When I began teaching at my alma mater in 1981, I was the "baby" of the North Shore High School faculty. Veteran teachers gently teased that I should be taking classes, not teaching them. I liked the attention. And, then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, as I neared retirement in June 2014, I was one of the oldest. New teachers called me Mr. Schachter instead of Saul. Wasn't crazy about that!
It's amazing how life comes full circle. Now that I am retired, I am back to being the baby.
I joined the Glen Head Gold Coast Library on a trip to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. I'm 59, but the average age of the participants seemed about 75 (I think even the bus driver was older than me). In November, I was the youngest at my first teachers' retiree luncheon. It was surreal. There was my fourth-grade teacher. At another table was my middle school football coach. Coming over to greet me, my sixth-grade math teacher. I felt like the clouds had parted and I was in North Shore Teacher Heaven.
Unlike some colleagues, I've adjusted well to retirement. I remember my dad happily proclaiming shortly after he retired from Grumman Aerospace, "Every day is Sunday!" And, indeed, he is right. Not bound by the school calendar, in late November I took a cruise from Australia to New Guinea. To avoid the brutal New York winter, I spent six weeks in sunny California. And, in April, to get my "teaching fix" (it never leaves those of us who loved the classroom), I taught English and math at the St. Augustine International School in Tanzania to help prepare the students for their Cambridge International Exams.
Upon my return, I planted my first vegetable garden: tomatoes, green peppers, zucchini. (As of this Saturday, there was no sign of life, but I remain optimistic!)
So, how has my life changed? Well, now I shave only every other day -- and if I don't anticipate seeing many people during the afternoon and evening, it's every third day. With no need to wear dress shirts and pants on a daily basis, my annual dry-cleaning bill went from more than $400 down to $12. I am now able to read the entire Sunday New York Times before the next Sunday's edition arrives. I take cooking classes and try out new recipes on my courageous family. I can accept invitations to parties and tickets to Giants football games on Sundays, when in the past I would wave them off with, "Sorry, I have school tomorrow. Have to prepare lessons!"
On the negative side, without the rhythm of the workweek and school year, I lose track of days -- and sometimes months. I've missed friends' birthdays and anniversaries. Sigh.
But retirement is good. I recommend it. Although I miss teaching and the happy chaos of my classroom, I've discovered there is life after North Shore and beyond New York.
I am off to the Toronto Film Festival in the fall and hope to do some volunteer work, perhaps overseas, later on. I don't know the exact schedule yet, but it's OK, I'm flexible. As my father said, "Every day is Sunday!"