An important realization for me on my path to retirement was recognizing that I had much less interest in being on the cutting edge of my work areas. I have spent forty years in education and all of those years not only teaching (grades 7 through graduate school), but also teaching and being involved with technology. That latter area has included film, video, computers, instructional technologies, web design and social media. These are the areas that required staying on the cutting or leading or bleeding edge of what was new and relevant.
I always tried to stay current with literature and writing (where I did most of my teaching) and pedagogy. But technology is harder to keep up with as it changes every day. It’s even harder in the education world because in education it is harder to cause change than in industry – and education has far less money for tools and technology.
If you look at the origin of those terms – cutting, leading and bleeding edges – they are closely tied to technology. They are also rather dangerous-sounding. Cutting and bleeding certainly call to mind their knife and sword blade origins. The leading edge may be aeronautical in origin, but seems to me a bit like wing-walking or standing at the edge of a cliff – both things I have no desire to do.
And that’s where I am now – backing away from the edge. I still have an eye to topics about literature (especially poetry) and writing. I pay more attention to articles about education than the average person, but far less than I did in the past. With technology, my interest in knowing what is the latest tool or trend has very little appeal to me.
I think this must be true of anyone considering retirement from a career. No longer having an interest in staying at the forefront of that field is definitely an indicator that it is time to leave. Of course, it doesn’t always mean retirement. It could happen to you mid-career and mean it’s time to find a new way of making a living.
The view is still very interesting when you step back from the edge. Actually, we tend to view “stepping back” to view something as a good thing to do. It’s certainly a less stressful and dangerous viewing position.