It’s the end of the year, so I thought I would jot down a few thoughts that have been meandering in my head. The end of 2016 brings new beginnings for me that I hope to follow out for some time.
Endings & Beginnings
Retirement: Now there’s a word for you. I’ve been a university prof for some 27 years now. That road is coming to an end. But retiring is not in my vocabulary. Not that it’s a bad thing, shouldn’t be enjoyed on some level, or recognized as a point on some journey one takes. But I simply do not want to cease doing some things, work-related, that fulfill me. What does this next year bring? For me, it brings an expansion of my private practice, some time to do more writing an traveling, and an opportunity to carve out things in my life in a new direction. From the private practice and writing perspective, the coming year and those that follow, provide a challenge for me to see if I can cut in the free market. Yes, I’m a free trader and looking forward to the challenge. I particularly like the idea of expanding my work with clients (professional counseling) and mentoring interns who are entering the profession. Some things end, while others begin. Interestingly, for those in the professional counseling world, my pathway is a bit ass-backwards. Most professional counselors nearing retirement go into teaching. I knew I wanted to teach on the university level many years ago. Sinuous paths, decisions and re-decisions, and fortuitous events led me to my goal somewhat late in life. But I’ve had a good 27 years of teaching, so I can say, I’ve done that. And I will probably keep my foot in that ballpark, albeit more restricted to adjunct work. Things end; things begin. Is not this the cycle of life?
I’m one of those people who journal. Like many who do, this time of year leads me to look back on what I’ve written down over the year, if not the past couple of years. Such reflection allows me to build on my thoughts, goals, and values. Sometime just before 01/2017, I’ll take a morning to re-read some thoughts I jotted down over the past year, hopefully to clarify where I’m headed next year. It’s also fun to peruse what I’ve written. Why the hell did I write that, always comes to mind; or even more comical, What the hell did I mean by that, pops into my brain more than just a few times. It’s also fun to recognize how I have modified to various degrees the directions I want to head. I used to think: One needs to nail these things down ASAP. I no longer believe that. Indeed, I believe it’s rare that anyone can know all they want to do and accomplish at eighteen, twenty-eight, or even thirty-eight. More importantly, I believe that’s just fine, and I would say to anyone, don’t sweat it. We love the narrative regarding those precocious individuals who, from the time they were five-years-old, knew they wanted to be a ballet dancer or whatever. However, such an experience adapted as standard for people’s lives can wear out the soul rather quickly. We’re all on a journey that’s chock-full of unknown barriers, obstacles, surprises, and changes-of-heart. Embrace the journey and let it ride.
I’m to the point now that I want to delve more into my personal writing. Sometime back on this blog I penned my thoughts about writing. If you want to write, then write – and write everyday about something. I feel ready to gather a lot of my thoughts so as to explore various topics and interests for writing. Although, I would like to make some income from doing so, I can honestly say, I’m not focused on that as a goal. I simply want to explore some things and put my thoughts down regarding them, more so for me than anything else. I’ve published articles in professional journals, self-published a book of short-stories, and have done quite-a-bit of blog writing. All of that has solidified how I see writing playing a part in my life. I’ve not only never believed that I’m a great writer, but also, don’t even know what being a great writer actually entails. I’ve sure read some people I think are great writers. But that’s as far as that goes. I do believe that writing can help clarify, but writing also can bring more fog that one didn’t realize was present. Over the next few years, I have some loose goals concerning my writing and the topics I wish to approach. Then again, come next year, I might have a completely different take on things.
The one thing I love to do is read. I hope the future will open up for me even more time to pursue those topics of study that have come to interest me. Of course, those are not related merely to the counseling field. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and more are all on the bucket-list. Re-reading some works I read years ago is on the list as well. I love ideas. I view it as an adventure to encounter the ideas of various writers who write well about their thoughts, beliefs, and values. Whether or not I agree with a particular writer is only one thing to consider. It’s interesting to me to see how one comes to the ideas and conclusions one holds. Not a whole lot to say about this topic, other than I’ll continue to do, as always, what I enjoy doing.
I’ve done some traveling in my time. One thing I really like to do, living in Austin, TX, is trip on over to New Mexico, particularly Santa Fe and the hot springs in Ojo Caliente. Sometime in the summer, I want to do the major Road Trip out west. And yes, I want to stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon. Another excursion I have planned is the Continental Train ride across Canada, preferably in the autumn months. No doubt, traveling opens one up to experience. Nothing more to say here, other than I enjoy getting out on the road.
Who am I kidding? I’m 69, so I’m not just approaching 70. I’m there, pal. Old fartdom is an interesting place to be. The reality is that for sure, the fuse is shorter. But just how short, no one knows. Nonetheless, thoughts on the autumn and winter of one’s life emerge, fade into the background, emerge again, sometimes heavily and other times fleetingly. I don’t really care to dwell on such things, not because they’re uncomfortable or frightening, but because there’s not a thing one can do about it. When I was 20, I had thoughts about what it meant to be 70. Now that I’m 70, I have thoughts of what it must mean to be 20. And then there’s the Nirvana dream of being 20 again, knowing what I know now. [I know some of you out there reflect on that experience; so don’t blow smoke at anyone saying your don’t.]. More importantly, the journey continues, and that’s a good thing. So the same ol’ question never ceases: what’s next? What I would encourage anyone to do is live it out. I hope I can fully embrace that for myself.
These few meanderings are not meant to sum up 2016, or any other phase of life. They are a few thoughts I have regarding the coming year and beyond. Quite frankly, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about this month, so I sit down and just threw these things out. Not bad, for off the cuff, huh? Summing up: whether you’re 20, 50, or 70, keep plugging.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, and the start you hope for into 2017!
John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/December 14, 2016