Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Narrative of Retirement Redux Again. . . .

Me with statue of Odon Lechner at his Church at Kobanya in Budapest
About two years ago, I wrote a post asking what is thenarrative of retirement?  Then last year, I asked the question again, what is the narrative of retirement redux?  I am now beginning my third year of retirement, and I am posing the question anew.  What narrative path am I on?  Where am I headed?  What is my story?  How do my days move, like a narrative, towards something, rather than just feeling like "being one damned thing after another.”

In Retirement Year 1 (2014-2015)--I still live by an academic calendar—we had a series of adventures.  In May, we went to the Southwest and did some of our favorite hikes and National Parks.  Then we went to the lake, where we stayed til autumn.  After we got back from Louisville, we got ready for our trip to Budapest for three months.  Then right after we got home, we went back to the lake.

Retirement Year 2 (2015-2016) began at the lake, where we stayed til December because a friend was renting our house for the fall semester at UofL.  So we saw some winter.  We came home to what eventually became the Year of the Move.  We bought a condo, went to Budapest for a month (having no idea when we planned it that we would be in the middle of a huge transition), got our house ready to put on the market (doing a lot of what our realtor called “deferred maintenance”), cleared out our house of 27 years of stuff (oh why did we save so much?), moved our belongings into our new condo and took possession of said condo.  I didn’t have a lot of time to worry about the Narrative of Retirement, because I was too caught up in the Narrative of Downsizing.

However in the fall of 2015, I made a decision that part of my Narrative of Retirement would be writing a book about Hungarian Architecture  that I would self-publish.  I spent a lot of the summer figuring out how to format a book for publishing online, as well as working on an outline of the chapters, and writing the first chapter, on Historicism.  I also began the second chapter, on Art Nouveau, but when I got back to Louisville I dropped working on it because of all the business connected with buying and selling a home.  But I am still committed to it; it is a big part of my retirement, and this summer I will finish the Art Nouveau chapter and begin the chapter on Odon Lechner.

Retirement Year 3 (2016-2017).  I am beginning my third year of retirement, and this is what I have learned so far.  There is not a single narrative of retirement (I’m sure I knew this already), but lots of stories that one lives in retirement—or any other phase of life.  In the first two years, there were a bunch of medical narratives (none of lasting seriousness but some a pain at the time); several trips, (and as all good narratologists know, the “road” is primary narrative structure); lots of reading, often going on “kicks,” such as reading about climbing in the Himalayas, Arctic exploration, head-hunting in Papua-New Guinea, American prisoners of war in Japan, and Bog People. There was also shared reading with Tony (Tom Jones in Y1, Ulysses Y2, and Little Dorrit coming up in Y3). Plus, of course, reading lots and lots of novels just because.

And there is writing.  Deciding to write a book has given me an important sense of direction.  It makes my trips to Hungary more purposive.  It organizes my otherwise rather inchoate interest in the topic.  And it gives me a very strong goal.  Writing has always been a mixed pleasure for me (hate to write but love to have written), but this book is something different.  It’s not for peer-review; I will do that myself.  It’s not just for pleasure, as it offers to tell an accurate history, but it is a pleasure. And for me, it is a kind of necessity: as I really need a goal and I need to have writing in my life.

I have also learned that I love being retired.  I am so lucky that I have one wonderful dissertation student left, but that’s enough for me.  Higher education is changing so much everywhere, including Kentucky, UofL and the English Department, but I was lucky enough to have a career during a relatively stable time (aside from the inevitable budget crises):  I knew what I was expected to do, and I knew how to do it  I don’t think young academics today are as lucky as I was.  I love the freedom retirement brings. 

What’s up for Year 3?  5-ish months at the lake.  Meeting my family for Thanksgiving and going to see Hamilton in Chicago.  Another trip to Budapest in February (research!).  Settling into life in a condo (and finishing unpacking boxes).  Learning what it’s like to be in Louisville.  (I still haven’t quite figured out what the Narrative of Retirement will feel like there).  And of course other stories yet to be realized. 



Caree Risover said...

Our day to day experiences of retirement may be different but the thought processes and desire to analyse it seem very similar as I too approach my third year of retirement. Good for you though in having Year 3 planned; I have slipped up there!

Susan Griffin said...

And if you thought you retired at the right time, your thought is further confirmed: Ramsey just resigned and Bevin is appointing 10 new members to the Board!