I began teaching in 1979. I’ll do the math for you – I have been a teacher for 33 years. I went from high school to university, and then into the classroom as a fresh-faced teacher, one following the other with no hiatus, no bumming around Europe, no years of searching for myself. I have effectively been in school pretty much non-stop for 50 years.
On June 29, when I hugged my students good-bye and put them on their buses, passed in my school key and walked out the door, it was a very strange feeling. Sadness and elation warred in my psyche. I felt kind of disoriented. I was no longer Joyce Grant-Smith – teacher.
I looked forward to retiring. I loved working with kids. I loved those moments of clarity, when students would look at me with the light bulb flashing over their heads. I loved their honesty, their humour, their energy. But the demands of the job had become increasingly debilitating. I was working 60-70 hours a week, just to keep up with the planning, assessing, and paperwork. I had little time or energy to do anything but teach. I was feeling exhausted and discouraged. I wanted to have the freedom to enjoy more in life than the classroom. I wanted to visit family and friends, sleep in, sit and watch the river flow by.
I had dipped my toes into the writing pool. I have several magazine articles, short stories, a YA novel and a non-fiction book published. I wanted to make writing more than a hobby. I wanted to start a new career.
I wanted to travel. The notion of visiting places any time other than March break and summer vacation was a real novelty. Wouldn’t it be great to travel in September? That had never been an option for me.
So, here I am. Retired.
I first thing I did was throw myself into projects at home. It’s hard to turn off that “I have to get this done” switch. I cleaned the house, top to bottom. I organized, sorted and purged, scrubbed and dusted.
Every other summer, I would assign myself a big job, one that I didn’t have time to do during the school year. For example, last summer I painted all the trim on the house. This year, I set myself the job of staining the siding of the house.
Around the second week of July, I had a revelation. An epiphany. I didn’t have to work on the house all summer, in the heat and the insects. I could wait till the fall. This was a huge mental shift for me. I had time. There was life after the third week of August!
Since that grand revelation, I have gradually started to slow down, like a top that has been spinning wildly and then begins to slacken in its gyrations. I take time to read – something I love to do but had trouble making time for. I write. I have taken up water colour painting. I ride my horses, nearly every day. I putter in my gardens.
Granted, I still have moments of panic. That feeling of “I should be busy – things are going to get ahead of me” has not yet disappeared entirely. It is coming less often, though. The mind set “I have time” is becoming the new norm.
Oh, my land, it is sweet!