Retirement and Death. They’re the Same Thing.

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Happy Retirement!I continue to be fascinated by the idea of retirement. And not just my own.

Everybody’s.

Although admittedly, I think about mine more than I contemplate others. I think about it a lot. And by a lot, I mean about every 12 seconds.

And by every 12 seconds, I don’t actually mean every 12 seconds.

It’s way more often than that.

If you work in a school there are always 1 or 2 employees that get to retire at the end of the school year. I say “get”. Some of them say “have to”.

It seems retiring is a wonderful idea when you can’t (and it seems so very wonderful to me). As employees get older and closer to this big decision, it seems to weigh on them.

Plus, I think it is more difficult for those teachers and administrators who are still great at their jobs.

You have to admit, it’s not like we are pouring concrete, working in a coal mine, changing oil in cars, or digging ditches for a living.

I wonder if it’s stressful because the school year ends so abruptly. It reminds me of the feeling I used to get when I coached.

When you are coaching a team all your effort goes into accomplishing year long goals. Then it never fails. You end up losing the last game of the season and it all suddenly comes crashing to a close.

Even though you know this is going to happen, it still comes as a surprise.

While you actually had looked forward to the last game, as soon as it is over, you miss it and feel a little lost.

Then a two week funk overtakes you…

…which includes restlessness, binge eating, watching way too much TV, and rocking yourself to sleep while laying in the fetal position in the corner of your bedroom often times only wearing your favorite Batman underpants (of course this is just an example… I never actually watched too much TV).

Retirement seems to sneak up on people in much the same way (hopefully, without the Batman underwear).

I have come up with a theory (which I may have shared before, but since I don’t read my blogs once they are finished… it seems like a new idea to me).

Retirement is like a death. People have to go through a grieving process.

The older I get, the more this makes sense to me.

Some teachers/administrators spend over 30 years in one school district. Sometimes in one building. And occasionally even in one classroom.

While they are ready to let go and retire, it is still difficult.

The good news is that in my own very unscientific study, retirees feel much better about their choice 6 months into the next school year than they did when they walked out of school for the last time.

As they conclude their careers in education, they haven’t had a chance to sit back and reflect on what their new lives will be like.

They haven’t had the opportunity to NOT grade any more papers, or NOT babysit a study hall, or NOT telling their kids to be quiet in the hallway, or NOT emailing an angry parent.

Once they get to NOT experience these things, they are able to enjoy their new lives.

Sweet, sweet retirement (it’s like the mistress I haven’t met yet).

But before they get to this stage there is a process they may have to go through.

Denial, anger, and depression. Then and only then comes acceptance.

The good news is the grieving process always comes to a close. But it can take time (as the results of my unscientific study show).

A person’s career is like an old friend or a beloved family pet. No matter how much you prepare for their passing, it is still extremely difficult to let go.

Especially after 30 years.

So if you are retiring at the end of this school year, congratulations. And please know, I am jealous.

And if you are having second thoughts about your decision. Be patient.

You haven’t gotten to the good part yet. That happens next fall when I am going to work and you’re not (if you need me, I will most likely be somewhere in the fetal position).

There is always another way to retire. My way. It is a two-step process. First, don’t tell anyone and secondly, make sure to leave your keys on the desk as you sneak out quietly.

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10 Responses to “Retirement and Death. They’re the Same Thing.”


  1. diane
    on May 9th, 2009
    @ 6:32 pm

    I’m retiring on June 25, 2009. In 47 days. But who’s counting? I’ve had plenty of time to think about this, and even though the economy is in a state of flux, this is still the right decision for me. I’ll miss the students & my colleagues, but not the commute (especially when temps are sub-zero and the roads are slick). I’m leaving my job as a teacher/librarian, but not education. I’ll make sure to stay informed and involved. Have wisdom will travel!


  2. Diane
    on May 9th, 2009
    @ 6:48 pm

    “Sweet, sweet retirement (it’s like the mistress I haven’t met yet).”

    Looking forward to retirement, are we?

    The key to retirement is to have a life outside of your job. You know-friends, hobbies, etc. Especially if you’re married.

    Michael Smith Reply:

    @Diane, I have hobbies. And I’m married.

    As soon as I find some friends, I’m retiring.

    Diane Reply:

    @Michael Smith, Your hobbies and friends are to save your marriage during retirement. We’ve all heard stories about retired husbands who drive their wives crazy, following their every move, because they have nothing to occupy themselves with. Case in point-my father-in-law. He’s the nicest person in the world but he’s driving my m-i-l nuts.


  3. Flash
    on May 16th, 2009
    @ 8:45 am

    Good site, Mr. Admin.


  4. Retirement is Wasted on Old People. | PrincipalsPage The Blog
    on Jun 22nd, 2009
    @ 8:52 am

    [...] My immediate focus is retirement. [...]


  5. paul
    on Sep 23rd, 2009
    @ 7:12 pm

    Great blog! Keep up the good work.


  6. Cade
    on Mar 2nd, 2010
    @ 11:53 am

    I was fortunate. I had a great school situation and many good friendships, but I looked at retirement as another great phase of my life. I wanted time to spend summers Flagstaff AZ or Santa Fe NM, and the rest of the year on the beaches of Florida. I am continually thankful I have been able to do this. My day consists of working out/running in the morning, relaxing on the beach with a book, then watching the sun set at some little beach bar for dinner. To me, retiring at 55 was like a rebirth, not a death.


  7. EARL
    on Mar 4th, 2010
    @ 10:44 pm

    This is a nice post. I love reading your blog that’s why I subscribed to your RSS feed. Thanks for doing what you do for education.


  8. Facebook is Changing How Schools Deliver News. | PrincipalsPage The Blog
    on May 11th, 2010
    @ 9:30 am

    [...] The note pinned to the chest wasn’t as bad.  In fact, there was at least a 50/50 chance it contained good news (class party, holiday program, possibly the teacher’s impending retirement). [...]

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While this site operates with the knowledge and awareness of the Tuscola CUSD #301 School Board, Tuscola, Illinois, the content and opinions posted here may or may not represent their views personally or collectively, nor does it attempt to represent the official viewpoint of Tuscola CUSD #301 administrators or employees.