Please stop congratulating me on my retirement
And asking what I’ll do with all my extra time
If one more person congratulates me on retiring and asks what I’m planning to do with all my extra time — as if they’re addressing a quaint relic now put on a shelf to mildew — I’m going to scream, “I retired from teaching but not from life! I still do hundreds of other things! I don’t have any extra time! I can’t possibly get done everything I want to!”
Last week, the university honored me with a lovely retirement party. Hundreds of my former students and teaching assistants showed up, as did many colleagues and several old friends. They gave moving speeches about me. More than a thousand people filled a lecture hall to hear my pearls of wisdom. I was deeply touched.
But it was also as if I were attending my own funeral.
Please don’t get me wrong. I loved every minute of it. I feel very fortunate: Few living people have an opportunity to bask in the praise of themselves. Eloquent encomiums are normally reserved for the dead.
Which is the irony. Acclaims offered in the past tense — what I did, what I wrote, what I taught, what I thought — feel cruelly mistimed. Hello? I’m still here!
Life is short (and so am I). But retirement is not the end. It just means more time to do what you like and less of what you don’t.
Rather than feel as if I have more time now, I feel like I have less (and in strict actuarial terms, I do have less). Which adds to my sense of urgency, like the White Rabbit in Wonderland. So, please don’t congratulate me. I have too much to do! I’m already late!