I was born and raised in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix, AZ). I was never able or willing to appreciate Arizona. It was too hot and brown. Some say that one can fry an egg on a sidewalk during the summer.
I wanted something more. I saw the calendars of land and sea scapes. But I was so busy with teaching (which is my life) I quickly lost interest in the scenery on calendars. I wasn’t fond of Arizona’s scenery anyway.
I would daydream about having four seasons. I love the idea of winter with snow all around. I also dreamt of leaves changing their colors in the fall. Summer nights with stars -minus light pollution, would be refreshing. Spring would be blessed with bird nests, bunnies and a sense of new beginnings. There are so many things that Arizona couldn’t hold a candle to.
Up until April 28th, 2016, I had always been wrapped up in school responsibilities. I would drive to school before sunrise and go home after sunset. I was too tired to stay up for election debates, and I was out of luck when it came to home-made dinners. I could eat my lunch in 20 minutes, use the restroom and freshen up before the bell rang. I was well trained and thought that having a schedule was ideal. I was on a constant “Go! Go! Go!” Kinda like a rat in a maze with a timer.
So, this has been my first fall minus the world of academia. Due to my diseases, I am home on Medical Leave. I’m applying for Retirement and Disability. When I’m not gazing at the beautiful scenery en-route to a doctor appointment, I am relentlessly trying to capture and absorb the here and now. Having a camera in my phone is perfect. I just don’t want to miss anything…
When I announced my retirement out loud, I started to panic. What will I do? What do retirees do all day? I asked everyone I knew. The most popular response was, “Do the things you could never do before because you were always working.” What did I miss while working? Teaching is my life, the rest of the world’s issues were never a concern. I had papers to grade, lesson plans to write, meetings to attend and school events. I have been in a classroom for 40 years. I knew I was going to be a teacher. I went to college to be a teacher. I even worked at a teacher supply store on the weekends for extra money! The profession consumed me whether I was in Arizona or Michigan; I was always at the school.
Here’s what I have never noticed, appreciated or experienced until I became sick:
- Different leaf colors (there are so many!).
- Eating slowly and whenever I choose to.
- Being able to contact anyone during “business hours”.
- Sleeping in.
- Taking naps.
- Going to the bathroom without feeling rushed.
- Keeping up with the current events -political and humanitarian.
- Reading for leisure, regardless of genre.
- Seeing later prime time television shows.
- Cleaning out my closet.
- Having quality time with my husband and kids (fur and feathered).
I still don’t have control over my diseases and sometimes just getting out of bed is not possible. Knowing this, I am so glad that the stressors of teaching are not a part of my day, evening or weekends anymore.
I need the rest. I was falling apart and losing myself. My wheels were spinning and trying to simply keep up with the ever changing high paced education environment; but I was overwhelmed and I felt empty all of the time.
So, what am I going to do now? I don’t know AND I don’t have to know. I can just be in the moment, taking in all of life’s blessings. It took a chronic disease to put me in my place where I realize that there’s more to life than what happens in a classroom. For the first time in 40 years I am noticing the world, and right now it’s beautiful. I wonder what is next for me…