Last week about this time I made a decision that has turned a lot of my life up on its head. I decided I need to make a change. Because I am a woman of a certain age, that means not quitting my job, but retiring. Fortunately my malaise and my tenth anniversary at my job ( April 1, 2013) both happened close enough together that nothing precipitous is required.
Those of you who know me know that I organize my life based on my Prime Directive. The PD is simple, do what makes you happy. It has served me well over the years, guiding decisions, adjusting attitudes, making demands, if the Prime Directive was kept in mind happiness would follow. It has never led me wrong and I have difficulty believing it will at this time of life.
Of course, it is daunting. My salary will effectively be cut in half, but then so will my expenses. For the past 9.5 years we have maintained two dwellings, a condo in NC and a house in Ohio. The condo will be put on the market in the fall. The NC retirement system pays you for your vacation days you do not take, but adds the sick leave to your service. I have, by my calculation about 4.25 months of sick leave, which means I can stop working in late November.
So, money should not be a big issue. I also have some prospects, with my mother’s house still to be sold and the estate owing me about $10,000 for the funeral and other expenses. I will, also, of course, work when I return to Ohio. I am anxious to get back to Wilberforce. The people in NC were, with only about three exceptions, lovely to me, but this was never home. The people here are used to a way of life that I could never get used to, still steeped in a culture of privilege, unearned privilege in many cases, that is inherently both unfair and damaging to society.
I have already put out feelers for adjunct teaching jobs at a couple of colleges, which is about all I am interested in , teaching a couple of classes a week is fine with me. Having taught at all of them before and having had great evaluations ( I was the chair of the faculty at one college) I presume they will be happy to have me back part time. But, one never knows what the future holds. When I graduated from XHS back when the earth was cooling there was no way I would have anticipated getting a PhD, being fortunate enough to be a fellow at the Library of Congress, being a director at a Research 1 university, traveling to the extent I have ( now we can hit some of those 20 odd states we have not visited!). I thought being a teacher in Xenia would be the apex of my career. It might have been if fate had not intervened and sent me down a different path. I imagine I could still have achieved the Prime Directive teaching at Warner JHS or XHS, I enjoyed both gigs and loved my students, but it is nice to have had options. I am eager to get back to an academic calendar, with lovely long summers off, adjunct college teaching will provide that.
I will miss my NC friends, needless to say and the closeness of fabulous shopping, and my condo, but I love my old Ohio house and look forward to bringing her back to her former glory. I have all kinds of plans, from the construction of a walk-in closet to the scheme for restoring my garden. I have managed to grow foxglove on my deck at the condo and I hope it takes kindly to Buckeye soil.
I will be leaving most of the things in the condo in NC. I plan on having what will amount to a liquidation sale, make me an offer and as long as it is not facetious you can buy it! I have a house full of furniture and things in Ohio, except for a few sentimental favorites ( the sea theme in the study in NC will be transferred to the study in Ohio) it is going to go to the highest bidder or Dorcas Thrift Shop.
So, what do I regret? I regret that I have never had a boss who is as smart as I am. That is not because I am a genius, it is because in the modern world you get to be the boss far too often because you know how to keep your mouth shut and stay out of trouble. That is not something very intelligent people do well. If it is wrong it seems that most bright people think it should be changed or not done or modified. Many people who rise, and this is unfortunately very true for people of color, are more adept at going along and protecting the status quo than they are at accomplishing much of anything. They also are frequently adept at cutting corners, bending rules and looking the other way. Although, in fairness I guess making a lot of money is an accomplishment for many. I made a lot of money in the job I am leaving, at least it felt like that to me, but I could have doubled it if I could have learned the art of pretense and accommodation.
Fortunately, I did not have to do that and for that I am grateful. But once, just once I would have loved to have had a boss who was capable of engaging with me to plan or even discuss. Instead I scared the bejesus out of most of them. They simply did not understand me. Odd, because I think I am kind of easy to understand. All you have to understand is that I was imprinted early with the idea that we all owe other human beings as much as we can give and that if something is wrong you will point it out and refuse to participate in it, even if it costs you something. My supervisors all were puzzled at my insistenc on being honest and telling them what I actually thought, even if they had asked me to. They seemed to presume that I would agree with them, tell them what they wanted to hear because they were my boss. Sorry boys and girls, my ancestors were slaves, they had to say what they did not believe to save their lives and if I do the same thing to save my paycheck any struggles they went through and sacrifices they made were obviously in vain.
If you violate your own ethics the Prime Directive goes out the window, at least is does with me. Of course, not everyone agrees on what is right and wrong. Perhaps the people I heap scorn on simply think what they are doing is right. Maybe they agree that the status quo should be protected, even if it oppresses some people or groups of people. Then I do not suppose I have the right to censure them for cowardice or toadyism. I would then just censure them for being sociopaths, or having sociopathic inclinations.
The idea that one can do wrong and prosper is against my view of the universe. Even if it seems to be happening for a while I do truly believe that Karma is a bitch;that the mills of the gods grind slowly, but they grind exceeding fine. I do not want to ever have to look at myself in the mirror and feel that I betrayed the parents, teachers and others who taught me to do what was right and damn the torpedoes!
Of course, if I end up eating cat food for dinner I may have to reexamine my position, but as long as the Friskie’s is for Agatha Christie and Bucky only I am going to be happy that I did not commit unethical or immoral acts against other human beings at least not as far as I can tell.
One door closes and another one opens. I am looking so forward to my Ohio door opening and I will softly close my NC door and say what all Southern women say when they have decided something or someone is beyond rescue, “Bless y’all’s heart!”
PS. A tradition in my high school was to leave things to the classes and individuals coming behind you when you were a senior. As I leave my current employment later this year I will be posting my legacies for individuals and departments, academic and administrative. Should be a fun read! 🙂