Almost six weeks have passed since I began what I refer to as my enforced retirement. As happens every summer to most of us, the time has passed quickly. The calendar suddenly says August; late summer is descending as quickly as the temperature (for a time, at least) is rising. Many people are planning end-of-season getaways. In a number of locales, kids are on the verge of returning to school or are already back in the classroom.
In the past, my husband and I also took a vacation or treated ourselves to an overnight stay before the season changed once more. We contemplated doing the same again this year, but then the realization hit: for the first time in more than two decades, there is no necessity to be back at work the day after Labor Day. A September trip became a possibility. While it is a cause of celebration, there is a sense of the bittersweet. Despite my relief that the decision—the only right one—has been made, I will not be joining colleagues at my or other schools as they plan another academic year. The world I have known for nearly a quarter of a century is moving on, and I am no longer a part of it. There is no more sharing literary treasures with young people, no more encouraging children to think creatively and critically about books they have read, no more leading stimulating class discussions, no more choosing reading materials to enhance the quality of the collection, no more conducting schoolwide activities promoting a love of reading and showcasing young peoples’ writing and artistic talents.
However, there is another way of looking at things. While this part of my life is at an end, it leaves room for a new opening. This is the season when Jews the world over look back at the past year and, more importantly, look ahead to the one about to begin. It is a time for reflection, for thinking about what we have done in the past and considering how to do and be better in the future. Even though (in the northern hemisphere, at least) summer is ending and autumn waits in the wings, it is a season for a new beginning. As the leaves change from green and show their true colors (made possible by the absence of chlorophyll), we humans can focus on our true colors—what makes us who we are without outside trappings.
The possibilities are endless.