Sunday, March 30, 2014

Comfort for 2014, Part One

COMFORT was the word I had chosen for 2014, a New Year’s ritual I had adopted from Molly Fisk a while back. "Comfort," as in becoming comfortable with the new roles 2013 had brought me. The word for 2013 had been TURN – and though I knew I was turning the corner into retirement from my office job, I had no clue how sharp the turn would be or where it would take me. Absolutely. No. Clue.

A year ago in March, almost to the day, I completed my retirement paperwork online and hit SEND, officially notifying CalPers of my intention to head out the door. The online system had only just been instituted and I was glad to give it a whirl; I was up for new things.

As with any retirement process, mine had been in the works for some time. Years, in fact, when you include the first glimmer of possibility and then the planning and the dreaming, the charting of vacation days and months of service days versus future income.  It’s like casting a horoscope, seeking the most auspicious day when the service credit and the start date are maximized, tilted against my own impatience to be free of the place and get on with my life. But by the end of 2012, all the ducks were lined up, waiting for send off: I’d retire on July 14th, 2013, Bastille Day (fittingly enough, right?) and my last day, with time off for good behavior and un-used vacations, would be July 3rd  - going out with a bang. Yeah. Pretty much everyone got tired of those jokes. 

I just had to wait to send in the paperwork about 90 days in advance, that is, sometime in March. 

That moment of "send." An auspicious moment. An agreement with the universe. Or so it seemed, because the next morning, the very next morning, what popped up in my email but an enquiry: would I be interested in teaching a summer course in English at Napa Valley College?  Whoo, mama! Would I? You bet your sweet bippy, yes, yes, yes!

For that had been the master plan: retire from the office and scout for jobs teaching at one of the nearby colleges. It would be a change in the course of my life, a gentle turn, I had figured, a different tack with a different set of winds, new sails, perhaps a new boat.  It would take at least a semester, maybe two, before such an opportunity would tun up: after all, the job market for teachers, and college English instructors in particular, had pretty much crashed and burned over the past few years.

But at that moment, at the end of March 2013, my life took radical 90+ degree turn: the rest of the year I’d be bursting out of the old skin of Biology Office Administrative Coordinator and learning to inhabit the skin of Instructor in English at a community college. I had managed to align myself with some fabulous stars.

There were twists, there were more turns. My mother-in-law, Marilyn Guerr, was in and out of the hospital with heart troubles. I was wrapping up my gig in the Biology Office even as the first week of my summer course started. Eager to be gardening again, in June, I had pulled that tiny little muscle in the hip that causes the greatest amount of grief and began my college career teaching leaning on a "walking stick," as if I had just hiked in from St Helena. I wrote a lot of nature essays, I told me students and tried to leave it at that.

Needless to say, I was busy enough that I neglected my blog, my writing,  my family, myself, as I created a college course for an intense 8-week summer program, ran the Fiction side of the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference, then taught two courses for fall semester, while taking a graduate level course at SSU in order to complete my second masters (more about that, umm, later). Yeah. More than cray cray. Wackadoodle-ding-dong.

But it turned out for the good in the long run, even if it didn't seem so in the short.