, Warren. I’ve been attempting a few “comfort zone violations” over the past year and have been quite satisfied with the results! I appreciate your confidence in me, and I’m looking forward to meeting all the upcoming challenges (and adventures!) head on …

  3. Jamie Adams says:

    Great post! It’s time for the next chapter!

  4. Judy says:

    Thank you for everything! I will miss you and all the encouragement that you passed on to me. Have a blast and live the dream!

    • Thank you, Judy! I have been so fortunate to work with so many wonderful teachers over the years, and I count you among them. You have barely started on this journey, and I hope it turns out to be as wonderful and fulfilling as mine has. Enjoy next year–and keep in touch!

  5. RayEtta says:

    I retired just a little over two years ago. My days are so full I never get done. I had, have a huge list of things to do. I told myself way too many times that I would do that when I no longer work. I have not come close to fulfilling that list. First of all I researched family and did a family tree and a history. By the time I printed copies for my brother, my two girls, and a couple of aunts, and a couple cousins, I had folders and binders stacked two feet high on my desk. Oh, and copying all those really old photos, but it was rewarding. I started a blog, and am in the process of starting a retirement small business. Something to keep me busy now that I don’t WORK.

    More importantly I gather that you have been in the field of education and I want to tell you how marvelous a career that is. I want to remind you of all the many good things you have shown kids during the years. I was very influenced by a couple of my teachers, or a few or more than a few.

    My oldest daughter taught for several years and now is a principal, I had a bother- in-law, a sister-in-law and a mother-in-law that were all teachers. I am in awe at the importance of their work.

    I think you will find that your days will be so full, the only difference is that it can now be more about you and what you want to do. Tasha Tudor, I think that was her name, made the statement once that, “I have done a good job of my life.” That is what you will come to think too. Congratulations and have lots of fun.

    • Thank you, RayEtta, and I’m glad you are enjoying your retirement! I, too, have put off so many things lately, telling myself, “I’ll do that when I retire.” It will most likely take me years to get to the bottom of that list! And yes, I am retiring from 30 years in education, all of them spent at the same wonderful little school district. I spent 17 years in the English classroom before entering into administration and spent the last 7 years as the junior high principal. I can think of no greater career, nothing that could be more rewarding and fulfilling than being an educator and every day being surrounded by young people. I have been blessed.

  6. Kip Light says:

    Congratulations for every day of those 30 years of being an educator! You deserve the leisure of no alarm clocks, staying up late and checking off the items on your bucket list (even if the list gets longer the more things you check off, as mine has done). God bless you for the work you have done, and for the future that you helped create by educating our children (or in my case, grandchildren, too). Enjoy the beginning of your new book in life! And make sure that, when you finish that book you plan on writing, you let us know. I’m going to want an autographed copy 🙂

    • Thank you, kind sir! And I’m sure the bucket list WILL continue to grow–with each new experience and each new adventure comes the realization of other opportunities just waiting to be explored! So much to see, so much to do, so much to be … looking forward to it! And if that book ever reaches publication, you will most certainly know!

  7. bronxboy55 says:

    As I read the comments of your readers and friends, I can only imagine how many lives you’ve touched in that school, and beyond, over the years. I hope the smiles never stop.

    • Thank you, Charles. It hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows … it’s impossible to be a teacher (and especially a principal) without making a few enemies, but those enemies have been out-numbered by the armies of students, past and present, who have welcomed me into their hearts.

      On the last day of school, one of my eighth grade boys (probably the most challenging student I’ve ever had because of all the inner demons he battles) asked if I was not going to be here next year. When I told him no, I was retiring, he said, “I know we haven’t always been good in the past, but I really do like you, and I’m glad you were my principal.” And then he asked if we could take a picture together; we did, and he smiled and said thank you when I told him I would mail him a copy. And then I went to my office and cried (but only a little bit) because I realized that, despite our conflicts, I had made a difference in his young life . . . and that’s what teaching is all about. I wish I could believe that every student left my classroom (or office) with the same love of grammar, poetry, and Shakespeare that I possess, but I know better . . . and hope instead that they at least learned from my example the importance of kindness and caring, humility and humor.

      Good grief!

  8. John Bradley-O'Neill says:

    The answer to all your questions, dreams, and doubts, is blowin’ in the wind. Release a red balloon into the air, and let the winds carry it where they may.

    I love quotes, so here’s a delicious one for you…

    “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
    ― Terry Pratchett, “A Hat Full of Sky”

    I love that title…a hat full of sky…damn, wish I had thought of that. Sublime.

    • I love quotes, too, and that is a great one (that I’m already discovering to be true)–I may have to use it in a blog one of these days! And in my mind’s eye, I can envision that “hat full of sky,” and yes, it is sublime.

      • John Bradley-O'Neill says:

        By the way, excellent writing and thoughts, as always. I’m glad you liked the quote.

        If I may, I want to post this link to the (sadly) late Donna Summer’s fantastic rendition of the opera classic “Con Te Partiro” (“I Will Go With You”). Why? Because I have a quirky habit of reading and listening to song lyrics and interpreting my own personal meaning of the lyrics. To me, in this song, she is not singing about love of another; she is addressing her inner soul, and promises to awaken it. This is “disco meets opera”, and it works!

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