In the early spring of 1998 my husband and I started a tradition. That year he was waiting to hear back from a couple of jobs in different parts of the country. It was the evening of the Academy Awards. Our sons, who were then almost 3 and almost 5, were wrestled into bed and we groggily watched the show on TV. Because of the impending news about jobs, we wondered out loud where we would be that time the next year when we watched the Oscars.
Change happened fast. 5 months later we found ourselves in a tiny midwest college town with boxes and young kids, a minivan and a dog and guinea pigs. I found a job at the local small college and my husband was working up the road for a local not for profit.
Every time the Academy Awards come around we ask ourselves that same question: “I wonder where we will be this time next year.” When we first arrived we did as many do…we promised to give this place 2-3 years and then head back. But that was over 15 years ago. We stayed, we sprouted roots, the kids grew up, went to school and moved out, we made friends, we celebrated marriages, we mourned deaths, we became a part of the community. We still have dogs, and we still watch the Academy Awards.
This year when we watched, we knew that asking that question was going to result in a different answer. While we aren’t moving, we know that next year will be different in a lot of ways. We might be here when the Oscars happen, but then again we might not. Or we might be in different places. It’s not entirely clear. With aging parents always on our mind, we knew that there were many trips to Florida (his mom) and Maine (my mom) on the horizon and when we could get time off from work.
Here is what is clear: last winter the college where I work offered some of the employees the opportunity of a voluntary separation plan: if your age + the number of years of service = 75 or more… you were eligible to apply for the separation plan. This, my friends, is the only lottery I have ever won.
Another bit of math: my mother is 93 and my sister lives with her in Maine and has taken care of her for 2 years now. My job has, up until now, prevented me from helping them out long term. Winning the “lottery” meant that I could actually make that happen.
Here’s my news for this snowy Tuesday morning: I am leaving my current job in June and going to Maine to help my sister with our mom. I am not retiring, as much as I am taking some time off. I have accepted a part time job (1 course per semester) at a college in Maine where I will be teaching Spanish. It would mean I would be able to keep doing what I like (teaching) while helping my mom age in place.
I will write more about this new (and I’ll admit it: scary) period in my work life in future posts. People have been asking things like: How did I know it was time to go? Why didn’t I wait until our college had a new administration? (back story: we are hiring a President) What would the college need to do to get you back? (oh boy…)
Am I retiring? Nope. Am I taking a giant leap and trying something new? Yep. Stay tuned.