It’s taken a few years to understand the concept of retirement but I think I’ve got it. You don’t have to plan on doing something; not having a plan to do something doesn’t mean you do nothing. Oftentimes I find myself saying either; “I think I’ll cut the grass tomorrow, or maybe I’ll throw the shorts that I’ve worn for the last five mornings I’ve gone walking into the washing machine”. And then tomorrow comes, and I’ll surf the web for seventies Aussie rock music, have a bowl of gelato, take a few selfies, or do nothing. I do this because I know that when tomorrow becomes today I can still do tomorrow, what I had planned to do today. Retirement means you don’t plan your tomorrow and you don’t plan your today.
It seems that the mention of no planning caused the young John McAdam to become restless. At seventeen I planned on becoming an Industrial Chemist; a scientist who would mix chemicals to create new-age polymers that would change the world. I started college with a passion and strong sense of commitment; soon displaced by the change and uncertainty of the sixties and seventies. There’s a lot I don’t remember about the seventies and my searching for inspiration and idealism in the ordinary. I plunged into the Aussie hallowed right of passage; the two-year working holiday in England. I hitchhiked through England and Scotland and wandered along the ill-defined Hippie Trail. I travelled overland, using buses and trucks, into India. The only plan for my journey of discovery was “OK”, and “let’s leave tomorrow”. There was always another path to follow. A few years later I stumbled into South East Asia, Burma, Nepal, India, and back into the Middle East. The itinerary was once again “OK”, and “let’s leave tomorrow”. What remained of my predictable childhood, and young adolescence was stolen by the enjoyment of the unknown.
Back in Melbourne, I drifted through life teaching in the Victorian Education Department’s Technical Schools. My enthusiasm for sharing the structure and logic, and creating an aesthetic appreciation for the beauty of mathematics in preadolescence boys, was dampened by the Department’s statewide syllabi. What was to be taught, and the week or weeks it would be taught, was prescribed by the Education Department; every mathematics teacher in every technical school throughout Victoria would be teaching Form 3 boys factorising expressions in the same week. I was in conflict; I had embraced living with the randomness caused by the absence of a methodical and systematic plan. My life was being planned by the sequence of teaching preadolescence boys; factorising an expression, calculating the area of polygons, and determining percentages and differences. And so I embraced the pandemonium and chaos of the Schools without Walls revolution. The progressive school where I taught divided a students day into three compulsory timetabled classes, and two “let the boys pick whatever they want to do” classes.
The traditional first, second and third forms technical school structure wasn’t used to group the boys into classes; instead six of each year one, two and three boys were combined to create a class for the timetabled activities. Classes were a collection of twelve through sixteen-year-old young boys and pubescent teenagers. Teaching was based on the premise, young boys will best learn when they decide they are ready to learn. I was no longer in conflict with a structured syllabus, and the boys were no longer in conflict with having to learn; if two parallel lines are cut by a transversal then the corresponding angles are congruent, obscure trigonometric ratios in right-angled triangles and ambiguous algebraic functions. I watched as inexperienced boys drifted aimlessly through their formative years and wondered, who would allow the hallowed right of passage, or the Hippie Trail and the cultures of South East Asia to mould and define their adulthood. Because most of the boys hadn’t decided they were ready to experience the aesthetic pleasures of mathematics I had nothing else to do but think about how and why we learn. I returned to college to study Instructional Technology and graduated with an advanced degree.
I once again took the fork in the road; leaving Australia and settling in the USA. The young John McAdam became dormant. He nestled into my hippocampus and wrapped himself in his blanket of thoughts, hopes, and dreams; he was deep in hibernation. For close to thirty years I enjoyed being a member of a dynamic community college instructional design team; responsible for infusing technology with learning and transforming and redesigning the delivery of learning for college students. I was an immigrant travelling without GPS through the still shaping digital landscape; our only plan was to use technologies to create new learning environments.
It seems that my retirement of no planning has caused the young, hibernating John McAdam to stretch and yawn. I need to start planning some strategies for my old age before he fully wakes and starts off with his laissez-faire, do-nothing way of thinking. I think I will need to;
Wear white socks. Instead of roaming ill-defined trails, or splashing through the waves in my rugged closed-toe sandals, I need to start wearing white tube socks with my Teva sandals year-round when I’m in the house, and when I’m mall walking. And when I take up bowling changing into bowling shoes will be so much easier; I’ll be halfway there with my socks already on. Wearing white socks will also prepare me in case I develop diabetes as I move on in years and have to wear compression socks.
When the single-leg stance exercise becomes easy and my balance improves, I’ll up the ante by closing my eyes and holding onto the trolley with one hand; I may also increase the time standing on one leg to 60 seconds. Maybe I could interest other sunset year shoppers in the single-leg stance exercise for better balance. We could form a club similar to a senior mall walking club. Supermarkets have a comfortable indoor climate, easy access to toilets and water fountains, and the camaraderie fostered between a group of old-timers standing on one leg in a supermarket aisle would be beyond belief.
It seems that the mention of sex, drugs and rock and roll has aroused the young John McAdam from his hibernation. I need to go into the backyard with him to plan what we are not doing tomorrow so we can do something else.