They Offered Early Retirement To Faculty. Here’s Why I Took It At 51.

James Lang:

[O]ver the past few years I have felt an increasing sense of imbalance in my professional life. My primary passion has always been writing. I write out of a compulsion that I don’t fully understand, but that gives my life purpose and joy. …

I’m happiest when I am writing, and I am convinced I have many more books left in me. But with each passing year, as my teaching, service, and administrative duties grew, I seemed to have less and less time to write.

I thought a lot about how to make more time for it but couldn’t see any easy remedies. My university paid me a salary, after all, and had given me a good life. My first responsibilities had to be toward my students, my colleagues, and my institution. Sure, research and writing are part of my job — but a relatively small part at a teaching-intensive institution like mine.

In short, I began to feel less like a plant blooming in a sunny garden and more like one fighting for sun in a shady corner of the yard, sending out tendrils and vines in search of new soil and light. But I had been in that container for so long I couldn’t see how to uproot myself and embark upon a different kind of professional life.

Along came the pandemic. Strange how a global health crisis can clarify the mind: I have only so many years left on the planet. Someday my back will indeed begin to stiffen, and all the yoga in the world won’t turn back time. Someday my passion for writing may diminish. And someday the ideas and words may not flow as easily as they do now.