It’s Time

Just this morning, I took the outgoing mail down to the box and dropped in in.  Included with the monthly bills was a form letter to my former school district declining their offer to continue working for them as a substitute teacher.  I finally decided to stop teaching–entirely.

When I retired, I refused to sign up for any classes or do any kind of structured activity for the first six months.  I had been in school for 53 straight years, first as a student and then as a teacher, and was delighted to not have a daily time schedule.  I was happy that I no longer had to wait until the bell rang to go pee.

I was as surprised as anyone when I did the paperwork to become a substitute teacher after that six months passed.  I quickly discovered that I needed to put down limits. I’d only sub for English or social studies teachers (subjects I knew pretty well), only at two schools where I had friends, and only for teachers who I respected because I knew they knew how to run a classroom.  Every time I made an exception, I ended up regretting it.

For the first few years, going back to my school, was a pleasure.  It was fun to see my ex-colleagues and meet new teachers.  There was a cadre of former students still there who knew me because I had been their freshman English teacher, so I was not an entirely unknown quantity.

Going to the other school was a test, having taught for 36 years in one place, but among the groups I subbed for, I quickly became just another teacher and a sub that they (usually) respected.  You have to understand, the pool of competent subs is so thin that showing up with a level of confidence and expertise was often something kids appreciated.  I was shocked at the number of times kids actually thanked me for being their sub that day.

I learned to always ask the teachers I subbed for to email me lesson plans the night before when possible, so I could go in feeling prepared and even read what the kids had read if we were going to do something text-related.  Getting to interact with the kids without having to do any significant preparation and then walk away without any papers to grade was wonderful, and getting in front of a classroom again felt really good.

But then there were days when I’d end up showing the same film for 5 hours, or administering tests for the entire day.  I’d feel like the clock-watching students, just anxious for the day to be over.

I started turning down so many jobs that the demand began to dry up.  I had grown so used to spending time in my yard, or taking my daily walks, or going hiking that I hated being required to be indoors.  I didn’t like being on my feet all day and coming home feeling exhausted with my back aching.  Taking sub jobs meant I’d miss yoga classes or time with my hiking group or acupuncture appointments I’d been looking forward to.

So, last year, I put the word out that I was pretty sure I was done.  I volunteered for a couple of school-related things to help out friends–proctoring AP tests, being a part of a panel for senior-project presentations–but that was it.

This year, no calls at all.  I guess I am done as a teacher.  I’m not an entrepreneur.  I don’t need the time to start a new career, but I do want to have the time to learn new things and maybe become good at something that’s not teaching.  I gave 40 years to teaching.  I think it’s time to let it go.

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Hating the Dating

For a while there it seems like we were getting a lot of stories about dating. It’s been like a wave and most of them seem to be horror stories of some kind. You are all reinforcing the notion that I have had for some time now that if ever I were to become single again, either through divorce or unfortunate accident, that I would happily embrace the single life.

First off, I’ve been out of the dating scene for over 40 years, and it now seems like the use of on-line services is a must. So that means I’d have to create a profile right? Something with just enough honesty, but emphasizing my good points and minimizing the bad ones. I tried unsuccessfully to get on a site and look at what the elements of a profile were, but I’m guessing it would go something like this.

Interests: To start with I’m interested in all things outdoors, such as rock-climbing, running marathons, backpacking, surfing and BASE jumping. I’m interested in all of these things and think anyone who can do them would be a real blast to hang out with. I just can’t physically do any of these things any more. So my actual interests run toward napping, reading, movies, concerts, music of all kinds, napping, gardening, small backyard projects, napping, beer, eating out and travel. Did I mention napping?

Personal qualities: I am patient, except for when I am not. I have a good sense of humor—or at least I think I am funny. I am suspicious of spontaneity, generally expecting some kind of disastrous outcome. I love being around free-spirited people, I am just not one of you. I am filled both with a sense of adventure and a sense of impending doom. I am often confused.

See, I can feel the left-swiping starting already.

I’ve mentioned that I don’t show or share emotions easily because, as vulnerable as I can be in my writing, I’m afraid of them in real life. I have this unfortunate habit of developing a crush on nearly any attractive woman who is nice to me. It’s not anything I act on (in most cases) but the fact that those unruly emotions can burst so easily from me scares me, and to begin dating full of hope and expectation just to be crushed by rejection eventually leads me to feel that being alone would not be so bad.

And not getting rejected could possibly be worse! All of the uncertainty, complexity and commitment? I’ve been trying to make that work, more or less successfully, for all these years, but would I really want to start it all over?

A plan is already beginning to form in my mind just in case. In one scenario, I see myself getting rid of the house, downsizing to a small apartment in an area full of bars and restaurants, getting a much larger television than I could possibly need, and maybe a cat–really independent cat who hangs out in the apartment just so I won’t feel like I’m always talking to myself.

In scenario 2, one of those attractive women who is nice to me casually mentions that she is looking for a roommate, preferably male, and I end up with a companionable person, without commitment or expectation, who is pleasant to look at and nice to talk to. Sort of a replacement for the cat in scenario one.

My very best wishes to all of you who are out there doing the dating thing. I admire you and hope that you will soon stumble across a really nice, hopefully sane person who shares your interests and personal qualities, or at least is willing to tolerate most of them.