I have a good friend who just retired from Saint Joseph’s University and is having mixed feelings about the experience. I try to listen to his concerns attentively, but I’m really wondering what took him so long? I couldn’t wait to retire, I took the tenure buy-out the first year it was offered, although I had no idea what I was planning to do. Without noticing it, my creative writing had become more like a hobby, something I did when all the academic responsibilities were done: term papers graded, final exams finished, graduation ceremonies and, yes, retirement parties, over.
This is another instance when my native language comes to the rescue. The word for retirement in Spanish is “Jubilación,” from the Latin “Jubilare,” to rejoice, to exult. It means a jubilation, a celebration, an expression of joy. Compare this to retirement, a withdrawal from one’s occupation, to retire or to go to sleep…No wonder Americans dread retirement!
It’s hard to believe that I retired over a decade ago! This is a good opportunity to see if I have taken advantage of these years or not. I’ve enjoyed more time to write with three new books to prove it. I have traveled to exotic destinations: India, Nepal, China, Singapore, Thailand, Japan, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Colombia, Guatemala, the Galápagos… I have volunteered in civic and literary organizations; never mind if I’ve felt that I was overcommitted and now I’m trying to slow down. I’ve definitely have had more free time to enjoy my American family, particularly my three grandchildren who are off to college this fall and I’m already missing them. Notice that I wrote “American family,” since I haven’t seen the Spanish relatives as much as I promised I would. I downsized to a smaller and more manageable condominium, although it turned out that I purchased a place at the Jersey Shore two years ago. So much for being financially frugal at this stage of life. And I still haven’t gone through the old slides and photographs to get them digitized and organized as so many of my good friends have done (you know who you are, so no need to remind me again).
The funniest retirement story I heard was when my late husband and I were visiting some old friends in Ohio. Matanya Ophee, an airline pilot, told his wife, a Russian musicologist, that he was planning to retire to dedicate more time to his real love, the publications of Editions Orphée. Margarita answered without missing a beat: “Oh, my goodness, imagine double the husband and half the salary!”
At my retirement ceremony I made some clever title using Spanish verb tenses. Something like “Past Imperfect” for the years at the University and “Present Perfect” for the years to come. I don’t know if this is a perfect time of my life, but now with the masks coming off, it is good enough and I still think that it’s time to jubilate!
Stay tuned, Concha