Since retirement in 2003, I’ve been teaching a class or two (intensives and/or on-line) each year. I’ve loved my students and staying in touch with the seminary community. Ten good years!
But the time has come, I realize, to lay it down. Awareness dawned—it’s more a burden than a joy! Change comes;
- New requirements from a faculty mostly new since I left!
- Google + Hangouts at 6:00 am (Pacific Time) with students in all four time zones!
- Grading timeliness as much as quality of their work for students overloaded with family, church, other jobs, and school!
- The joy of teaching (for the first time ever) morphing into duty!
As Patient Advocate Coordinator of an amazing program here at Pilgrim Place—now with 80 trained advocates who accompany another through the maze of medical appointments and tests and hospitalizations—one becomes aware both of the amazing grace and the frustrating loss of brothers and sisters in this intentional community as age advances and diminishment lifts its head!
Our community values necessitate downsizing when a couple becomes a single and their living space is more than 1,200 sq. ft. We have loved our home the last 9 ½ years—1,600 sq. ft. We are still in the “go-go” years but if one looks around, one becomes aware the “slow-go’” years will come! Why not, we asked ourselves, move into a smaller condo-type unit now when we can have fun fixing it up together and then, when that time comes (we hope, many years from now!), one will not be left to downsize alone? Why not share the joy and excitement of making one more Nest together?
So it is, that we are on the list to move into an apartment in one of two, newer LEED gold-certified units here at Pilgrim Place. When one becomes available (who knows when, because our community is at capacity and has a waiting list), we will move.
Yesterday I began cleaning out the file cabinet (we’ve ascertained that we need to go from seven drawers to three!). And that is what prompted these ruminations! Already, we’ve figured out what furniture can go and what we will leave behind. We’ve even weaned lots of books from our shelves (having each already given away over 1,000 books when we moved from Chicago to California!). The art is hardest but we think we’ve figured that out as well—at least we’ve prioritized it so however much has to go away, can go.
So I wasn’t prepared for the sense of loss/finality yesterday when I started putting files filled with syllabi, lesson plans and teaching resources into the recycle bin! Now I haven’t taught most of those courses for ten years, and lots of what was there is still on my computer, so why the feeling that I am somehow losing part of myself???
Now I know (heart and head) that I am not what I do. So why this feeling of loss? I have always claimed my primary gift and calling is to TEACH! I love teaching! Empowering students to birth their own gifts and insights is what I do.
I still remember a student from the 1970’s whose theology was (in my mind) limiting rather than expanding. I challenged her, often raising questions about some of her assumptions. I was in my office the day she stopped by the outer office to pick up her final paper with her course grade on it. She couldn’t resist picking up the office phone (no cell phones back then!) and calling a friend as she exclaimed in a loud voice, “She gave me an “A”! I hope that she learned that day that one should not have to agree with a teacher to earn an “A”!
Being midwife to students (thanks, Maria Harris, for this insight!) so that they experience new ideas, gain new skills and become all they can be is the greatest calling I can imagine! I will always be a teacher—but perhaps never again in an academic, for credit setting. Saying, “It is time,” and stopping while those who supervise me are sad to see me go (I’ve never wanted to stay so long that students and colleagues think, “When is she ever going to retire?!”) is a good thing, I think! So, having already said this will be my last year to teach at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary (where I taught for 17 years plus the first ten years of my retirement), disposing of files (the first word that came to mind was “dumping files”!) becomes a ritual act. It is, I am discovering, an act that is bitter-sweet! And that is also a good thing!
Knowing when “it is time” to begin another chapter in one’s life, to accept God’s call to a new and challenging job even when one loves the job one has, to move across the country to an intentional community in Southern California, to downsize and move to another home–these are all the kinds of decisions each one must make. I pray that Dwight and I will continue to recognize good paths in good time and choose to take them!
Linda J. Vogel 12/23/13