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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Starting over

January 16, 2013|By Joe Puglia

Dec. 12 appeared like any other manic Monday. I drove my girls to LCHS, went to Starbucks, and continued my struggle with chapter 12 of the book I’m working on, searching for the right words that would give readers an “ah-ha” moment.

The weather was sunny. It was a beautiful, Indian summers’ day. If you’ve been to New England in October, you would understand. Alen made a café latte and I sat in the sun, mesmerized by the aromatic vapors oozing from my favorite ceramic cup. I wrote page after page, and didn’t care that I would eventually delete most of it.

When I was in the bowels of Vietnam I promised myself such moments if I were to return. Life did not get any better than this.

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As I watched the remaining leaves cascading from the trees, I said to myself, “Today I’m going to retire!”

I went to school, signed papers and began the process of closing the door on 37 years of teaching, counseling, saving souls, mending hearts and patching self-esteems. Facebook, the new Paul Revere, spread the news through the veins of the social networks: “Dr. Joe is retiring.”

My last day was Dec. 19. My office was inundated with hundreds of books: history, literature, philosophy, biography, adventure, psychology and humanities. They were testaments of the transference of knowledge that happened there.

My four walls were covered from floor to ceiling with pictures of students from 1975 to 2012. The plan was to dismantle the office at 7 p.m. Students from the 1980s, ’90s and beyond began to arrive and, as planned, began the slow, methodical process of transforming a room that had seen so much life into four barren walls. It would take a lifetime to account for 37 years of stories depicting despair, exhilaration, hope, disdain, laughter and tears. If only these walls could talk! But they can’t and it doesn’t matter anyway. It was just time to move on and seek new adventures.

The quote that hung on my office door for many years was tattered and the ink had faded long ago. I had used its words many times, coaxing my students to take risks and jump over the precipices that are found on the journey. As my students cleared my office I read its words for the last time: “A ship in the harbor is safe but that’s not what ships are built for.” I realized that these thoughts are now meant for me.

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