Every day I feel as though I am leaving something undone that I was born to do, a task that only I am qualified and equipped to do. Morning slips into afternoon, and I have not accomplished anything of value, at least that is how I feel. Then, night is upon us, and all that is left is to eat and go to sleep, to repeat tomorrow. That is what retirement feels like to me. I know that there is a danger in thinking so deeply about life when you are sick.
I was a professor, a teacher, a person who made other people think. That was the product I hawked: how to take the information in the world and determine what is truth and how to use it to appreciate the humanity of people whose lives differ from the one you have lived.
For nearly 18 years, I relished in the joy of turning on light bulbs, freeing minds from prejudices and biases that are inherent in category creation. In every category, there is a superior group and an inferior group. I worked to convince my students that what we are taught as natural sometimes are really man-made creations that justify and rationalize inequality and injustice.
Sometimes, I had to pull them out of their comfort zones and into the “real’ world by the skin their teeth. It was exhausting at times, but always exhilarating. It was my calling, one that I come into late in life. I gave it my all, because I knew that I was not teaching abstract, mysterious concepts, such as gender/sex, race, ethnicity, age, social class, family, motherhood, fatherhood, and religion, but real life.
I wanted students to understand that we live them every day and how they influence the ways we are treated and the value that people place on us. I don’t think I was ever burned in effigy, even by students who may have failed my classes.
I thought that I would teach for thirty to forty years. I planned to take the education world by storm in my twenties, with my new degrees and my belief that with book knowledge, I knew it all! God would bless the children who had me as their teacher! Thank goodness life did not happen that way! Talk about the blind leading the blind!
Instead, I spent my supposedly college years as a single mother raising four adopted children and one biological son, living in chronic poverty, and praying for God to intervene and help me get us all of God heard my cries, and miracles happened.
For 23 years, I worked at a job that gave my children and me a solid middle-class life, living in a solid middle-class neighborhood. Through all those years, my heart starved t for the dream that began when I was nine years old. Thankfully, as children we don’t know that we are poor and that people don’t think that we will ever amount to anything, so why dream. Instead, I kept believing that some day I would stand in front of a college classroom and truly help people understand that where you start in life does not define your destiny!
As I lay here trying to get well and looking toward a major move in our lives, I wonder if I have finished my course. I will be age 67 in 17 days, and I think that as we are living longer, our hearts desires last longer. Thankfully, God does not put age limits on our dreams.
As much as I love the time to travel and enjoy countless holidays, it seems like something is missing in my life and that I have not, like the apostle Paul, fought the good fight or finished my course, the work that God has given me. I am flabbergasted to find myself nearly craving to teach again, to see the changes that students are so capable of making in their thinking about other people, especially in this time when truth seems to be on trial.
I feel like a supernova that has not yet went dark and has much more to give, like 18 years was not enough time to finish my course. Can anyone relate? Should we rethink retirement now that we are living longer and have more years of unemployment?