Fran K’s Second Ending, 15 Years After the First One
There are, so far, two Frans who are members of the Profound Journey tribe. You have heard from Fran Fearnley, owner and curator of ZimArt. Today, I’m delighted to introduce you to Fran K. Fran will soon make a second ending, retiring again from her life in education. She wrote this piece in response to my recent post about transition to retirement and agreed to allow me to insert subheads and publish it as the first of what I hope will be a multi-part tribe story. Enjoy.
In four months, I will hand in the keys to my office and my identity badge with its magnetic clasp.
I am not sure yet if I will clean out my office, or simply walk out and lock the door. I’m finding that an interesting detail to contemplate.
Finding My Purpose
I spent a lot of years in my ‘real’ career in Canada. I fulfilled a variety of roles, from regular classroom teacher to special education, gifted education, and administration. There were many mentors–people who recognized certain qualities in me, nudging me in directions where I could explore fascinating bits and pieces of educational practice and research. Professional growth opportunities were plentiful.
In the last stage of my career, when I was an administrator, I took pride in building a good school, one that encouraged professional and personal growth in the staff who took care of our students. Education was my calling.
Weariness Sets In
With the onset of a new political environment in Ontario, a sense of weariness set in. The new politics in Ontario were so contrary to what I valued. When the opportunity for an early retirement came, I took it.
To be fair, it wasn’t just about politics. There was another important factor that played a part in my decision.
I lost my mother to cancer when I was in my early twenties and she was in her early forties. I often wondered if I would make it past forty. When I did, I needed to see what life would be like without daily routines and obligations. I wish so much that my mother could have gotten past the child-rearing stage of her life, and that I could have known her in my adult years.
Making a ‘Sort Of’ Ending
It was tradition that my school staff would host a retirement party that I was to know nothing about. Unfortunately, I was so used to organizing events that not being allowed to arrange my own party drove me crazy!
The retirement party came and went. Two memories predominate from that day–greeting people, and not getting to eat any of the delicious-looking food because I was so busy greeting people. What I learned is that I really value small, intimate and personal dinners rather than big gatherings. I easily remember the conversations from those dinners.
Off to Venice to celebrate my retirement! When I returned, I went to work in a different program that was still related to education. However, I missed the day-to-day socialization of being in a school.
One day, while at a conference in Ottawa, I glanced at a local newspaper. “Teach in a foreign country!” read the advertisement. That was something I had always wanted to do so I applied on the spot. My husband, a teacher, had not been consulted, and was less than enthusiastic.
Nevertheless, later that day I had a phone interview with a principal from the organization I had applied to, and I hung up the phone just dying to work with him. The principal was a truly charming southern gentleman from South Carolina in the United States.
A New Beginning?
That phone call was the beginning of our post-retirement odyssey. From South Carolina to Egypt, then England and now Uzbekistan, we used the tools we had practiced during our first careers. Our roles varied in our different schools. Sometimes I was a teacher, sometimes a principal, sometimes a curriculum coordinator.
During school holidays we travelled. We have seen much of the southern United States, Europe, and many Middle Eastern countries such as the Emirates, Turkey, Oman, and Iran.
My dream trip was to China where we saw the sites that had been images in my mind since learning about the Terracotta warriors of Xian in Grade 5 Social Studies classes. We spent Easter Sunday on the Great Wall of China, sending pictures from our phone to relatives back in Canada who were gathering for the family Easter dinner.
In our travels we met fantastic people and some not so fantastic. We have friends around the world. Souvenirs fill our home.
A Second Ending
After almost fifteen years of teaching in foreign countries, I am satisfied. I have done what I wanted to do, in education and in travel.
I have seen how wealthy people live in poor countries, made friends with travel agents and restaurant owners, attended weddings in Egypt and Uzbekistan. My life has been enriched far beyond what I could have imagined when first reading that advertisement in the Ottawa newspaper. Nevertheless, it’s time for a second ending.
I do not think I will have a ‘transition’ stage when I return to Canada in June. Or maybe this second career was my transition period.
I’m enjoying opting out of discussions at work. It’s fun to offer what I think about this or that issue, while reminding my colleagues that I won’t be there to live with the decision. I get a mad pleasure out of saying things like, “Next year you will have to do this…or that.”
It’s great to do things for the last time. I feel calm, looking forward to returning home and living at my own speed without fear of an impending ‘return to school’ date in early August.
The sense of peace in my life right now is truly wonderful.
Fran K. has had so many incredible life experiences. If you have questions or thoughts you’d like to share, I know she’d be pleased to read them.