Last night was our year end staff party. Five of our number are retiring this year, including a friend who was hired the same year as me. All of them are familiar figures as in our workplace (a secondary school) seniority is all and it is very difficult to move from school to school unless forced by declining enrollment. In our union seniority is siloed, so if you get surplused and go to a new school you literally can’t be bumped again. If you don’t, you can spend more than five years bouncing around from school to school, with people with less seniority waving goodbye to you because they had been in that particular place longer. Seems kind of ridiculous but that is how we work it. A department head job might become available as well. In the second instance it’s an administration decision. The competition is usually fierce, or the school is one with a lot of challenges so most stay put.
So, in the case of this year’s retirees, all had been in this building for more than fifteen years. One, as said, has been here the entire 28 years I have walked these halls. It was a bittersweet evening to be sure. There were some laughs and some tears. We toasted the living and the dead. Life goes on I guess, nothing stays the same and no person is irreplaceable.
Some of course will be better at this job than others. Some will have a larger impact on the students, parents and wider community. But in the larger sense, we all move on, heading inexorably in the same direction. We do what we can, at least those with integrity do. And I can confidently say the people we celebrated last night have done that. All of them.
Events like last night do get one thinking. A generation seems to be passing and to stay almost seems like an intrusion. Passing the torch may be the thing to do. There are no retirement deadlines however, and plenty of people have worked at this job much longer than I have. I can stay, I know my rights. And I am good at what I do. (And coaching football is pretty awesome.) But life as a writer does call, and as I have been taught, especially in the last ten years, nothing lasts forever.
I admit to being childlike in my naivete about this hard reality in the past. My mother’s passing was a prominent example. I was literally stupefied by her death despite her protracted decline. What did I think was going to happen? And, it took me a long time to recover when good friends were surplused out of my workplace. ‘Change is inevitable’ is a truism that I could not or would not accept. You must live it to understand it better.
And it is better. I think.