Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Mon, 04 Feb 2002 08:03:43 -0500 (EST)
Random Thought: Why Aren't You Retired?

I know. I've shared a lot lately. More than usual. I thought I was "worded out" last week. So, apologize for this one. I'll go silent for a while. What stirred me was a brief conversation I had at a superbowl party yesterday. A middle-aged, colleague, who wasn't all that much into football, same up to me and with a tone of surprise saying, "Louis, I heard you aren't retired yet."

"No." I really didn't want to talk "business" since I was enjoying the impending upset.

"How come?" she went on. "You've put in enough years to."

"Why should I. I'm having too much fun."

"Fun? Not me," she answered with a hint of envy. "I can't wait for it. I'm counting the years to go. I'm tired. I'm out as soon as I can be. You can take home right now as much if not more as if stayed on over there."

"It's only money. Too much is put on this retirement stuff. It not a purpose or a reason to get up. Besides, you must have a bunch of years to go."

"Too many," was her forlorn reply. And with a subtle sigh, she went to another table and went back to the game.

I didn't pay much attention to that brief and chilling exchange until it reappeared as I struggled to get back in walking form this chilly, pre-dawn morning. It repeated almost word for word another conversation I had last Friday and a few days before that. Do you know how many times I've had that conversation lately? Think someone is giving me a hint that they want to put me out to pasture? You know the grass over there ain't necessarily green. From her words and tone, my colleague and others like her seem to be asking for justification for being kind of negative and resigned, and asking approval for chasing what seems what they don't have instead of using their own energies to relish what they do. So many of us teachers feel chained in. So many of us see a place filled with limitations, obstacles, problems, staleness, and complain about them as we focus on them. So many of us get up and don't really want to go in. I choose to get up with an invigorating "yes!" I choose to feel free. I choose to see a place filled with freshness, possibilities, opportunities, a richness if you will, and am grateful for it. Can that be why so many people are surprised at my answer?

Yeah, I know. I'm sixty-one, although I feel like I'm a sprite eighteen. And yeah, I've been at Valdosta State for about 35 years. And still yeah, goodness knows how much more equivalency time I have in accrued sick leave since I've not taken a day I can remember. And a final yeah, the pay isn't so great. Nevertheless, why would I retire? To what? You know I have discovered since the journey started by my epiphany in 1991 that, as Popeye, The Sailor Man says, "youse gets whats youse puts in." What you see in yourself and teaching is what you get. Your view of yourself and teaching is what you will live. They will unfold as you expect. It's that self-fulfilling prophecy stuff. Why should I fill my days with resentment, despair, anger, resignation, fear, cynicism? I don't like being down or choose to feel miserable. I don't want dark, cloudy days. I much prefer to see the sun shining even if it unseen above the clouds. I much prefer to fill my world with love, smiles, gratitude, appreciation, benevolence towards others, and treasure what I do in the splendor of each moment. I like and choose to feel happy and fulfilled. Hey, the recent unexpected death of two colleagues, one from a suicide, is a heavy reminder that today is my only day, that I'm fortunate to be living it in the way I do with what I have. I haven't time to focus on the negative, to look back with regret or wait around thumbing for a ride to happiness and fulfillment that might come my way. It's all around me right now, this day, with neat people. I enjoy being me, where I am, with whom I am, doing what I do.

Sure there are difficulties and disappointments, problems and concerns, obstacles. Hey, it would be the same wherever and whenever I would be and whatever I would be doing, retired or not. Fortunately, I feel fortunate. I'm still giving myself and others special gifts. I still look forward to interacting with those neat people. I still have great expectations. Each day is still fresh. Each day is a bunch of precious, irreplaceable experiences I still believe the best things are yet to happen. I am still convinced that the star has not yet to shine brightest in the good night. I know the flame has yet to burn its highest. I know the record harvest hasn't yet been reaped. I still am willing to try new thing. I still relish trying new things. The challenge is still there; the adventure is still there; the discovery is still there; the meaning is still there; the excitement is still there; the feeling of being alive is still there. I still have a sense of what service is. I still have a sense to act with urgency, be patient to continue making the effort, and be patient for results. I still am determined to make each day count. I still believe each student is beautiful and wonderful and capable of doing great things, knowing each is a treasure yet to be discovered. I still admire each of them. I still appreciate the experience. The desire to make a difference in the lives of others is still there. I still have that bounce in each step. I still dance onto campus and into the classroom believing I will make that difference in as big a way I can today. Doggone I know the joy and excitement. Do these people know that I live in an incredible world, a world beyond conceivable richness? I live in that richness I look around and see all those people with whom I have the chance to experience all the opportunities of life. You know, I have found that if I live teaching, love teaching, make it even more magnificent and richer by being positive and present, the richness that is teaching will grow richer. Each moment with those people is a blessing a minute of which is too precious to waste with moping around.

Yeah, I know. People think that I'm idealistic, unrealistic, got my head in the clouds, am "touchy feely," and all that. Well, I'm too busy to think what other people think, say, and do. I'm too busy lifing myself up to a high. I'm too busy living happiness and fulfillment. I'm too busy releasing that beautiful, worthy person inside me and being the catalyst for others to do the same to look back with regret. I'm too busy focusing on being the most authentic, loving, caring, faithful, believing, hopeful person I can be. Like the Duc de Saint-Simon said to himself each day, I've got too many great things to do today.

Why in heavens name would I choose to walk away from all that? That's not rational. It's insane!

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
                                 /     \__/         \/  /  /\ /~\/         \
                          /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\
                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
                         _ _ /      don't practice on mole hills" -    \____

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