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Mail from my colleague Sue Ciesla arrived today containing something I asked her for the other day: the nameplate from my former office door. As my friend Breea Willingham would say, “That’s a wrap.”

I didn't ask for the nameplate earlier because I didn’t clear out my office until the start of July. Some consulting work I was going to do for the Journalism School didn’t pan out (my price was too high), and I had planned on clearing out after finishing it. And I suppose that subconsciously, I didn’t want to empty my office because I didn’t want to let go of something I had been doing for 15 years. But now there’s nothing left but a desk, a chair, and some sheer, sky-blue curtains that I put up in 2001 to replace the industrial-quality Venetian blinds.

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve found that I’m just fine with retirement. It was time. I teach journalism classes, but I haven’t worked in a newsroom since the summer of 2001. I know how to write, but I don’t know how to write for today’s media. Sure, I know the theory—but the difference between theory and practice is immeasurable.

In addition, increasingly fewer students are interested in the kind of journalism career I had. And most importantly, I’m 62. All this means I’m not well suited to guide today’s students—people who are less than a third of my age—into their communication futures. I’m not singing Warren Zevon’s “Poor, Poor Pitiful Me” here, but rather from George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.”

I like my new life. It’s been great to not be constantly thinking about how I would teach the fall semester’s courses differently and better than the semester before. It’s been great not feeling compelled to read books and online newsletters about effective teaching.

Teaching and the between-semesters stuff were stressful for me, because I put a great deal of pressure on myself to do well, and I was tough on myself for what I thought were shortcomings and mistakes, even though now I see them as not being the disasters that I thought there were at the time. Without all of that stress, I’ve been able to get my diabetes back under control (there’s a proven link between the two). That reason alone made retiring worthwhile.

Without carrying around a bundle of stress, things like people cutting me off in traffic or heading obliviously toward a collision with me at the supermarket don’t bother me anymore. I have more time to read for pleasure. I’m going to start writing a column for the local newspaper.

It’s been almost three months since I taught my final class, and that time has given me perspective on the work I did as a teacher. As I said earlier, I’ve always been tough on myself, but now that I’ve stepped away, I’m able to see that I did good work. This assessment ultimately boils down to my relationships with students. Did I help them learn? Was I enthusiastic in the classroom? Did I make the classroom a non-threating place to learn, a place where students could laugh occasionally and not be afraid to speak up?

Yes, I did.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to pour myself a Bombay Sapphire and tonic, go out on my deck, sit down, tilt my head back and watch the clouds. As my friend, mentor and English professor Dr. Rick Simpson once said, “The sky is always interesting.” And now I have time to watch it.

 

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
penshark
Jul. 29th, 2016 02:04 am (UTC)
I'm glad you're now able to believe you did very good work. I knew that from listening to your students, who told me over and over again how much they gained from having you as a teacher.
patrick_vecchio
Jul. 29th, 2016 02:19 pm (UTC)
Thank you for passing the students' comments along, Carole—but I'm going to have to confirm them from a second source.
(Anonymous)
Jul. 29th, 2016 02:17 am (UTC)
Reading your writing
Pat,
I enjoy reading what you write.
Marty Finn
patrick_vecchio
Jul. 29th, 2016 02:22 pm (UTC)
Re: Reading your writing
Thank you, Marty, for taking the time to read and comment. I find Facebook to be OK for the occasional wisecrack or single thought, but it's not nearly as satisfying as writing longer posts.
anita_margarita
Jul. 29th, 2016 02:25 am (UTC)
*Nods* Where I worked, everyone who retired said, "When you're ready, you will know."

And so it is: once you have retired, you realize you did all you could in the span of time you worked there, and now it is time to let someone else do it. Will they do it as well? Who knows?

But that isn't your concern any more. Your part is now to look after your own interests and make up for all the times you weren't able to take a long lunch or a long weekend or sleep in. You're making up for lost pleasures.
patrick_vecchio
Jul. 29th, 2016 02:24 pm (UTC)
You made every word count in your comment. Thank you for taking the time needed to do just that—but you're speaking from experience, aren't you?
(Anonymous)
Jul. 29th, 2016 03:50 am (UTC)
Thanks Pat from Jim Melaro
Once again, your display much wisdom my old friend.
I look forward to reading more from you.
It is always stimulating.
And I don't care what these young whipper-snappers have to say. You will always be a good teacher or writing skills.
patrick_vecchio
Jul. 29th, 2016 02:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Thanks Pat from Jim Melaro
Jimmy Jazz, I appreciate the comments from a fellow Oleander and former comrade-in-ink. I can assure you of one thing:

My future writing WON'T RELY ON CAPITAL LETTERS or parades of exclamation points!!!!! Especially if I'm going to SHOVE IT DOWN THE THROAT of the LIBERAL MEDIA, who ignore the REAL ISSUES!!!!!
e_d_young
Jul. 29th, 2016 07:26 pm (UTC)
"...but I don’t know how to write for today’s media."

Can you elaborate on that? I mean, what are the big differences between journalism back then and now?

Edited at 2016-07-29 07:28 pm (UTC)
patrick_vecchio
Jul. 29th, 2016 09:28 pm (UTC)
The big difference is time, in my opinion. In my days in daily newspapers, I would usually have time to think about what I was going to write about, with the exception of breaking news on top of deadlines. Now, reporters face continuous deadlines. Their bosses want them to be first with the story. When I ran a news room, I used to say I'd rather be second and right than first and wrong. Today's reporters don't have time to provide depth and context, and they often don't have copy editors to watch their backs. Not only do they face round-the-clock deadlines, but they're also expected to tweet, use Facebook, respond to readers' comments on social media, etc. That's time that could be used doing reporting. And, perhaps most ominous of all, sites keep track of how many clicks each story generates. This emphasis on pandering to the widest possible audience inevitably leads to newspapers becoming broader in content but shallower at the same time. That's my take on it, and anyway. There's nothing I can do about it—and I probably sound like some kind of communications Luddite. But new doesn't necessarily mean better.
scuba_sham
Jul. 30th, 2016 01:17 pm (UTC)
Time, time, time. I have none of it, as a breaking news reporter. That's the biggest difference to me, at least in my measly five years in journalism.
patrick_vecchio
Jul. 30th, 2016 05:57 pm (UTC)
Despite the lack of time, you do damned good work, Sam. Never forget that fact.
scuba_sham
Jul. 30th, 2016 01:15 pm (UTC)
Future Bonnies will not know how much they missed by not getting a chance to have you as a teacher and a mentor. I'm lucky that I did -- and that I can still count you as a mentor and friend.

But you deserve to converse with the clouds, and fall into pleasurable books, and wave goodbye to stress :)

Please share your columns with us. I'm sure they will be fantastic reads.

Edited at 2016-07-30 01:15 pm (UTC)
patrick_vecchio
Jul. 30th, 2016 05:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Sam. I'm lucky to have had you as a friend—and it's been fun to watch your career blossom. As for the columns, I'll post them here shortly after they run.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 1st, 2016 09:02 pm (UTC)
The sky in Florida is especially interesting. I hope you manage some time to look at it eventually. I am glad that sense of peace has settled over you - you deserve it. yladms
patrick_vecchio
Aug. 2nd, 2016 12:49 am (UTC)
I'm so relaxed that the last time I stopped by the JMC School, a colleague said I looked like I was stoned.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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