A couple of days ago, I got my retirement gift from The University of Iowa. It’s a about a year and a half late because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but it’s welcome nonetheless. Normally there is an Annual Faculty Retirement Dinner, but it had to be cancelled. It’s a stunningly beautiful engraved crystal bowl with the University logo on it. It came with a wonderful letter of appreciation. It reminded me of my blog post in 2019, “My Definitive Journey.”
It’s a definitive symbol of the next part of my journey in life. For years I’d been a fireman of sorts, which is what a general hospital psychiatric consultant really is. The other symbols have been the fireman’s helmet and the little chair I carried around so that I could sit with my patients. I have changed a little.
I still have my work email access, which I’m ambivalent about, naturally. I check it every day, partly because of Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), but also to delete the junk mail. I still get a lot of it. I get a rare message from former trainees, one of whom said it “pained” her to learn I’m now Professor Emeritus.
I have not seriously considered returning to work. That doesn’t mean I have not been occasionally nostalgic for some aspects of my former life.
The poem, “El Viaje Definitivo” by Juan Ramon Jimenez evokes mixed feelings and thoughts now. I have gone away. But in looking back at the past, I now see now that the birds didn’t always sing. The tree was not always green.
I don’t miss my former home, the hospital, as keenly now, which is now a much harder place to work since the Covid-19 pandemic began.
And there is little that is definitive about my journey forward from where I now stand. I’m a little less afraid than I was over a year and a half ago. And the birds sing where I am now, sometimes more clearly than before.
El Viaje Definitivo (The Final Journey)
… and I will go away.
And the birds will stay, singing
And my garden will stay
With its green tree
And white water well.
And every afternoon the sky will be blue and peaceful
And the pealing of bells will be like this afternoon’s
Peal of the bell of the high campanile.
They will die, all those who loved me
And every year the town will be revived, again
And in my circle of green white-limed flowering garden
My spirit will dwell nostalgic from tree to well.
And I will go away
And I will be lonely without my home
And without my tree with its green foliage
Without my white water well
Without the blue peaceful sky
And the birds will stay
–Juan Ramon Jimenez