I’m writing this on Sunday, July 24. In exactly one week, I will be entering a strange new phase of life in which everything I do will be tinged with a bittersweet realization. More about that shortly.
I should explain that I work in IT at a large Kentucky public school district (not Clark County). Anyone who works in education knows that the school year calendar rules our lives. So many events happen once, and only once, per year. Summer vacation, the first day of the new school year, fall break, the holidays, spring break, grading periods, testing periods, graduations, and so on. In IT especially, we have many processes and events that take place on a regular schedule each year.
And so, over the course of my 28+ years in this career, I have always marked time by these annual events. And it was during a summer professional development event two weeks ago that I came to the realization that I was about to enter my final year in this job.
About five years ago, my wife and I — she works for the same school district as I — made a decision and set the dates for our retirement. I decided I would conclude my career on August 31, 2023. At the time, that seemed a long way off.
In fact, the intervening years sort of got away from me. First, there was the whole COVID-19 thing, which turned the education world — and the IT world — upside-down. Next came figuring out how to get back to “normal” — whatever that means.
Then a couple of weeks ago, I looked at the calendar and realized my career was nearing its final year.
I’ve never been one to “watch the clock” — whether that means anticipating the daily quitting time, or anxiously looking forward to retirement. I am fortunate to work for a great organization with skilled and dedicated colleagues. I truly love my work and enjoy every day. Mostly.
On good days, quitting time comes and goes before I even realize it.
There’s this thing that education “veterans” (read: old-timers) like me do in the workplace. We ask each other the same question, “So, how much longer have you got?” Meaning, how much longer until you can retire.
Until a few years ago, I didn’t think about it much. I’d usually just shrug when asked. As I said, I enjoy my work and find it incredibly rewarding. I thought I might keep working well past my 27-year requirement for full retirement. I thought I may work until I’m 65 or even 67. I could have retired a year ago, at 59.
Two things made me re-evaluate my stance on working well beyond my retirement window.
The first was the arrival of my grandson eight years ago. The second was the beginning of my second career as a writer. My grandson is growing up way too fast, and I definitely want to have more time to spend with him before he gets too old to want to hang out with me.
And my dabbling at writing newspaper columns has transformed into running a nonprofit e‑zine. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Suffice it to say that I have no fear of finding myself retired with nothing to do.
So the date is set, and now I enter that strange new world where everything I do on an annual basis will be done for the last time.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll attend my last convocation. That will start the “final year tour.” I know it will fly by, and I’m not going to hurry it. But when the day arrives, I will look forward to spending more of my time devoted to WinCity News & Views.
And to my grandson. If he’ll let me.