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Retiring is so very, very hard to do

posted: 10.10.13 by Andrea Lunsford

This is the first fall in 43 years that I have not been on duty to welcome a new group of students to campus and to plunge into teaching, most often a first- or second-year writing class.  Last year, which was the beginning of my retirement, I was on campus for orientation and moving in, and I taught one class in the winter—and tutored at the writing center during winter and spring terms.  This year, I still have an office (still working with a dozen dissertation writers) and I will do some tutoring, but I am truly officially retired.  Indeed, I want to be retired and am trying to think of myself in those terms.  But it’s still very, very hard for me to do:  I often wake up thinking of students or of student writing, and I look forward to checking email because I know I will hear from former students.  I have often said that if I could go back and choose any career, I would still choose teaching.  I have loved every single day of my teaching career and, indeed, teaching has been what I have clung to in times of grief and sorrow and loss.  Students have been my mainstay, always.

But I have found that being retired doesn’t mean giving up teaching.  Rather, I find myself teaching in new ways—with my grandnieces and other young ones I love, with teachers at the Bread Loaf School of English and across the country where I visit for workshops and lectures, and with students in other venues, including social networking ones.  In addition, retirement does have some pretty nice perks:  the second week of classes just ended at Stanford, and now that I’ve wrapped up my work on the Feminisms and Rhetorics Conference (which we hosted during the first week of class), I am putting the finishing touches on letters of recommendation for grad students on the job market and packing up for—a vacation!  On October 10, I will fly from San Francisco to Lisbon to join a friend I’ve known since 1968 for a couple of days in Lisbon followed by a week or so on a Viking River Cruise through Portugal.  Along the way, we’ll visit many villages and towns in Portugal and then head for Salamanca and Santiago de Compostela and Madrid.  When I return I expect to be rested and renewed—and ready to put in some more tutoring hours!

In the meantime, I have been thinking how much teachers, and especially teachers of writing, need some kind of break, some way of turning off long enough to recharge our engines and spend time in reflecting, contemplating the work that we do and why we do it.  So while I know everyone can’t take a trip to Portugal right now, I do hope that everyone can find a small patch of time—even half a day or a few hours—for reflection, for calm, for taking in what Emily Dickinson called “this whole experiment of Green.”


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