Routines old and new

A shady and inviting path through the woods.

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Things have changed in my getting-ready-for-school routine. I’m not getting ready. I retired from teaching after spending most of my adult life in education.

I always wanted to be a teacher. I organized my dolls in neat rows, lecturing them on the ABCs and simple math. I occasionally corralled my little brothers, passing out pencils and lined paper, and practiced delivering directions to this lively, distracted crew.

I loved reading. History. Spelling Bees. The smell of crayons. Sharpened pencils.

I loved new sets of books. My teachers. A bumpy school bus ride.

My grandmothers were teachers. My mother was a certified teacher. I always traveled the teacher-in-training path.

From the time I was five years old, I have been going to school, getting children ready for school, or working in a school. Most of my educator friends have, too.

The whole cycle of our activities, family plans, and routines have revolved around the rhythm of the school calendar year. For the most part, it has been predictable and enjoyable. And then I loved teaching. I can’t imagine a more rewarding and challenging career.

So this retirement routine is all different. It is a frontier full of discovery for me. I know that change and adapting to it is a part of life. And it involves some recognition and acceptance of getting older. When did this happen?

My already-retired friends assure me I will love it — that I will look forward to and enjoy every day.

Many retired people I know say they don’t know how they ever had time to work. They volunteer. They join service organizations. They exercise. They create book clubs. They become more active in church. They travel more.

Some claim they don’t even keep track of the days of the week. That’s hard to imagine.

There are things I am looking forward to:

Driving north mid-week to enjoy October colors in Michigan.

Grocery shopping on Wednesdays and taking advantage of a senior discount.

Heading south to a warm, sandy beach in late January.

Attending a grandchild’s school program or chaperoning a field trip without scheduling a day off and creating sub-plans.

But there are also things I will miss:

I will miss my co-workers and our daily interactions and support for one-another.

I will miss the schedule. Each fall, greeting a classroom full of nervous teenagers. Getting to know them and planning for their instruction. Reading their writing and being a part of their lives.

I felt like my efforts were never enough. There was always more to be done. And then I often worried about them. I won’t miss that.

So I’m following a different path, writing a new chapter, and adjusting to a life without setting an alarm clock. I am having an extra cup of coffee in the morning, reading and actually finishing books, and scheduling more time with family and friends.

Yes, I think I will enjoy this new routine.

It’s a Fine Life.

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