Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Last Day!

Wednesday was my twenty-eighth last day of the "year," and fifty-sixth last day of the semester. Actually, it's more than that if you count my time as a T.A., but fifty-six is already a mind-boggling number, so I don't want to count those grad-school semesters.

I had only two students in my Italian Civilization class this spring (normally, it's offered once every two years; this was an experiment in offering it in two consecutive years. A failed experiment, obviously). When the dean saw how small the class was, she could have cancelled it, but luckily she's one of the good deans, and she said, "So whatit's her last semester. Let her keep the class." I was even luckier that the two students were wonderful.
Photo courtesy Lori Catanzaro, hostess of my amazing retirement party
You can see how beautiful these two ladies are. You can also see how much we dress up for class at Vandy. What you can't see is how hardworking and intelligent and fun they are! I'm so happy that they made up my last class.

No, that's not champagne, although if it were, what would they dofire me? Sparkling cider.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Leaving the Job, Not the Friends

One aspect of retirement that Greg and I have never considered is moving. After 29 years (for me) and I-won't-say-how-many years for Greg, who was born here, Nashville is home. It's not just the city, even though it's a very liveable town with a lot of great things to do—new restaurants every day, it seems; excellent theater and music of all kinds; beautiful countryside around us; affordable living—it's the people more than anything else that make the idea of leaving impossible.

I got to see a lot of my friends at the amazing retirement party that Lori and her daughter Natalie threw for me last weekend.
Hard to believe it of such gorgeous women, but they're even nicer than they are beautiful!
Lori and I are homies from New York's Hudson Valley, and we're both Italian-American (she's 100%; I'm only 25%, but it's a dominant 25%). She's an amazing cook—check out that spread!

Greg and I felt like we were posing for our prom pictures.

I really do have wonderful friends at the day job. I've known some for as long as I've been at Vanderbilt . . .

. . . others are more recent.

Trying to respond to a lovely toast from Lori, under Mary Nell's watchful eye.
The guest list included no "duty" invitations; everyone there was dear to me.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Guest post: Joe Lamport

Today's guest post is by Joe Lamport. I won’t date either of us by saying how long we’ve been friends—but it's been a looooong time—and I’m enjoying watching him transition from being an overworked lawyer to his new life as a writer and translator. Heres some of what hes learned.

Probably the biggest surprise has been discovering how little time there is every day, even though I no longer have to wake at 6 a.m., shower and shave and head off to the office for ten hours. It’s amazing how quickly a morning at home flies by. In the absence of a commitment to the office grind, the business of daily living has expanded in kudzu-like fashion to fill the void—all the cleaning and shopping and fixing and puttering around that I’ve ignored for the last twenty-five years now cry out for my attention. And there is no shortage of even less-productive ways to waste time, with a web browser close at hand and no boss to look over my shoulder.

So no matter how much I try to stick to a schedule, which includes a minimum commitment of two hours per day for my writing, there have been some weeks where my writing has advanced not even by a line. How can that be, I wonder, and how did I ever manage to hold down a full-time job for all those years, and still manage to find time for my writing?

The other major surprise is just how ill prepared I was temperamentally to fully enjoy my new-found freedom. For about twenty-four of the last twenty-five years I keenly anticipated the day when I would be able to give up practicing law, no longer needing to vex myself with legal briefs and SEC filings, or worrying about how much money was being left on the table and by whom, or finding it necessary to further insinuate myself into my clients’ business. And yet no sooner did I celebrate saying Goodbye, Day Job than I discovered myself saying Hello, Night Sweats.

Of course, my job as lawyer and general counsel came with its own considerable stresses. But now I find myself having to deal with a new and unanticipated kind of stress. Having no external deadlines and pressures brings its own anxiety. The phone doesn’t ring, the flood of email has abated to a trickle, and I have quickly discovered my own complete dispensability to my former colleagues and clients. Maybe it’s a necessary kind of detox—getting the type A lifestyle out of my bloodstream. If so, it’s been almost three months since my last day on the job and I’m still waiting to feel myself truly free of those toxins.

But don’t get me wrong. No matter what the challenges and anxieties of my unemployed status, I have not yet begun to contemplate calling it quits on calling it quits. The freedom is beyond exhilarating now that I have nowhere to hide but in my own skin. And every day brings an interesting new wrinkle. Even if I haven’t yet managed to find the time or self-discipline to make great progress every day, I’m slowly starting to chip away at the stack of things I feel more than a passing need to write or say.
The Adventures of Monkey King
Joe Lamport is a writer and translator who lives and doesn't work in New York. He has written a novel called Dinkelmann's Rules. He has published translations of classical Chinese poetry under the pseudonym Lan Hua, which can be read online and at The Epoch Times. His most recent work is a book-length translation of the classic Chinese novel The Adventures of Monkey King, the first chapter of which has been published online.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Vanderbilt in the Spring

Several years ago, I interpreted for an Italian man undergoing treatment at Vanderbilt Hospital. When he was recovered enough that his wife could push him in a wheelchair, they asked me if there was a park nearby where they could enjoy the spring. I told them about Centennial Park. The next time I saw them they told me that they had enjoyed the park; it was beautiful, they said, but they were surprised not to have seen any little children, moms with strollers, etc. Turns out they were on the Vanderbilt campus the whole time.

I've always been happy to work at such a beautiful place. I used to arrive on campus quite early in the morning and often saw hawks—and once an owl—on the hunt. I've never taken the beauty of the campus for granted.

I felt a little wistful as I was snapping these pictures, thinking how much I would miss it, and then thought, You idiot, you live a mile away; you can come here any time! After all, the magnolia explosion doesn't happen until after classes end, and I've always managed to enjoy that. In future years, maybe I too will come to think of the campus as a beautiful park.

Furman Hall, the language building