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Divorcing Your University: A Survivor's Guide

Updated: Jun 27, 2019

An occasional blog to encourage those who are considering retirement that the water is fine, and to reassure those who have already retired that it was worth it. Originally titled "How Not to Die of Retirement," this site celebrates the person behind the plaques and publications: the real self that the university cannot reach.

Part I: The "Me-Wall"

Sometimes students would come into my office and say "this is exactly what I thought your office would look like." This sounds like a compliment, but is actually a diagnosis. What they are saying is that your identity as a university teacher and your real self have become so closely aligned that they cannot see the join. The part of you that began as an extension of your identity--your academic persona--has become a parasite. The energy is flowing the other way: instead of giving, the University is taking. You have poured your self into this second identity, but it has become a carapace, a hard shell inside of which you have become soft and mushy. Break the shell. Dismantle your office memento by memento, one plaque at a time (there's a reason they call them plaques). One thing you'll soon discover is that there's no place for a "me-wall" when you take everything home (there's a reason they call it a wall). That intentionally impressive array of carefully cultivated awards from students and organizations and alumni and appreciative spaces in the academy: bin it all. It has less value than your children's chess trophies. Those glittering prizes are made of tin. You are made of a different metal.

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