The Annual Birthday Post: You Can’t Teach an Old Dog New Tricks. Or Can You?

Another year older, and a lot has changed.

And so another birthday has landed on my doorstep. I’m sitting here staring at the empty page, trying to come up with something clever and snarky to write for my annual birthday blog post.

The cursor blinks. I curse it.


Something has come to me. A retrospective of sorts.

Since last year’s birthday, a lot has happened. Let me attempt to recount the changes that have occurred in our lives over the past year without boring you to death.

1—I underwent hip replacement surgery two weeks after my birthday last year. It’s been a year-long road to recovery. Initially, while I was healing, my SI-joint went out of whack, so recovery was endless, painful, and not how I had imagined it would be. In plain English, it sucked.

2—Our son graduated from college in May, secured a full-time job, and is living in Eastport in Annapolis. Empty Nest Syndrome 1 has set in. Who is ever entirely ready for this?

3—Our daughter is moving back to college for her junior year but will be living in an apartment off campus. She, as well, will no longer be at home, and Empty Nest Syndrome 2 has taken hold. A double whammy.

4—After much deliberation, soul-searching, and discussions with my husband, I decided to step back from my full-time faculty role at the university and roll into part-time adjunct teaching in the university’s online programs. After 30 years of teaching, I look forward to continuing doing what I love, just at a different pace.

Everyone always tells you how fast time will go, how in the blink of an eye, your kids will be grown, they will be self-sufficient, and you’ll have more time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.

Likewise, as someone who withstood the sometimes maddening frenzy and pace of the last 22 years—of raising kids and putting their schedules first, of working a demanding work schedule, of trying to keep the house in order, of visiting loved ones, of writing on the side, and of volunteering when I could—I’m now looking forward to a different way of life. Of doing more things that I want to do on my timetable as the days behind me outnumber, most likely, the days in front of me.

That’s not snarky. At my age, it’s just true.

I look at my bookshelves and realize I have a lot to read. There are lists of shows and movies I want to watch. I look at my thighs and waistline and know I have a lot of walking to do to get those suckers in shape. I look at my house and sigh, knowing that after nine years here, there are some interior projects that need to be tackled. I relish my calendar with fewer meetings and bookings, and I’m thankful I have more time to spend with my parents, children, and friends.

As I was lamenting this new way of life, my mother shared something a fellow colleague said to her when she had retired after 30 years of teaching middle school. He said, “Remember—you are not retiring from something. You are retiring to something.”

I’m adopting this mantra as my own.

So often, especially here in the United States, we glorify the notion of “being busy.” We relish telling our friends we can’t meet up because we’re busy. We make apologies that we can’t attend functions because we’re just so damn busy. Busy, busy, busy. All the time, time, time.

I’ve been there, believe me.

Now, I’m looking forward to being more…free, free, free.

My husband and I have always said that when retirement fully comes down the road that we will never be at a loss for things to do. We have a lot of interests. We like to do a lot of different things. We look forward to traveling, boating, attending sports events and concerts, reading, visiting with friends and family, and trying every waterfront restaurant we can find.


More, more, more, of that, that, that.

Birthdays make you reflect this way, you see. They force you to examine the past and look toward the future. What will the next year be like?

I honestly have no idea. It seems I’ll have to take it as it comes.

I’m certainly fortunate to be able to say I’ve worked hard since I was 14 years old when I took that full-time babysitting job from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m.every single day in the summer. Over the many years since then, I have worked at various jobs tirelessly, and even now, in my semi-retirement, I’m still going to teach and write part time.

And yet, I’m still able to get a little taste of what it might be like when retirement comes full throttle.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. It may be true. Sometimes the old dog has to ease into things.


  • bethvicker

    Happy Birthday and Bravo! When I retired in 2016, after our cross country move, I realized I was not willing to learn a whole new set of procedures and laws in a new state to resume my 20 year paralegal career. My heart was no longer in it. So instead, I joined a book club, a women’s small group, ramped up my social life and said yes to things I’d not had the time or energy for, before. Enjoy this new season!

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