I have been thinking about retirement lately. Not really my own, although I can scarcely believe I have been a retiree for seven years already. I have been gone from my Graham High School classroom long enough to currently recognize only the names of those babies-now-students born to colleagues during my time at GHS – or the grandchildren of friends and former fellow teachers.
No, retirement has been on my mind because two more of my sisters recently relinquished long-held positions to join their already-retired spouses. With another sister having hung up her librarian hat a few years ago, just one sister and my brother remain fulltime members of the workforce.
Although my retired siblings are predictably glad for more time with grandchildren or on long-neglected hobbies, my personal retirement thoughts stretch beyond leisure-time activities. My vocation was also always my first love. It was more than difficult to give up my teaching position – even after forty years. So it is not entirely surprising that I have spent at least part of the last seven years involved in various types of tutoring.
Really, though, I continue to be utterly fascinated by jobs of all kinds and the minutiae of tasks they entail. I love to watch waitresses and bank tellers carry out their routine duties. I find it infinitely interesting to observe every book-related step taken by librarians and each frosting-flowered creation accomplished by cake decorators. A day in a busy airport to watch reservationists, security officers, and skycaps ply their trades would be a special treat.
I grew up in an era when occupations were clear and standard: farmer, nurse, fireman, secretary. Then job names morphed from housewife to domestic engineer, store clerk to sales associate, and nurse’s aide to patient care technician.
A modern plethora of occupational possibilities also further piqued my interest when I ran across an article about unusual jobs. Of course, once cutting-edge professions such as video game tester and bike messenger have been around for a couple of decades, and most of us have seen video clips of the Japanese”oshiya” pushing every last possible commuter into subway cars during rush hour.
Thus, I am intrigued to know that a kid can grow up to be a chicken sexer, who divides flocks of baby chicks into groups based on gender. A recent classified ad in New York advertised for a tortoise walker to escort a pet turtle on his daily constitutional through Central Park. And people patient enough to watch paint dry can turn that passion into income by checking semi-gloss or matte enamel for durability. The relatively new professions of veterinary acupuncture and horticultural therapy are also available these days – that is, if one is not tempted to enter the field of teddy bear surgery.
One job title included in the article was fortune cookie writer, a career that somehow called to me. I can imagine composing lofty-yet-practical life truisms that simultaneously appeal to a wide range of eggroll and moo goo gai pan consumers.
Another job possibility listed – nail polish namer – also somehow drew me in. Truthfully speaking, any job combining color and words would be a great second career. I mean, would not Butterscotch Fantasy be a great choice for satin finish paint, fingernail lacquer, and six-strand embroidery floss?
It was, however, game show host Alex Trebek who gave me the idea of the perfect coming-out-of-retirement position: research and clue writer for Jeopardy. It would be hard to find work more stimulating and just plain fun than filling categories like “11-Letter Words Containing Five Vowels” or “Clothing Trends by Decades” with clues based on high-class trivia.
All these professions – from chicken sexer to color namer and beyond – are just passing fancies, of course. I was fortunate enough to have lived my dream job for forty whole years. No, every day was not a dream day, and the politicization of education that exponentially increased outside my classroom door drove me to distraction. But spending every school day – and then some – of four decades with kids? Those years were the treasure of my life.
Years ago, a student of mine invariably answered “rodeo clown” whenever I inquired about his future plans. I am pretty sure he eventually chose the military over his youthful idea with its allure of enthusiastic crowds and travel possibilities. Still, in keeping with his spirit I hope that everyone has the opportunity at some time in life – during working years or retirement ones – to experience the satisfaction that only the right job can fulfill.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English andGerman from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 shecoordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.