After 19 years in Lexington, we will be moving to Cape Cod three weeks from tomorrow. I’ll officially be retired from Emerson College the week after that. I’ve known this for awhile, of course. It was my decision. But the full force of that knowledge smacked me in the face only yesterday.
I was driving home from an alumni weekend event honoring me and my long-time colleague and friend, Manny Paraschos, when I realized I have no idea what’s next. And for a moment that scared me enough to throw me into a catatonic nap at 2:30 p.m. that lasted 90 minutes.
Today, I’m doing better, but I’m still a bit wary. Whatever wave crashed over me once likely will rain down again. So as I sorted books this afternoon in preparation for our big move, it was nice to come across a tiny $4.45 shirt-pocket book titled “The Quotable Traveler: Wise Words for Travelers, Explorers, and Wanderers.”
I’ve always loved travel for the very reason that it breaks patterns. It exposes us to new places and people, opens us to surprise, provides opportunity for serendipity. Retirement, I suspect, does all the same things. Only unlike travel, it comes without the safety net of the trip ending, thrusting us back into routine while we dream of or pine for the next escape.
In retirement, there is no more routine. Not at first anyway. It is the open-ended promise of freedom that is precisely what makes it scary. I’ll have to carve something new out of time or simply, as the cliche would have it, “go with the flow.” And at 69 years old, there’s no room for excuses, for pushing dreams further down the road.
Which brings me back to the “Quotable Traveler,” here are a few of its excerpts that I liked.
“All any of us need is a very light suitcase,” wrote Oswald Wynd, a Scotsman.
“A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveler does not know where he came from,” Lin Yutang counseled. I guess that leaves me somewhat short of good, but I certainly never planned this journey of life carefully.
“The journey, not the arrival, matters,” wrote T.S. Eliot. There, I feel a little better.
For the record, we are going to East Falmouth. What it is, other than sea and sand, remains something of a mystery. What we’ll do there — that’s a mystery, too. What we’ll find you’ll learn as soon as we start exploring.
I’m retired now. I’ll have time on my hands. Poking around and sharing what I see …. that’s one way, I suspect, that I’ll fill my time.
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world,” wrote Freya Stark.
Here’s hoping Stark was on to something.