Last month, I announced to my school community that I would retire at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. Articulating this long-anticipated intention in public fashion elicited a range of responses. Gratitude was at the forefront, but other responses also welled up in me. I was certainly pleased to have the word out in the public forum at last. I started my full-time teaching career in 1971, and my first school administrative assignment began in 1978. Believe me, dear reader, that those dates sound far longer ago to you than they feel to me. I thus had to face the befuddlement many others before me have experienced when confronting some version of this question: How on earth did this happen so swiftly? There was also the companion wistfulness that comes with the approaching cessation of work that I have loved for so many years. Mixed in was a bit of the inevitable anxiety that comes with the unknown elements of my post-retirement life.
Finally, there was relief and encouragement when I remembered the simple truth that one does not have to have a job to have a purpose. Purpose has primacy over occupation. That having been said, I do not discount the challenges in finding the new shape and path of my purposeful life after having had the privilege of serving for so many years in places and positions with awesome purpose built in. Keeping a passion for purpose is the key to a fruitful life no matter one’s circumstances. We must endeavor to find our purpose and not wait for purpose to find us. In schools we are blessed to be immersed in a place and an enterprise saturated by purpose of the noblest kind. I shall miss that blessing when I retire. I know that I don’t want to enter retirement waiting for purpose to find me, but there are many details yet to be determined. Nonetheless I have one clear commitment no matter what: I shall live a life of purpose until the day that my time on earth ends.
About the Author
Leo P. Dressel is Head of School at All Saints’ Episcopal Day School in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2019, Leo will retire after 48 years of teaching and leading schools. Leo has also served as Head of School at St. Martin’s Episcopal School in Metairie, Louisiana. Leo holds a master’s degree in English from St. Louis University and a master’s degree in Theology from Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley.