As I mentioned in a previous post, the job of teaching can be an all-consuming one, often with few psychological rewards. In my first year of retirement, I intentionally avoided making any long-term commitments on my time since, for the first time in many years, I had the prospect of unstructured time. During that year, I did some house redecorating, a great deal of reading, honed my crossword puzzle skills, started this and my book review blog, and worked on a small research contract. All in all, not a bad introduction to retirement. Since the fall, however, (once a teacher, always a teacher – I think I‘ll always regard the fall as the start of the year!) I’ve begun to consider the real possibilities and opportunities that the freedom of retirement provides. In October I started to do some volunteering.
During my working life, for the most part the only volunteering I did outside of helping prepare an annual meal that my wife organizes for a local shelter and drop-in centre was within the context of the teaching profession. I sat on committees both within the school and with the local branch of OSSTF; I never regarded those activities as particularly altruistic, given that they were designed to benefit the very profession I was a part of. As well, I never felt, given the time commitment that committee work entails, this was a particularly good use of my time, and afforded little in the way of personal satisfaction. I found the same to be true of a civic-minded committee I joined that sought to make a difference in the election of municipal politicians – ultimately it seemed to me time wasted. However, one personal benefit was the confirmation that I am the type of person who craves more hands-on, immediate results from my actions. God love those who enjoy the world of minutia, rhetoric, and glacial progress I identify committee work with, but it’s clearly not for me.
The volunteer work I am doing now is very hands-on and physical – helping to sort and pack food in a foodbank. Its immediacy is something I really enjoy, and I intend to stay with it in the long-term, but I am still looking for other meaningful activities to be a part of. My next posts will reflect some of the research and reading I have been doing in pursuit of that goal; I hope that these posts will not be seen as exercises in self-indulgence. I intend them only as a very small means of helping people see the many opportunities that exist for making a difference in the world and finding meaning in life.