teacher symbols.jpeg

What are some options to honour one’s work life as we downsize, change careers or retire? Readers posed this question in response to my recent posting about recognizing a grain farmer’s lifetime impact on Canada’s economy and feeding the world.  Other readers suggested ways that they might remember their own work lives. 

So what’s the situation?  As we change careers, move to smaller housing, or simply wish to have less stuff around, what do we do with the tools of the trade that meant so much to us?  Examples include stacks of teacher lesson plans or a driver’s logbooks. 

If we loved our work, it can be particularly difficult to let go of these symbols of our work lives. They may be stacked in the basement or taking up valuable room in the corner of a home office. Yet to discard them feels like our work becomes invisible or is no longer of value.

Here are two ideas to help let go and maintain one symbol of our work: 

First, plan intentional conversation with a friend or family member who truly ‘gets’ how important this work was to you or to the family member whom you are helping downsize. Touch the objects, pore over them, tell stories, remember, and affirm what they represent.

Second, if it feels truly important to have a representation of those objects that you can see in your home, brainstorm about what that could look like.  

Is one object sufficient? Could a small model of one’s work placed on a living room shelf be the answer?  For example, a train engine for a railway worker or a combine for a farmer?  Or do you need more?

And if the answer is more, then how do you contain or corral symbols so they don’t take up too much room or create clutter?

One way is creating a shadow box or enclosed glass-front display case containing a group of objects.

Here are some examples for different occupations. Thanks to readers who suggested these ideas! 

PAINT STORE OWNER:  a large colour palette from the brand of paint sold, a photo of the store, a business card, a photo of oneself behind the counter, an ad from a local newspaper or printed from your website.  

TEACHER: a favourite book, an apple ornament, one of your own report cards, a tally of the number of students you taught, photos of each schools, school photos of yourself first year and last year of teaching.

NURSE: graduation hat, a stethoscope, a caduceus (nursing symbol), your professional registration, an alarm clock representing all those shift hours, your graduation diploma.

TRAIN ENGINEER:  a cap, an image of how many miles driven or times you circulated the globe, a model of a train engine, one log book.

May you use your imagination to creatively collect work objects that are meaningful to you in a manageable space! Enjoy your creation and show it with pride to those that visit your home. 

Need help coming up with ideas for honouring your own work?  I’d be glad to chat.