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.

12 comments on “Retirement?”

  1. Catherine Bargen says:

    Howard, thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us this way! No doubt all who know you will want to support you as you make decisions that are life-giving. I appreciate your example too. Shall we start a “we love justice issues, but we really love seeing the world in different ways including through art and other neat stuff” support group??

  2. Judah Oudshoorn says:

    Hey Howard,

    I was glad to read this update, as I’ve been wondering recently how you are doing. Your plans sound good to me 🙂 …good luck with WATograpy…I guess it’s better than WARTography.


  3. Howard, this is great news, and thank you for walking us through the process. At 58 years old, I have also hit a crossroad. After 33 years in juvenile justice and academia, I am looking to switch careers. I can no longer do restorative work in the system, and I am really looking for a university position that will allow me to teach restorative justice, while using RJ practices all over the campus. It is not an easy quest, but the time has come. I am also looking to make more room in my life for photography. It makes me feel better, Howard, knowing that our paths will cross several more times in the coming year.


  4. Alyson from Shetland says:

    Dear Howard,

    I am feeling rather Shame faced but even more grateful for the rapid selfless response to my recent email asking for your ideas about my dissertation. Thank you. I guess by making your plans public you may fend off the myriad requests which build into an awful lot of additional hours working. I wish you all the best in your efforts to cut back on the \have to’s\ and in enjoyment of your personal interests and I look forward to catching up with these changes on the blog.

    All the best and thanks again for your time.

    Alyson K

  5. Phyllis Turner Lawrence says:

    Dear Howard,

    I echo everyone else’s comments. Your contributions to RJ I’m sure will continue and now also be accompanied by pioneering work in this new realm. But you know what, I’ve always thought of you as a Writer, Artist, and Teacher – it’s just that now we have some initials for it!

    Thank you for sharing your journey with us, and I look forward with warmth and enthusiasm to share more in the future.

    With great appreciation,

  6. Judy Clarke says:

    Hello Howard,
    You are such a gifted teacher and I count myself fortunate to have called you “my professor”! I look forward to seeing you this fall in Research for my last class on campus at EMU! By the way, I have retired twice and just can’t seem to get it right! Perhaps you will teach me how.

  7. Dear Howard:

    I see your “retirement” as the practical continuation of the implementation of the restorative justice philosophy in your life. Time to hear the ripe and profound story in your inner self… time to satisfy the evolving need of the higher self…..

    Keep making paths at walking,


  8. Hi Howard, Thank you for posting so many useful tips and thoughts on photographic topics. Thank you for sharing so much of your experience. I have read several articles of your blog, finally have a chance to post a comments here. Please keep up the great work!

  9. I also appreciate the personal and reflective nature of this post, Howard. Describing your next steps as another phase of your vocation is more believable to me than “retirement.” Even from this distance, it is clear that you still have too much vision and drive to be ready for full-time retirement.

    As I read the post I kept imagining the many, many people (such as me) who have been inspired by your teaching, mentoring, writing, and other work. As you step back from some parts of your work, you can rest easy knowing that many of us are eager to continue and build on the many seeds you have planted.

  10. Howard, I have been reading your posts for some time and want to thank you for your insight. I wish you only the best and do hope that you continue to post here.

  11. Sujatha Baliga says:

    Thank you for continuing to model for us, Howard, that who we are is what we bring to the work. Happy Birthday!

  12. Great thoughts/vision.

    I think you should help me plan a Anabaptist forum on Social Media and accomplishing the evangelism of Restorative Justice through blogging

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