As an academic, retirement has been a process, a series of "last" milestones.
April 25th was my last honors night, giving awards to my awesome, outstanding students...and getting a "standing ovation" from my colleagues. April 27 was my last classroom day, and at the suggestion of the students we had a little party (after I crammed in one more 30 minutes of lecture!) - they gave me a lovely picture frame as a gift. May 5th was my last graduation ceremony. Time to say good-bye to most of my teaching colleagues as well as this years' graduates. Then the last weekend of grading, and turning in my final set of grades on May 8th.
The rest of May was a mix of vacation days and days working in emptying out my office. I had 35 years of files - from previous teaching jobs as well as my current one - to sort through. A few things to keep, a lot to toss in recycling and even more that had to be run through a shredder (student confidentiality). There were lots of memories in there, lots of wonderful students, and some lousy experiences as well. On the days I wasn't in the office I was working on organizing my home office space so that there would be room for the few things I wanted to save. A lot of vacation days were also spent dealing with retirement paperwork..."who knew" there was so much paperwork involved with retirement?!
There were things that needed to be given away: a huge treasure trove of craft materials were donated to a local Headstart program; my microwave went to Wendy in the office on one side of me, the refrigerator to Ariel in the office on the other side of me; Pricie in the office got huge piles of file folders, pens, pencils, scissors, tape, and other sundry office supplies; my multi-colored dry erase markers went to John; the Respiratory Therapy program gratefully accepted drawer organizers for their new classroom, and the Adult Ed program was glad to have all my stacking in/out boxes; books were donated to a variety of sources; the faculty secretary got my collection of coffee mugs, and sugar containers.
There was paperwork involved with tying up the committee I'd chaired for 2 years and making sure all the documents were available to be passed on to the next chairs.
This past Wednesday, May 31st was my very last day in that office. Everything (except two telephone books left for the next occupant) was gone except for the college's furnishings and college computer. My diplomas and awards and paintings had been taken down from the walls and carried home. At the end of the day, I took all the office keys - keys to the office door, the building front and back, the other building, and all the desk, cabinet and file keys - off my key ring and left them on the desk, leaving the door unlocked.
I had not realized how final that would feel. This is the first time in 42 years (since I started graduate school in January 1975) that I do not have a huge bundle of office keys and access to an office space away from my home. I actually feel "retired" now (although my official retirement date is June 30 and last pay check two weeks after that).
Suddenly I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that. The earlier stuff, the end of actual teaching and grading and going to graduation felt good, felt like letting go of a huge burden. Letting go of my own personal office space and all that entails is much more sobering and scary.