MOVING THOSE MENTAL FILE CABINETS

NOTE: The goodness of retirement is the joy of being able to do nothing. But the nothing we do is really the something that is our lives. This blog is an attempt to comment on that nothing that is something. And by reading it, I hope you too will think a bit about that something.


Earlier this week I observed the fifth anniversary of my retirement.

And it’s amazing the things you can remember and the things you forget about that previous life in the working world. For the first year nothing faded from memory about my many academic experiences. Nothing. But after that first year, big things began to fade the quickest. And the little things fade the slowest…and some little things never fade.

I had worked in colleges and universities for nearly 40 years. And today it almost feels like 40 years since I did that job. I still feel sad, for some reason, when I walk through an office supply store. Too many tools of my former trade, too many memories. And I have not, believe it or not, stepped onto a university campus or entered a university building or a classroom anywhere since the day I retired. And to be honest I do not know why I have never done that. No real reason, I tell myself, but…I don’t know.

In a blog I wrote not long after I retired, I said: “But now the file cabinets in my mind that once were front and center and filled with thoughts of classes, meetings, and research have taken their proper place in a dusty corner. Doesn’t mean they’re not there and cannot be easily accessed, but it means that the file cabinet called things-to-do-in-retirement has now become front and center.”

And I suppose I have tried to keep it that way.

Also, my final job was overseas, 7,400 miles from where I presently live, so it isn’t like I run into my old colleagues at the grocery store. I do communicate with people that I have worked with, but mostly that’s fleeting.

I think the thing I still miss most, and will forever miss, is a feeling and a memory. That feeling in late August when summer was over and school was about to start again for a new year. The memory of the enthusiasm, the anticipation of something new about to begin, the preparation, the whole thing. It’s hard to explain what it was like in a way that accurately explains why I miss it. But there are always a few days in late August when thoughts and memories bubble up.

I’m certain anyone who is retired has those few things that stick like glue to their hearts and minds.

I love being retired and I love the new life my wife and I have crafted for ourselves. But anniversaries do offer a few days to ponder and to appreciate what was there for so many, many years and is not there anymore.

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