By Louis De Lauro
I retired from public school teaching 15 months ago.
I took my pension with a penalty for being too young to retire. And immediately, everyone, I knew started asking, “What will you do next?”
An acquaintance recently asked me, “Have you been relaxing?”
“Nope,” I said. “I’ve been a tad busy.”
Yes, I’ve been busy. In fact, I just finished an exhausting and life-changing adventure. And the funny thing is I never ventured more than 75 minutes from home to complete it. Here are some things I’ve done during the adventure that I never did before.
I worked at the amazing Ronald McDonald House in central New Jersey. The House gives families a free place to say while their child is ill and getting treatment at the hospital across the street.
I taught English and Language Arts to students in grades 6-8 at an elite Catholic School outside of Philadelphia. I am a huge Giants football fan, but spent January and February celebrating the Eagles rise to Super Bowl champions with my students.
I helped one of my brightest students get published and land a $400 payday!
I taught computers to grades K-8 at a wonderful Catholic School in New Jersey.
After 25 years away from the church, I made peace with Christianity and the Catholic Church. Read my Tattooed Buddha blog: Buddhist Teacher in a Catholic School if you want to learn more.
I walked around scenic Clinton NJ, once a week during my lunch break for three months all by myself to get some exercise and enjoy the town
I was published eight times by the Tattooed Buddha Website, and I made a bunch of really amazing online Buddhist friends.
I wrote a 34,000-word book about Tyler Katarsky. Tyler was the amazingly talented, young man who volunteered the most with Juggling Life, the charity I founded. I mentored Tyler for 15 years before drug abuse ended in his life. The book is not yet published, but 2019 will give others a chance to read it.
I collected inspiring stories from 12 of Tyler’s friends and family members and added them to the book.
I taught third graders programming at the Doane Academy for an educational summer camp program.
I taught robotics to middle schoolers at Rutgers Prep and at the Chapin School in Princeton.
I directed a very funny Alice in Wonderland themed talent show for at Camp Quality, NJ for children battling cancer.
I wrote and directed an amazing game show night featuring jugglers, hip-hop dancers, and hula hoopers for Homefront, NJ, a program for children affected by poverty.
I taught 10 child assault protection classes at the local YMCA.
I turned 50 years old, early in the year, and took my wife and daughter to NYC to see the Lion King. We literally bumped into my close friend Andy and his daughter in Times Square and we all exchanged hugs.
I saw the Broadway show Frozen with my daughter and went backstage to meet the cast. How did I manage that? Sven the reindeer is an old friend of mine. Really, he is.
I went to the Turtleback Zoo and took some amazing photos of the giraffes. I spent an hour just hanging out with the giraffes. Was it the best hour of my summer? Maybe.
Just recently I made time to visit the gorgeous 30 foot Buddha in Princeton!
I also played tennis with my daughter 20 times. I was hoping to lose some weight and get in shape. Yet, I still managed to gain 20 pounds over the last 15 months. Clearly, I am actually trying to look like a happy, pot-bellied Buddha.
Yep, I was a tad busy. And I guess a tad hungry too.
You know after spending nearly my entire teaching career of 26 years in Dunellen, NJ, I did not visit Dunellen once in 15 months.
Yes, Dunellen is still my favorite place in the world, but I promised myself a 500-day vacation from the town I love. In 2019 I hope to visit the town and run a free program or two and see some old friends. The 500-day vacation from Dunellen is so I return with a few tears in my eyes.
This fall, I start a new career at a New Jersey Prep School teaching 7th-8th-grade social studies. I am feeling calm and excited.
So what is next for me?
I hope to teach others what I learned on this adventure.
I learned to push aside mean people, physical pain, emotional pain, fatigue, work nonsense, political anger and brain clutter. I learned to focus on kind words and actions. And I learned how to be very active and adventurous, yet keep my head clear of all that ugly clutter.
How am I going to teach people all of this? I will be kind to them and I will suggest they take an adventure.
And during the next 15 months, I plan on learning how to sit still.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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