There might be a Scottish bookstore in my future

There might be a Scottish bookstore in my future

“You’re still teaching?” Professionally, next to “may I use the restroom,” this is the question I am most often asked. I am not sure if there is a certain level of teaching one must reach for that to become an appropriate question or if former students ask out of an acknowledgement of their own mortality: If I’m still teaching, how old must they be getting?

The issue for me is the emphasis of the word “still.” Asked that way, what it really sounds like is they are surprised I am still alive. Although after the last year and a half, sometimes I am surprised as well.

Nevertheless, I am never offended by the question as I remember asking and/or wondering the same thing about many of my former teachers; however, I do wonder what else former students think I would be doing.

I guess if we are being honest with ourselves, the past year and a half has forced many of us to reflect on our chosen professions and the what-ifs that often come after doing something for over 25 years. That is certainly not a unique thought to the teaching profession, but what is unique is teachers often live in the minds of students, frozen in the time in which they were in school. That way, they never age.

Even if I were to bump into her today, Mrs. Becky Wolleson will always be an image/memory of my 8-year-old self, sitting in her third-grade classroom, hoping to pass my times tables quizzes to earn a much longed-for trip to the A&W Root Beer Stand. And if it were not for those darn 9s, I just might have made it. The building in which she taught me no longer exists, but my memories of her do.

I think of her and many others when asked the still teaching question, and my answer is always the same: “Yep, still teaching.”

What that question really prompts is reflection, not from a place of unhappiness or regret, but with purpose of who I was, who I am and what I want to be when I grow up. With a different choice here or there, where might I have ended up and what might I be doing?

If I had not taken Latin in high school and instead took Spanish and put in the effort to become fluent — an obstacle that is a tough one to overcome based on the memory of what my 15-year-old self was like — might I now be working for the Cleveland Indi … er, sorry, Guardians as a team translator? Aside from working on the grounds crew, I am not sure how else I would make it onto the ballfield.

My dream job, and one I now have the look for, follically, has been becoming a member of “Blue Man Group.” Having seen them a number of times in New York City, I was hooked the minute the lights went down and they began drumming on PVC pipe. Along with their melodious percussion skills and their almost alien sense of humor (tossing/catching upward of 50 marshmallows in their mouths to create “art” is right up my alley), had they been more well known a bit earlier, I like to think I would have packed the ole knapsack and headed to the Astor Place Theatre for a tryout.

While the ship has likely sailed on those two gigs, I think I know where my wife and I might land after our classroom doors close for a final time.

There is an apartment above a bookstore (“The Open Book”) in Wigtown, Scotland that people can rent while on a lovely Scottish vacation, located a stone’s throw from Luce Bay. It is a quiet town of around 900 people with 14 bookshops. By my count, that is a bookstore for every 64 people (Mrs. Wolleson would be proud).

Aside from the serene location with quiet walkways, the best part, if so inclined, is vacationers, who pay only about $119 a night, get the privilege of managing the bookstore beneath them. You get to set your own hours, plan your own store activities, take a day or two off as you please and read. A scroll through the online reviews of the experience confirms it is exactly what vacationers would hope for.

Along with the wonderful folks/stories that would come in/out of the proprietor’s life, it sounds about as heavenly as it gets. The current problem? Aside from one week in December 2023, the destination is booked through January 2025. In a few years, it sounds to me like there might be a need for another one, close by or not.

The holidays often allow for some purposeful reflection. Maybe it is seeing children opening gifts that reminds us of the excitement we all once felt, doing the same thing with our own youthful exuberance not so many years ago. Or maybe the coming of the New Year makes us think of the year that has passed and the hopes for the dreams that may lay ahead.

I do know the older I get, the more meaningful those reflections become because of the perspective age allows for. So if you are still doing the same thing many years on, I hope you had a very merry Christmas and may the New Year bring you whatever you may dream of next.