July 26, 2013 by Jean
I am a long-range planner. (I used to joke that if I washed out of academia, I could pursue an alternate career as a five-year planner for the Kremlin.) So for years now, I’ve been planning for retirement – saving money, calculating income projections and working out possible budgets, imagining how I would spend my days, and planning an addition on my Maine house. But all this planning had a day-dreaming quality. Until now.
As I prepare to go back to Pennsylvania for the beginning of my last year of teaching at Gettysburg College, my coming retirement is beginning to feel real. I’ve been involved in a flurry of preparations to build an addition on the small house that I’ve been living in part-time for more than 20 years and which will become my full-time home next May. I’ve met with an architect, signed a contract for his services, and begun to contact contractors. With the architect’s conceptual drawings (below) in hand, I can imagine myself moving through the new space. In the few weeks remaining before I leave for Pennsylvania, I expect to choose a contractor for the project.
All of this has a “night before Christmas” feel – combining the child’s excitement about what Santa might bring and the adult’s realization that 20 people are coming for Christmas dinner and the meal needs to be organized, cooked, and on the table at the appointed time!
I am a very practical person, so the excitement of anticipation soon gives way to practical considerations. I am realizing that when I return here next May, I will not only be bringing many of the belongings that have been part of my Pennsylvania life; I will be living for several months in a house that is under construction. For at least part of the that time, my living space will be compressed into the back two rooms (less than 500 square feet). This has triggered a whole list of things that need to be done to prepare that reduced living space. In particular, my current study needs to begin its transformation into the guest room that it will become after the addition is completed. Then there is the outdoor to-do list: Three different flower beds will be in the path of construction. Before I return to Gettysburg in three weeks, I need to prepare a temporary flower bed for all the garden plants that need to be moved out of harm’s way.
All of this leaves me feeling a bit breathless – both breathless with excitement and breathless with exertion (and maybe a tiny bit breathless with trepidation). Suddenly the idea that I am “stepping into my future” is not just a metaphor; it is feeling very, solidly real.