“It ain’t over ’til it’s over…”
~ Yogi Berra ~
This morning at 10:00 am Central European Time, after 29 years of work as an archaeological excavator, I was officially retired. A day that, for many years I was looking forward to, having worked steadily for all of my adult life, now will bring about a series of changes that will be challenging to deal with. Because my retirement income will only be one-third of what I was previously earning, and will with luck just cover my living expenses (rent, electricity, telephone etc.), I will not be retiring from working, and will have to find further employment in order to keep food in the refrigerator and some sort of minimal standard of living.
Just how things will progress from here is an open question at the moment. That I will continue to do archaeological photography work for this bureau, taking event photos, doing object photography for publication and most likely numerous other digital photo projects, seems fairly certain, although as of yet I don’t have a contract. And once I do sign on the dotted line, that work will probably only be for one or two days a week at the most. My original dream of retiring and spending two or three years pursuing my writing in Paris has gone up in a shower of sparks and a cloud of smoke, just like the fireworks on Bastille Day. Boom! Poof! Times may have changed, but I do not give up easily. My passions for both writing and Paris are not diminished.
But then, my whole life has been a spontaneous ramble through an interesting journey that has seen many forks in the road. As I stumble into this new adventure with my usual optimism that things will eventually work out, I can only look back in amazement and wonder at “what a long strange trip it’s been.” A lifelong commitment to a profession is never an isolated affair. Thanks to all those people who have helped me along the way, from the kind strangers who first tossed a few cents into my hat while I was busking when I first came to Europe, to my work colleagues who supported and advised me through the years and to all those many individuals who crossed my path and enriched my life. This ending today becomes a new beginning, as the cycle of life and the seasons move onward. And to paraphrase Tim Buckley, “I wave goodbye to the past, and smile hello to the future.” And whatever new mysteries it might hold…
Receiving my official retirement papers from the director of the General Directorate of Cultural Heritage at a small champagne and finger food celebration organized by my working colleagues this morning.
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