A Suitcase Full of Awards (A Poem About Retirement) by Mady Segal, PhD

It was my decision to retire,

There are other things I want to try.

So why am I looking at my almost empty office

Fighting a compelling urge to cry?

 

I’ve been teaching college students

For more than 40 years

Passing on a love for knowledge

While quelling their many fears.

 

I’ve done research I’m proud of

And published it to share

With others in the profession

And policy makers who care.

 

I like to think my work has mattered

That I’ve helped improve the lives

Of the students in my classes

And some military wives.

 

I look at the recycling

Outside my office in the hall

So many years of papers

Form a pile a tree height tall.

 

Memories rise from the committee files

Paper traces of time and effort spent

To change things for the better.

Is this where my life went?

 

The walls are white and barren

Only picture hangers to stay

I’ve cleared my last belongings out

To take them home today.

 

I mulled it over last night

As I tried to fall asleep

How to manage transporting

The items I’d want to keep.

 

The precious photos of my family

Wouldn’t take up very much space

But the plaques on the wall would

And the mirror I used to check my face.

 

I took a rolling suitcase

For the awards from the wall.

Is this what’s left of all that work?

I hope my legacy’s not so small.

 

I wanted to retire

I did it in my time

But I’m leaving some of myself

In this room I’ve left behind.

 

My identity as professor

And active researcher too

Are moving into history

Another life passage to move through.

 

I haven’t really missed them

As I’ve had the office for another year

But as I wheel my suitcase out

Here comes another tear.

 

I’ve left the memories behind me

Emotions boiling when I get home

So I grab a piece of paper

And try to purge them in a poem.

 

I’ve never done this before

There’s always a first time

Perhaps it will feel better

To get it written into rhyme.

 

It helps for a while now

But I’m still feeling really down

Thinking of the suitcase

Locking away all of that renown.

 

When my husband’s home at last,

We go to our cozy basement den.

Together we hang the awards there

And for each I remember when.

 

He tells me he judges

Much of my work to be great.

He knows I’ve worked my heart out

Since 1968.

 

The suitcase is now empty

Because the plaques are on the wall

Where I can see them and remember.

Then a tear of joy starts to fall.

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