Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Abandoning the Past

Over the last year or so, I've been quite shocked to learn just how easy it is to leave your past behind. When I retired, I let it be known in local teaching circles that I'd be available for substitute work. I was hardly out of the school when the phone started hopping. To my surprise, I heard myself declining every request. In retrospect, I now realize that announcing my availability was a mere psychological safety net: If early retirement didn't suit, I had a way back into the classroom. Without losing face. But so far, I have felt no need for any such 'insurance policy' and, for the moment at least, I can never see myself in front of a classroom again. On reflection, I know I should never say never: Sometime in the future, bored with my new life, I might well end up clawing the door of the local Teachers' Centre.

In the meantime, I am quite amazed at how easy it has been to walk away from my entire working life and not miss it at all. On my last day, I left with no more than an armful of stuff (Again, I was surprised by how little I wanted to keep): I have never been back to the school (though I did drive by a few times, so maybe, deep down, I really am as nostalgic as the next man): I don't miss the pupils at all, and I have had but brief contact with one ex-colleague.

So, as the song says, how does it feel? Since leaving, I have never felt any sense of relief, trepidation, elation, regret, sadness; none, indeed, of any of the emotions that people had kindly warned me about. My dominant feeling is of enthusiasm for what I want to do over the years I have left. A great blessing I do have - and one which many other pensioners are not fortunate enough to share - is that my wife is still alive and much more youthful than I like to think I am myself. One of life's cruelest tricks must surely be to deprive any recently-retired person of his or her beloved partner. That, and the loss of health of either of us and our children are the only real fears I have.


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