Practising retirement, and my cover story 3

Tales of RetirementTales of Retirement

By Mark
Elementary School Teacher
Practising Retirement – July 2016 to September 2017


I’m pretty lucky – I get to try something very few people ever have the opportunity to try. A practice retirement. All the upsides and downsides without the concomitant case of nerves leading up to the big day.

I am a school teacher. Fifteen years ago, at age 45, I left the legal profession and returned to school to qualify as an elementary teacher. I love what I do. Every single day I walk through my school with a smile on my face because I love being around all the people I am around, from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 8 (this year I have classes covering all grade levels from JK to 8!). Nobody should be allowed to have this much fun!


The lure of retirement

I am not, however, a complete Pollyanna. There are always challenges. For me the biggest challenge is being, and feeling, fully prepared to support the learning of my students in a meaningful way. It wears. The last few years I find myself longingly contemplating the situations of the many friends and family members who have retired, and wishing I could just stay home and not have to worry about being adequately prepared for the next day.

So I count myself lucky that my partner and I decided to bank 25% of my salary for three years so I could take the fourth year off with pay. That year begins in just over six months.


The scarier truth lurking behind my cover story

Many people have asked me what plans I have made for my year off, and my answer is always the same – none. I tell people I do not want to be tied down with plans; that I want to be free to do whatever strikes me in the moment. These things are true, but I think there is a bigger, scarier truth lurking just behind my cover story. There are things that are part of my long-time, ever-since-I-was-a-kid, this-is-at-the-core-of-my-inner-self, dreams that I am afraid to butt up against with nowhere else to turn. Because I might fail. We all have them – those deep-seated perceptions we have of our creative selves, whether our creativity is expressed with a pen or a paint brush, a chisel or a cheerful smile, a piano or a plié.

I am very active in many ways that have taken me by complete surprise as an adult. When I moved with my family to a secluded 50 acre property near a small Ontario city over 20 years ago, I had never participated in any creative endeavours. Within a few years of arriving here, I had joined an amateur theatre group and a choir. I also began writing – not creative works, but pieces that were able to satisfy, at least initially, that longstanding writing itch. A few years ago I found myself deeply enthralled with poetry, an infatuation that has led me to a new creative interest in theatre from the dramaturgical perspective.


Focus, dabble, or run for the hills?

Why am I mentioning all this? Because I now have the opportunity to try out a practice ‘retirement’. I have many interests to choose from. Have I set myself up for success, or for failure? I don’t know. I do know that my interests are so many and so varied that I cannot possibly give them all a reasonable try in the course of 13 months. Should I focus on one thing? Should I dabble? Should I avoid the whole question and head to Patagonia?

I’m not really sure. So for the time being, I am playing it safe and telling people I haven’t made any plans; that I’m going to take it easy and see what comes up. Maybe that way, I’ll figure out what to expect of myself leading up to my real retirement in a few years. One can only hope.

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