I loved school all my life.
Well, not PE, and not Algebra, and, OK, not that semester in high school English when we read The Pearl, The Lord of the Flies, and Crime & Punishement, and, OK, to be honest, not Civil Procedure. But minor annoyances aside, I really loved school. It’s not for everyone. I know lots of people who hated the whole process, who don’t learn well listening to a lecture, reading books, sitting in desks. But me, I loved it. I loved the loose-leaf notebooks, the reinforcers that I put on each of the three holes on my pages of notes, my color-coded notes on textbooks, the getting the syllabus on the first day, and the midterms in Autumn and Spring, and the going out for burgers after finals and, well, for me, even rather prosaic schools may as well have been Hogwarts because I love going to school.
I’m almost sixty and although one of the reasons I went into law was the fact that it’s a career you can practice even when you’re “old,” — one where it’e really true that experience and guile beat youth and skill (almost) every time — I am beginning to think about what I’ll do in retirement. What I have decided is that retirement can’t be like what happens when I manage to get a few days off from my job. The last few (OK, the last dozen or so) years have been (and, Goddess knows, the rest of this year looks to be) very, very busy at work. When I do manage to get a few days off, first I collapse for a day or so and then I work like a madwoman trying to catch up on everything that my garden, my home, and my life require, given that I’ve put everything off for weeks and weeks due to work. Maybe then I get a day at an art exhibit. And then I’m back at work.
Retirement can’t be like that. I’m going to need a routine, some goals, a purpose, an over-riding plan. And it needs to include gardens, and art galleries, and French, and much more time for meditation.
Whenever I mention retiring, my closest friends always say, “Oh, you’ll do pro bono work. First Amendment, Water Rights, Energy. You’ll do what you love and have fun. You can’t quit writing law.” And they may be right, but when I retire I want to do All the Different Things — I’m not sure what they are, but I’m pretty sure they’re not writing briefs, although, who knows, I may spend a year going mad and then beg some group to let me write a brief for them because, well, life is real, life is earnest and the grave is not its goal, I suppose, and we all know that old fire horses, even when put to meadow, start to run when they hear the sirens. We all have to do what we’re good at, and I’ve spent a lifetime getting good at writing briefs. No, really, a lifetime. My dad was training me for this, whether he knew it or not, when we argued politics, and books, and life after every single dinner of my life. So it’s not at all inconceivable that I’ll just keep doing what I know how to do even after I retire.
But one of the things that I’ve always hoped to do when I retire is to go to school. If retirement is a time to do what you love, well, as noted, I’ve always loved going to school. And there are about a gazillion, OK, well, at least a lot, of courses that I never got to take. My bachelors and masters degrees are in Special Education and although I took and loved a few semesters of Reading Swedish, Danish, & Norwegian, some Geology, a bit of American History, and some good tennis instruction as an undergrad, and although my masters work on Alfred Adler has informed pretty much every day of my life, and my time in the Maryland Archives writing a dissertation on the Lunacy Commission was grand fun, those degrees were pretty technically-focused. And, then there was my JD, which, Civil Procedure aside, I found really interesting, but I was an evening student and I mostly took what was going to be on the bar exam. And, so, I’ve always imagined that one of the things I’d do when I retire is go to school. Take the Great Books courses at St. John’s College, or take advantage of the fact that most states allow seniors to audit college courses for next-to free. French Romantic Poetry, Chinese Art, Philosophy of Religion, the Bronte Sisters, Virginia History, Garden Design, Southern Cooking, Flower Arrangement, Jugenstil Design, William Morris, Anais Nin, Feminist Poetry, Norse Government, Science of the Aurora, . . . . There’s not much that I wouldn’t study.
But technology has gone even farther. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about a MOOC, or massively open on-line course, I’m thinking of taking even now, before I retire.
What’s your plan for being a Crone???