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Lasting Memories


If you have a GPS in your car, you know that when you don’t follow directions, you hear a menacing “Recalculating!” and that is not good news.

I have spent the last couple of weeks “recalculating” my life, and that hasn’t been good news either.  I have reluctantly accepted that my decision to be a 75-year old graduate student was a poor one.  I wrote earlier that I wanted to “taste the candy” by taking classes at the school where I had worked so long, and that seemed like reason enough to enroll. 

But the enormity of the change (from a more-than-full-time job where I was important to a graduate student where I wasn’t) in just 48 hours didn’t enter into my calculation.  I listened to my heart and ignored my head.

I was doing well in my classes.  But I didn’t feel like a student.  I felt like an administrator pretending to be a student.  And that didn’t feel good.  So last week, I withdrew.

My recalculation is a work in progress.  I am giving myself some breathing time.  I know that there is a right path for me toward a rich retirement in which I can give to others in gratitude for all the good things I have received.

I will take my time, but I will find it.



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Marc Leavitt


You made the right choice.

When I couldn't finish her sour-milk pancakes, my grandmother used to tell me that "your eyes are bigger than your stomach."

Give yourself permission to relax for a while.

It's good to walk in the park and smell the pretty flowers. A person of your intelligence will do just fine.

Twin City Joan

I know how you feel. The first year of retirement was one of the worst of my life. I felt at loose ends. I had gone from being a trusted leader in a profession I loved to being an nobody overnight and I didn't like it. I decided that it would all work out if I gave it some time and didn't get all in a bunch about it and it did. It will for you too. Just give it a little time.


Your doctor is right--Type A. I'm glad you made this decision so you have time to enjoy the freedom and flexibility that is the great pleasure of retirement.

Red Brick

Positive thinking about you. It will be interesting to hear about this path. :)

Mary Ellen Nessmith


You are amazing. I am so impressed with your decision to try school and with your decision to withdraw. Following your instincts is so important. I cannot wait to see what you try next. Your blog is an inspiration to me.

Mary O'Keeffe

Thank you for sharing your wise and thoughtful reflections here.

Like you, I was originally considering making a big plunge into a degree program this term (in my case, starting a masters degree in math at age 60 even though I already have a PhD in economics from decades ago), despite the fact that my plate was pretty full of other things (continuing to teach economics and lead a very active service-learning program at my college, doing community outreach work, dealing with grief and complicated paperwork from my husband's estate and winding down his business.)

My younger daughter wisely talked me into something far more modest--just enrolling in *one* graduate class as a nondegree student. It is credit-bearing, so if I ever do decide to go for a degree, it can be applied toward that degree. And because I am a nondegree student, I am free to choose anything that I love rather than worry about sequences, etc. I am also taking the class at a completely different institution from the one where I teach. So on late Tu-Th afternoons, I am a "grad student" at UAlbany, but the rest of the time, I am still "Professor O'Keeffe from Union College."

It is a wonderful way to be in both worlds. I haven't fully changed my identity as I figure out my path. (Though I do enjoy the perks of a student ID, including discounts on frozen yogurt at TCBY!)

When I am in class or working on my math homework (real analysis, a subject I have not studied for 40 years), I feel 20 years old again for a few hours. I often listen to "oldies music" from that period while I do my homework. (It is almost Proustian--all these memories coming flooding back into my head. I will see a problem and suddenly remember the window seat where I was sitting when I solved a similar problem 40 years ago!)

But it would be dizzying and disorienting had I decided to take the full load of 4 or 5 classes I had originally contemplated. Now it just feels refreshing and rejuvenating, almost like yoga for the brain. Maybe I will take another class next semester, and maybe not.

Life is a journey, not a destination. Finding the right path for each of us is a tatonnement, trial and error, process.

Margaret Rader

I so admire you for knowing when you need to take a step back. That takes courage too, especially if you have told everybody what you were going to do. Your next step become apparent to you, and you don't need to rush it. In our 70's, it is no longer sinful to be idle. :)



Thank you for sharing a difficult decision. I respect your candor and know you will find something else to fill the void of work. You have so many choices. Please keep me updated.

How about adopting a puppy?



A very honest post. That must have been hard to say.


I am younger than you but required major colon surgery and decided to retire right before I had the surgery. I could retire, I was a federal employee supervisor, and job stress was high. That was in March, surgery recovery is good, and I decided to finish that PhD in computer science. I was ABD and my old advisor said lets do it. I asked her to set deadlines for me even though I am 60. My heart is not into it. I don't want to read technical journal articles. I read biographies instead. My days are unstructured. I get your decision and the floundering feeling. Hang in there. I don't know what I will do yet.

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