March 26th, 2004
On this day thirteen years ago my life changed forever.
That sounds a little dramatic, but it’s true. For the previous 35 years – in another life – I had been a primary (elementary) school teacher. Eight of those years I enjoyed being a teacher librarian; I loved buying books and using the school’s money and not mine. I loved the relationship I had with the students in my classes over the years. I still keep contact with many of them, either on Facebook or in the town where I live. It’s great to see them developing as adults and to see their own children growing up.
What happened to change my life?
On that momentous day in March 2004, I clearly remember hearing a voice inside my head saying, ‘You’ve left your classroom for the last time.’ Now, I must clarify that I am a Christian and believe that God ‘speaks’ to us in many ways, but my experience of His audible voice has been very infrequent. I can really only recall one other occasion. During the first few months of 2004, I had been seriously struggling with illness. Teaching became an almost impossible struggle. On this day, March 26th, I had endured a meeting arranged for me with a counsellor. It was not easy acknowledging that I needed some serious help.
The voice was right. That was my last day of teaching in a primary school. I was granted some sick-leave by my doctor – I had plenty in reserve – and took several months off while I recovered. The process was long and emotional; I won’t bore you with the details. I didn’t want to give up a calling to teach, something I loved doing but a task which had become so hard in the face of my illness.
As my health improved, I was able to consult my financial planner. She looked at my situation with great compassion and understanding, just as my doctor and counsellor had done. She asked whether I would rather teach for a few more years to build up my superannuation, or cut loose and get better. ‘Do you want the extra money, or do you want your health?’
It was a no-brainer, really. especially when she told me that to teach for several more years as I had planned would only increase my super payout by a few dollars per week – $15 was the figure, I think.
I resigned forthwith.
And that’s when my life changed forever.
Life after teaching
For many months I struggled with coming to terms with my sudden retirement. It took me a long time to adjust to not fronting up at school every morning. It took me a while to get over my illness. One thing is certain: during the winter months that year, when the rain was pouring down outside, and the wind was howling around our home, and I was reading a good book in front of our fire, I did NOT miss venturing out to supervise the children during after-school bus duty. I didn’t miss it at all.
Over the subsequent years, I have experienced many wonderful times. Some of this has related to travel. I have been free to enjoy the delights of Thailand, Nepal (see the photo above of Ama Dablam, just a few miles from Everest), enigmatic Ethiopia, mesmerising Morocco and scintillating Spain. My wife and I have also travelled extensively in Australia in that time. We are planning more travel in the coming years. I have written about many of my adventures on my travel site called Trevor’s Travels.
After I had recovered sufficiently from my ill-health, I set about establishing my second career as a writer. I had always been a writer, but my writing was confined to weekends and school holiday periods. In the 1990s I actually published six books; two teacher curriculum books with four accompanying student workbooks, all of them sadly now out of print.
On my son’s encouragement, I started writing three blogs, this one you are now reading, plus Trevor’s Birding and Trevor’s Travels. I would love it if you visited them and left some comments. Both sites feature hundreds of photos of Australian birds and scenery shots of places we have visited. In total, with these three sites and two other sites I write for, I have published nearly 5000 articles since retiring. I feel tired just typing that!
During my retirement, I have also written several – as yet unpublished – novels and picture book texts, along with dozens of articles, short stories and poems. (Click on the sidebar to read some of my poems and stories.) Nearly 100 of these stories and poems have been published in a range of newspapers, journals and magazines.
Not content with just writing all of these blog posts, novels, stories and poems, a few years ago I also completed my degree. I now have a Master of Arts in Creative Writing. You can read about that process here. This has led to some lecturing and speaking at conferences. What I learned during this course has equipped me to tackle some earlier novels I wrote back in the 1990s. I am now in the process of rewriting them. Stayed tuned; I hope to publish these very soon.
On occasions, people ask me if I ever miss teaching. It’s a very valid question, especially in the light of a lifetime – 35 years – in the classroom. The short answer is ‘no’. I do not miss the long hours of preparation, marking and professional reading required. I do not miss the unending staff meetings and the politics of the staff-room. I do not miss the parents who make life hard for teachers to do their job; thankfully I experienced very few of them.
I do miss the children. I do miss seeing children develop their skills, especially children like Jennifer. She astounded me with the progress she made under my care and guidance.
I do miss building relationships with children and seeing them go on successfully in life. I actually keep a list of successful former students, following their careers.
And above all, I miss the fact that they all used to laugh at my ‘dad jokes’. Now my longsuffering wife is generally my only audience, though my 8-year-old grandson thinks I am hilarious.
It’s time to roll out a list of what I hope to do in the coming years:
- Many more blog posts here on this site, and the other sites I mentioned above.
- Continue on a wide-ranging reading programme, something all writers should do.
- Rewrite and publish as eBooks my novels, collections of stories and poems.
- Publish as eBooks several non-fiction books as spin-offs from my blogs.
- Write more novels; I have ideas for at least six more. Coming up with ideas is easy; writing the books is hard.
- Continue to travel here in Australia as health and finances allow.
Mmm… looks like I have a busy time ahead.
NEW: why not sign up for my irregular newsletter? Just go to the sidebar of this article, or to below the comments.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to TREVOR’S BIRDING.
10 YEARS OLD TODAY
I started blogging about Australian Birds ten years ago today.
What an interesting journey. It has, in part, satisfied some of my writing dreams. Even though I have published over 4000 blog articles in that time, on this and other sites, it has still amazed me of the result. Over all of my sites I have had over a million pageviews, over 7000 comments, over half a million readers from over 200 countries and a steady, but modest, income stream.
Trevor’s Birding, a companion site to this one, features photos and articles about Australian birds. Over the years I have travelled to many places here in Australia to capture photos of our wonderful and colourful birds. I have also taken photos and written about some birds I have observed in other countries, like Thailand, Nepal, Ethiopia, Morocco, and Spain. This site actually started on another platform and has had several upgrades over the years. I am hoping for some exciting new developments in the coming months, so stay tuned.
Trevor’s Travels, another companion site I write, and this one features articles about and photos of places I visit. These articles cover several states of Australia as well as Thailand, Nepal, Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain. I have many more photos yet to share on that site too. This site celebrates its 10th birthday late this year.
Of course, the site you are reading at present, Trevor’s Writing, has its 10th birthday in March next year. Many more articles to come and some interesting developments in the coming months.
And did I mention I also maintain and do some of the writing for our church website here?
This all keeps me busy writing.
I hope you like the bird photos featured today.
I haven’t had much time recently to add more posts here on this site. If you’ve missed me, my apologies.
Like many “retired” people I find that life can get very hectic when one is cut loose from the demands and discipline of fronting up to a job on a daily basis. I seem to be everyone’s target for calling on to do extra things. I guess I was also far more disciplined in my working years, and only took on those activities I knew I could handle – most of the time.
There is also the matter of advancing years. I find that physical tasks often take far more time to complete these days. Strange phenomenon that one. In retirement I also find many more interesting things to distract me, where I was far more focussed when I was working.
I have managed to clear the decks somewhat in the coming months, so I can hopefully devote far more time to my writing for the rest of the year, including this site and my other sites as well. That’s the plan anyway; I hope it pans out as planned.
I see only one major obstacle: our desire to travel.
My wife and I recently enjoyed our first long caravan holiday in many years. We were delighted to visit Mt Beauty and Bright in the Victorian high country. The amazing display of autumn leaves left us wanting to stay much longer. Then we spent a few days bush camping in the Barmah Forest near Echuca. We started to question our lifestyle. We concluded that we could – like many retirees – become accustomed to being itinerants, moving around and exploring the wonders of this beautiful country of ours.
My wife and I have just returned from a six and a half week trip to Ethiopia, Morocco and Spain. During that time I wrote an extensive journal every day. In the coming weeks I will publish excerpts from that journal here on my writing site. It will include accounts of what we did, what we saw and reflections on what we experienced.
Sunday 4th December: Dubai Airport
I am writing this in Dubai Airport at 6:15am local time after an exhausting but great trip so far.
In the days leading up to our departure we were extremely busy, first packing up and cleaning my mother in law’s unit and shade house. A friend helped me with the dismantling of the shade house and moving the plants out to our place.
Over the last few days we made last minute preparations for our big adventure overseas. This included checking the plant dripper systems, cleaning the yard, mulching the roses and other plants and gathering all we needed for the trip, including last minute purchases like extra camera memory cards, medicines and so forth. We packed our bags and everything was ready to depart. A major last minute problem mid morning was Corinne misplacing her reading glasses which quite distressed her. She took her computer glasses instead.
Our friends arrived at 2pm to drive us to Adelaide Airport. We had a pleasant trip with lots of chatter, mainly from me as Corinne was quite subdued. We were both very tired and she was perhaps nervous about her journey. I know I was and this is quite normal.
Our flight was at 5:35pm so we had time to check in and then have a drink, a muffin and a slice of carrot cake. Our flight was delayed by 25 minutes but we made good time to Melbourne. It was odd going in the wrong direction, but Emirates do not fly out of Adelaide.
Our friends from Gisborne near Melbourne were waiting for us when we arrived and after getting our boarding passes we had a cuppa with them. It was great seeing them and chatting for an hour. We then went through security and customs before lining up to board. Our flight to Dubai was uneventful, generally smooth but very long. Favourable winds meant just over 13 hours of flight (instead of 14 hours) and we arrived at about 5am local time. Corinne managed a few hours’ sleep but I think I only had a few short naps. We bought a drink at Starbucks and sat there writing in our journals, waiting for our flight to Addis Ababa.
The last few weeks have been very busy. Our daughter Rose, a teacher in one of our rural high schools, has taken up a teaching position in a school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the rest of this year. My wife and I have been busy helping her to get ready for this big adventure as well as tidying her house and garden ready for a house sitter while she is away. It’s been an exhausting few weeks but now she is safely in her new environment and quickly adapting to life in a strange culture.
Good writing skills run in the family as she has reactivated her blog to help family and friends share in her adventure. Her site is called Rose’s Travel Jottings (click to access). I’d recommend a visit every few days, especially as she adds photos. And later in the year we are planning to visit her and then the three of us will travel several other countries together. Stayed tuned for our adventure too.
Good reading – and good writing.