Lingering on the Last Day

July 22, 2023

Alternate Title: Pressing that “SEND” Button is Really Hard!

One of the benefits of writing this blog is renewing connections with old friends. In fact, a friend, who is a regular reader, and I have actually become closer because of our interactions regarding my writing. After over forty years of knowing this person, I had no idea that he wrote poetry. I didn’t know because being a poet is certainly not his day job, and most, if not all, of that creative writing is seen only by him. Part of that reason is his humility, and the other part is something I know all too well – publishing anything that invites scrutiny is frightening. 

As a principal, a superintendent, and a blog writer, pressing that “SEND” button on a newsletter that goes to thousands of email inboxes has always made my pulse go up. Is it really ready? How could it be better? Is there a typo somewhere? (Note: I hate publishing something with a typographical error. Hate it. I look and look, but eventually, even after proofreading it for the umpteenth time, I somehow miss an error that is just staring me in the face. My friend (and awesome neighbor) Jack is always quick to point out the errors he finds. Though he is a little too gleeful about it, I try to think of it as just another way for me to bring joy into a friend’s heart. I do take some pleasure when I don’t hear from him, because I know he scoured it and found nothing.) But, more important than the absence of typos is the question of whether the piece of writing is interesting, inspiring, humorous, insightful, or anything else that makes reading it a worthwhile and pleasurable experience. 

So yes – it’s still stressful. After all these years, publishing is still stressful. That being said, it’s easier now. I have more confidence and I am comfortable with what I’ve written. And even when there are errors, I will be OK.

My friend Tommy, the poet, is not there yet. I’ve encouraged him, but he’s not quite ready to share his creativity with the world. I feel beyond fortunate that he shares some of them with me. I always marvel that the meaning he conveys in just a few words is more impactful than what I say in far too many.  Recently, he let me read this one:


My best friend retired today.
He sent me a screenshot
As he sped from the parking lot
Giving his life’s work the finger.
How blessed are they
Who on their Job’s last day
Drag their feet and linger.

I love this sentiment – the blessing of not being entirely ready to close the door on your life’s work. Not everyone can have a job they absolutely love. I feel beyond fortunate that for the last 39 years, I had the privilege of working in a field that inspired me, gave me meaning, challenged me, and pushed me to give all I could give. I understand why Jackson Brown wanted to Stay at the end of a concert – and I certainly wanted to linger at the end of my career.

I always thought that I would be an attorney. Part of that was just wanting to be like my father, who has been practicing law since 1964 – almost 60 years! I am told that when I was three or so, I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said that I wanted to be just like my dad. When asked what my father did, I proudly stated, “He’s a lawnmower!” To be fair, lawnmower does sound like lawyer, and being a lawnmower seemed way more understandable than whatever a lawyer was. My dad’s friends got a big kick out of that.

I think I could have been very happy as a lawnmower/lawyer, but I lucked out by trying education first. Many of you know I recently retired. Again. Leaving the stresses of the job was not hard on the last day. In fact, if it weren’t for the stress, which only got worse over time, I would probably still be there. But leaving everything else tied to it – the sense of purpose, the challenges, and the people – did indeed make me want to linger.

As I mentioned earlier, not everyone can luck out and find a job that is also a meaningful and challenging vocation. But almost everyone can find a job where the people they work with infuse beauty, humor, hope, and inspiration into their lives. I know that in every place I’ve worked, I have fallen in love with the people I worked with. My colleagues and I struggled to overcome incredible challenges together. Teachers, principals, and nearly everyone in public education aspire to help all students overcome daunting challenges: a lack of basic needs, incredibly challenging disabilities, difficult home lives, debilitating insecurities, and so much more. Great teachers have always prioritized students and all of their complexities over subjects and all of their details.  

When I first met Dr. Zander, Dawson’s music teacher in high school, she was speaking before a concert. She said, “I love music. I adore it. But way more than that, I love teaching students how to love music and how to create it.” With just those few words, I understood why Dawson loved her class so much, and I knew that she was an extraordinary teacher. That stands in stark contrast to another teacher who once told me, “I teach history, but I consider myself more of a historian than a history teacher.” I’ll take Dr. Zander’s attitude every time. She is working hard and finding joy trying to understand each student, overcoming all the barriers that she can, and in the end, like she did with Dawson, helping her students climb remarkable heights. 

I was proud to do my best for students with my colleagues in San Lorenzo, Lodi, Malibu, Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, and Placentia/Yorba Linda. Every day, we sought inspiration from one another, developed creative solutions together, shared our successes and failures, and came to work appreciating each other’s passion, humor, professionalism, and talent. 

It is these relationships, on top of all of the purpose and challenges, that made me linger on my last day before retiring, on my last day in all of my jobs, and even on the last day of each school year. So thank you, Tommy, for your beautifully expressed and compressed thoughts. You have given me insight into my own life that I certainly needed. And I hope that one day, you’ll press that “SEND” button yourself.

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Banksy Photo by Zorro4 on Pixabay

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  1. Whitt says:

    So many things I could relate to in this post…that send icon for one…the first time I reached that point, and saw that sweating hand gif…ready to send …the BEST gif to capture the feelings of that moment! I too see the error(s) after I send, and I too HATE it.
    Like you, I feel fortunate about my experiences as an educator. I hold great gratitude in my heart for all the people who inspired me, believed in me, and made me a better educator and human. Thank you 🙏 for being you, sir.
    Great post.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Spectacular and thoughtful response. Thank you. Your passion for serving students has always inspired me. Keep doing great things!

  2. Kelli says:

    May we all be so blessed to want to linger at any stage… thank you!!!❤️

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Yes – and I already know you feel that way about all you’ve done. Enjoy the ride! Thanks for reading!


    Nailed it with “Send” and the Banksy artwork.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks my friend. I hope to see you soon.

  4. Connie Harrington says:

    Agree completely w all you shared, Mike, and likewise feel so lucky to have had a job and vocation that I loved everyday! So glad you were part of that! We all loved you!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      We did great things together, Connie! Thank you.

  5. John "Jack" Loose says:

    Excellent post Mike, and absolutely perfect. Like you, I also found it hard to walk away from a job I enjoyed and all of the wonderful people I worked with. Another thing I missed after 38 years in aerospace marketing was the interesting people and places I got to visit at companies and government facilities all over the country.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      How about that! Thanks, Jack! And thanks for sharing our similar challenges. And as always, thanks for being a spectacular neighbor and friend.

  6. Pam Brady says:

    Beautiful expression of partnering with like minded teams and making a difference! Not only lingering, but being blessed to savor these moments over time. Thank you for sharing👍

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Proud to partner with you way back when, Pam Brady. Thanks for your kind words.

  7. Michelle Krzmarzick says:

    What a beautiful way to reflect on a rewarding career of working with such an important population – children and the people who guide them. I know that you will enjoy your well-deserved retirement every day!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, my friend! You know all too well the rewards of our profession. Keep making a giant difference!

  8. Daniel Wren says:

    That poem captured and created a ton of emotions and thoughts on my part. Tell your friend that his poem is excellent!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      I will certainly tell him, Daniel. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Chet Horn says:

    Mike, I am also retiring from the court after 21 years, following 30 years in the Department of Justice. I hope hope to go into mediations and arbitrations to help keep my brain sharp. I wouldn’t want to compete with you in writing business!
    I truly enjoyed your post on retirement as I have the many others you have written!

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Chet – That’s incredible. Two long and very rewarding careers. All that, and you still found time to be a highly (and always appropriately) involved dad! Congratulations, and I know you will love this new transition.

  10. Laura Samuelson says:

    Congratulations Mike! You’ve been a blessing to so many. There might be an ebike in your future.. we love ours!


    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, Laura. It’s not in the immediate future, but yes, it will come.

  11. Chris Primm says:

    You were lucky to find your passion early. You enjoyed your career and were so very good at it. Congratulations on retiring (again). It took me several careers to find the right one, but was very lucky to have finally landed in the library at Meadows. I now know that lingering feeling and will carry a piece of that career into my retirement.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      I did not know your career history, but I did know you were a spectacular librarian and leader at Meadows. Your library was always warm, inviting, and highly interesting. You truly found your place, and so many benefitted from that. Thanks for reading!

  12. Nancy Rosenburg says:

    As usual, your lyric reference is one of my all time favorites. It doesn’t get much better than Jackson Browne to say it like it is. And, having retired recently and did not “stay just a little bit longer,” I am grappling with the absence of the daily comaraderie, inspiration, humor, and all that good stuff we get from a vibrant workplace. Your blogs resonate with me big time.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      I thought you would appreciate that, Nancy! Let’s keep fighting to find that camaraderie and all that comes with it, while avoiding the stress that is just not good for us. I’m rooting for both of us. Thanks for reading!

  13. Bill McGARVEY says:

    Congratulations Mike! Really…..?Done…..? you’re sooo young! My Honor to meet & swim with an inspirational human! Go where your heart tugs!
    I miss my profession of 40 years and love helping others when they ask for help……so don’t go far…with your intellect and Wisdom CONGRATULATIONS!
    Job well done.

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Bill – Great to hear from you. I’m not done working, but I won’t take on a full time assignment again. Who knows – I could very well find myself doing something out in the OC, and if so, I’ll come and see you in the early morning lanes. Thanks for your friendship and support – you bring joy to a lot of people, my friend. All the best.

  14. Laurie Morgan says:

    Awhh Mike….. congratulations on your retirement, and welcome to the world of “re”! I’m now in my fourth year of re-tirement from my 38 years of devoted service to the magnificent Malibu High School, of which you also contributed many selfless years to. Working with you all the years you were there, was much like the many cruises I have taken since re-tiring. I enjoyed all the amenities,… including the moments where either you, or I, were ready to push the other one over the railing‼️😂 Now is your time to “re-discover” who you are and re-kindle all the things that make you happy! Re-tirement is simply the re-alization that we are here for a re-ason! God bless you always‼️

    1. Mike Matthews says:

      Thanks, my friend. Say this about the two of us – we appreciated each other and we were both always honest with our feelings. I’m proud to be your co-selfless year giver at MHS – they were great years, and thanks for all you did. I appreciate your thoughtful re-ply, and I hope to see you in the not-too-distant futu-re.

  15. Michelle McDonald says:

    Thanks for this post. This touched me so deeply…I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been wistful and lingering on my last day, giving hugs to co-workers and promising to stay in touch. I just kept finding one more person in those offices to hug and thank before I left! Many days, I miss working with those wonderful people to try to make a difference in the world. But I certainly don’t miss the stress and constant deadlines, and always feeling that I could have done more or worked longer! Beautiful post about what a gift it is to really find your calling and love your work.

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