Tuesday, May 06, 2008

“Why Aren’t You Retired?”

I’m not going to apologize for not posting for awhile—not because I’m not sorry, but because attempting to *have a life* and then apologizing for doing so is probably silly. (!) During this “having a real life” stuff, however, I had an interesting encounter, more especially in light of some recent spiritual conversations I’ve been having… Here’s how it went. Saturday afternoon I was in the front yard, finishing up the mowing, when a young man approached me—and not to sound insensitive, but by looking, I could tell this young man was in the category of if not mildly mentally retarded, at least not in the upper echelons of his class. We get more than our share of this kind of person walking our small-town streets and striking up conversations with anyone they see, so when he headed my way, I was pretty much prepared for anything. First, he said, “I’ll do that for you,” meaning the mowing. I said I appreciated that, but that I liked mowing, and I wanted to do it myself. I did have to repeat that part, but I said it with a smile, so he got it the second time or so. Then he asked, “Do you work?” I bit back the obvious answer that came to mind (!) and said, “Yes, I do.” “Where?” he asked. Now, at the time I was mowing the yard, I was wearing a bright brick-red T-shirt with white letters across the front spelling out the company name. It’s a leftover shirt from my competition in the Battle of the Businesses last September, and like all these sorts of shirts, it’s so comfy you don’t care if you’re advertising…you just like wearing it. But apparently, that wasn’t clear enough of a hint for him. I didn’t say, “Can’t you read my shirt?” As I answered, I believe I pointed to the shirt at the same time, thereby accomplishing the hint without saying so. :-) And I smiled. Really. I did. To which he said, “Why aren’t you retired?” Now, in my old Chicago persona—which still lives right behind my tongue—the only fitting answer to that question is, “That’s none of your business.” But, again, I’m not in Chicago anymore. I’m in small-town Indiana, and in small-town Indiana, you answer a question like that more kindly, especially in an instance like this one. But what to say that wouldn’t sound really pathetic? I mean, am I going to tell a complete stranger, “I can’t afford to retire”? That’s more information than they really have a right to know. Am I going to say, “Because I have such an interesting job I hate to leave it”? Not exactly; besides, that invites more questions, and I was more interested in getting the lawn mowed so I could get on with the other work I had waiting for me indoors. So what did I say? “Uhh…because I don’t want to?” Accompanied by a shrug, this seemed to do the trick. The young man nodded, wished me a good day and went his way. But what he ended up saying to me, and how and why he said it, I’m still pondering. I can readily surmise that he asked that question primarily because in his eyes, I’m a little gray-haired lady, and little gray-haired ladies are supposed to be retired. Maybe I’m making a giant leap of illogic here, but I don’t think he would have asked that question had my hair still been auburn. The other pondering I’m doing, however—and more pointedly—is about my answer. In the plainest and simplest possible terms, it was a lie. A little white lie, maybe; a lie with a good cause, maybe; but it’s still a lie...and I don’t like lying. Because, fact is, I do want to retire. At least from the day gig. And I want it more and more every day. As it happens, the Lord and I were talking over the issue of “work” and such the day before this young man asked me the question. In fact, I specifically asked the Lord to give me a sign about when and how I could retire, or if I was supposed to be thinking that way, and to make it snappy, if He would please. :-) I can’t help but wonder if what this young man said to me has something to do with a plan in mind for that specific desire of mine. So why am I not retired? Well, of course, short answer is, “I can’t afford it…yet.” So if the Lord plans on dropping a huge windfall on me soon, so He can set in motion the second part of that plan, I’m ready. :-) But also, seriously speaking, I have to admit I’m one of those souls who’s never gotten used to the rhythm of “work” in this country. I knew intellectually that, unlike students, most workers don’t get three months off for summer vacation in the middle of the year. (Kids don’t even get three months off anymore, but that’s a whole ‘nuther problem I have, for a whole ‘nuther blog.) So right there, I knew there would always be a time of the year when I would wake up, look outside, and think, “Why am I doing this again?” But it also dawns upon me that maybe “retiring,” for me, could actually mean doing something in which I can get three months off in the year. Like…teaching. Some schools still believe in summer breaks. Some of them even believe in summer breaks, Interim breaks between Thanskgiving and New Year’s, and a generous spring break to boot. Now, let’s think about this. Teaching writing for nine months of the year, with three months off. Where do I sign? I guess I’ll be looking for more indicators of whether this is the way to go, in the near future. Peeking under educational-opportunity rocks. Seeing what my credentials will get me by way of access to a possible class or two…or three… If the novels don’t take off first. :-) In the meantime, look for me outdoors as much as I can get there. If I’m really lucky, I’ll be behind the lawn mower. (!) Thoughts? Janny


Deb said...

You've been teaching unpaid for years. Go for it, say I.

Now on the hair color thing--no, we won't go there. My teenagers have given me the gray strands I have, and believe me, I've earned each & every one.


Janny said...

I think it's sobering enough now to realize that you have teenagers, plural. I still think of Tops as this gangly little 11-year-old. (!)

T1, gray hair and all

Janny said...
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