A month ago, my mom retired from her role as Dean of Continuing Education at a community college in southern California. On Friday she arrived in Chicagoland, and Riley is over the moon. (So am I.)
Each of my parent’s retirements have made me reflect on my own life and career, and before it slips away, I want to note some of my thought about hers.
One of my early memories of your relationship with work was from elementary school. Dad would be on school pick up that day, and as we rode in the car (probably for ice cream), he would tell me how much he and you valued being able to get me from school yourselves. And he explained to me how his full-time work schedule was flexible, but you you were working part time instead of full time in order to be with me more. I remember him telling me that you were making career sacrifices, that you were sharp and great at your work, but choosing to be part-time. I remember him telling me how worth it those sacrifice were. You were clear about what mattered.
A few years later, when you left non-profit relief work and went back to school, I remember noticing you had less evening time available. I was, I think, a little sad about that change. But my sadness turned to pride pretty quickly, because when I told other grown-ups that you were finishing school, they would all say, “Wow”, “That’s awesome”, or “I wish I could do that.” I saw the expressions on their faces–they were truly impressed. I didn’t know how rare or challenging it was for someone to spend their mid-40’s getting a B.A. and Master’s. But I learned that what you were doing mattered.
So you changed careers, began to teach ESL, and later moved into administration. I don’t know exactly when I learned you were a bit of a badass in your field, but it was super cool to figure that out. In part, it was fun to see my mom succeed. In part, it showed me that glass ceilings can be broken through.
Once, we were walking along Banyan together when you said, “I never would have thought God had a plan for my career.” You had a vital role to play in Dad’s career, I know, but as you worked at Mt SAC, you did your own work that mattered.
And you didn’t just advocate for English language learners, and adult education, and non-credit courses. You taught me about diversity, people’s different learning styles, why community college is so critical to our society, how subtle racism tears us all down.
I learned a lot of important things from you as a mom. But there are critical lessons I learned only from your career.
I learned about what matters. Family, yes. But also finding something to do to make the world better. Raising your kids, absolutely. But also serving others and advocating for justice on their behalf. Mothering, yes. But also being yourself, and doing something you think is important and uses your skills and talents. Maybe it felt like you had to juggle between family and career and ministry at times. But as you retire, I cannot thank you enough that you juggled instead of setting a ball down.