Packing up my study

This is actually happening–my wife and I are essentially swapping spaces, so now I’m in the basement and she’s moved into my old space–but it has felt something like a metaphor, too.

The larger context for this metaphor is that my retirement is on the horizon. Once this semester ends, I’ll be working for another three years, and that’ll be that. I still want to research and write after I leave teaching, so it’s not as though I’ll be leaving academe entirely; for her part, my wife thinks I’ll still want to keep my hand in teaching by taking on a class or two as an adjunct, that I’ll miss being out of the classroom. She may be right about that But my son is turning four this month, and it already feels as though I have missed much of his infant and toddler years; and, truth be told, the work of teaching has kept me exhausted and, thus, unable to fully enjoy the time I’ve had with him. Moreover, my wife and I have always enjoyed traveling, but we’ve always had to schedule trips around an academic calendar. (It occurs to me that in another year or two, my son will have his own academic calendar . . . ) In a few years, we’ll have a bit more flexibility in that regard. It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that I was telling my wife that, so long as my health held up, I could see myself teaching well past my eligibility date for retirement. But then my son came along and, in these last twelve months, the pandemic. As a colleague of mine told me the other day, “I’m so tired, I’m re-tired.” (His last month with us is the first of June.)

So. The work of boxing up some things, of going through old files and deciding what to keep and what to recycle, of rearranging books and realizing I still need a couple of new bookcases to hold everything, has been something of a trip down memory lane . . . and a review of some purchasing decisions that, with time and distance, now seem less than wise. For one thing, I ran across a syllabus of mine from 21 yeas ago, when I was in my last semester at the University of Mobile. It was from an American Lit. survey class, and it was strange to read it again because its language (that of the various course policies, I mean) sounds to me a whole lot like I do now. Shouldn’t my bureaucrat-ese have evolved at least a little in all that time? Or am I, at a subconscious level, pretty much settled on how all that should sound? I feel more lenient nowadays than I did back then, but my tone doesn’t reflect that.

I have no idea what to make of all that.

Oh, yes–ill-advised purchasing decisions. Well, let’s just say that there were a bunch of bad books on Faulkner published back in the day, and I bought a few of them. Actually, calling some of them “bad” is unfair; it’s better to say that time has passed them by. Even accounting for the times in which they appeared, they no longer feel as though they have anything to teach their reader. Or this one, at any rate. So, off to Half-Price Books with them, along with hopes that someone wanting okay introductions to Faulkner might find them helpful.

There’s also been some looking-ahead, in addition to all this revisiting of the past. We have talked about moving in a few years, after I retire, so we’ll be doing all this again, in some form or fashion, before much time has passed. I will be older and casting about for things to keep me busy, seeing as I won’t have teaching to do that. And who knows how all of this will look to me then as I round up and load/unload these boxes yet again?

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