Wednesday, March 16, 2011
When I was young, I wanted to be an architect, an actuary, or a physical therapist. I was actually accepted into a graduate program in physical therapy, but I met my husband and got married instead. I have never regretted that decision, but it did change my life. I started working for the Federal Government in 1973, and except for a few years off when my children were born and we lived in Bermuda, I have worked there ever since. My job is interesting, challenging, sensitive, and well paid. I have a thousand stories, but I can’t tell them. I’ve been a front line manager with my agency since 1989, and anyone who has ever managed other employees knows that adds a whole new level of challenge, as well as a lot of stories.
Well, now I am thinking seriously about retiring within the next year, and it suddenly occurred to me that if I live to my father’s age I will be retired for 35 years. What am I going to do with those years? What do I want to be now?
It’s too late to be a physical therapist, but not too late to do volunteer work at the County Recreation Center in the adapted aquatics program. I can’t be an architect, but I have a new camera and I can learn photography. I have my health back. I could move to California and bug my daughter full time. (Just kidding, dear)
So tell me – what did you want to do when you grew up? Did you do it? If you are retired, what are you doing to keep busy?
Here is a poem by John Engman about wanting to be one thing, and settling for something else.
I wanted to be a rain salesman,
because rain makes the flowers grow,
but because of certain diversions and exhaustions,
certain limitations and refusals and runnings low,
because of chills and pressures, shaky prisms, big blows,
and apes climbing down from banana trees, and dinosaurs
weeping openly by glacial shores, and sunlight warming
the backsides of Adam and Eve in Eden ...
I am paid
to make the screen of my computer glow, radioactive
leakage bearing the song of the smart money muse:
this little bleep went to market, this little clunk has none.
The woman who works the cubicle beside me has pretty knees
and smells of wild blossoms, but I am paid to work
my fingers up and down the keys, an almost sexy rhythm,
king of the chimpanzees picking fleas from his beloved.
I wanted to be a rain salesman , but that's a memory
I keep returning to my childhood for minor repairs:
the green sky cracking, then rain, and after,
those flowers growing faster than I can name them,
those flowers that fix me and make me stare.
I wanted to be a rain salesman,
carrying my satchel full of rain from door to door,
selling thunder, selling the way air feels after a downpour,
but there were no openings in the rain department,
and so they left me dying behind this desk—adding bleeps,
subtracting clunks—and I would give a bowl of wild blossoms,
some rain, and two shakes of my fist at the sky to be living.
Above my desk, lounging in a bed of brushstrokes flowers,
a woman beckons from my cheap Modigliani print, and I know
by the way she gazes that she sees something beautiful
in me. She has green eyes. I am paid to ignore her.