People have been asking whether I plan to retire in the near future. It’s a fair question: I turn 66 this July and indeed have been making noises about doing so. But retirement doesn’t quite fit my vision for the next year, nor does it fit my current plans.
I intend to continue with the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding at EMU, although at less than full-time employment. While continuing to teach my primary courses, I hope to attain some of the benefits of retirement: a more flexible schedule, fewer “have-to’s,” more time for personal interests.
In sorting this out it was helpful recently to spend time with my friend Dick Lehman, an internationally known potter. We get together every spring to photograph, drink espresso and generally catch up with each other. But this year we were also thinking through a series of decisions he faces.
Dick has been through a variety of treatments for cancer and, in addition, his business of 30 years faces a number of challenges. He has now decided he must close his business, focusing instead on more personal work and goals. He is embracing the necessary changes not as a loss but as the next phase of his artistic career – a phase he had not expected to enter until some years later. His reframing has been helpful for me in my own decision-making.
Rather than retirement, then, I see my own plans for next year as a embarking on a new phase of my vocation. Justice issues, including restorative justice, will inevitably continue to be an emphasis but in addition, I hope to have more time and energy for a variety of photography, writing and other projects.
My photographic work, and more recently the opportunity to teach and engage with the emerging field of art-based research, have deepened my commitment to artistic “ways of knowing.” In this next phase of my vocation I hope to make this kind of work more central.
Practitioners of a branch of art-based research in the educational field call themselves A/R/Tographers: Artist/Researcher/Teacherographers. Maybe I’ll try to think of myself as a W/A/Tographer (Writer/Artist/Teacher) more than a justice “specialist.”
At any rate, the signs are increasingly clear: if I try to continue my past pace of work and travel, I’m going to burn out. So my goals are to integrate more breathing space into my life, to pay more attention to what my body and spirit are telling me, and to emphasize involvements that are life-giving for me as well as, hopefully, others.
To declare this is one thing; to follow through is another. By announcing my intentions publicly I am trying to make myself accountable to them. And to keep this commitment I invite the help of those of you who consider yourselves my friends and colleagues.