"I am among the recently retired. After thirty years in a high school art room, the place where magic happens, I came to the conclusion that it was time for Act II of my one and only life. Act I had surpassed all of my expectations and I still believe I had the best job in the world, so it was with much trepidation and a great deal of prayer that I decided it was time to reinvent myself. The question was into what? My own children were raised, some with children of their own, my husband had a stable job and my own parents had already gone to be with the Lord, so now what?
I had spent my entire career trying to make a difference in the lives of my students, trying to teach them not just to think, but to feel, to act. They gave me meaning. They gave me purpose. They needed me, and I certainly needed them. I decided to approach retirement like I approach everything else in my life. I was determined to OozWow! For as long as I can remember I’ve started the first day of every class asking my students to write an essay. The prompt is; describe your OozWow moments. What “does” it for you? What makes your heart beat faster and feeds your passion? What takes your breath away and leaves you awestruck? What brings tears to your eyes and joy to your heart? What is it that gives you peace and brings you hope? Is it the ocean, a baby’s laugh, slow dancing with the one you love, a warm, gooey chocolate chip cookie…what? Maybe it’s a cool breeze on a hot summer's day or sunlight sparkling on water or meandering down a narrow street in a foreign country. These are all OozWow moments and they happen EVERY day. We only need notice them. We must choose to live our lives in wide-eyed wonder. The remarkable thing is that OozWow moments occur even in the darkest of times. This is the way I choose to live my life. My students, my job, teaching, that was my OozWow. It was a privilege and an honor to stand in front of those kids everyday and I was smart enough to recognize that at the time.
Early on a dear friend of mine gave me a small blue folder. This is your “Smile File” she said. “When you receive cards and letters from parents or students, place them in here. One day you’ll need to be reminded of why you do this.” My folder had since turned into five, very large, very full binders filled to overflowing. Thank yous…for being there, for believing in me, for never letting me quit, for picking up the phone, for pushing me, for listening, for sitting with me while I cried, for never giving up on me, for teaching us to OozWow. There is very little in this life that means as much to me as these notebooks. Should my house catch fire, I do believe I’d have to go back in.
When I was hired for my first teaching job, I went out and bought myself a small pair of diamond earrings by way of celebration. On the last day of my career, I put them on again, jokingly making the statement that after thirty years in the classroom, they were still all I could afford. No, my car is not new, my house not paid for and I would like to have more in my savings account. But if I was given the chance to do it all again, I wouldn’t change a thing. I believe I was right where God wanted me to be.
As I reflect on all the years teaching thousands of students and on my own personal life, I have concluded that life presents us with Ooz Wow moments daily, yet the challenge is to fully open our eyes so that we can actually see them. Unfortunately, many of us live blind to the beauty and miracle of these incredible moments.
And so, I am energized, I am renewed and I am ready for a greater purpose, whatever that may be. I cannot help but believe that my time in the classroom was only to prepare me for what lies ahead. Yes, I am retired, yet my eyes and heart are open wide for the next OozWow