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Back to Work

When I started this blog in November of 2015, I had been retired from a long career in community college education for more than a year. I had finished an MFA in Creative Nonfiction, and this weekly entry served as a way for me to process my feelings about retirement and reinvention, and to establish a regular writing routine. My original intention in retirement was to devote my time and energy to writing and to “become a writer” as my second career. I published in a few places and I worked on some ideas related to larger book projects. I also went back to work occasionally in interim roles. It was fun when I returned, because it was stimulating, but I didn't have to be completely engaged in the world of work.

Reaching a particular age doesn’t mean we must do a

particular thing.

Last summer, I went back again, this time to the college where I had started teaching more than 30 years before. The job was a new one for me, and I found myself immediately engaged in innovative projects and working with people who inspired and encouraged me. Somewhere during the course of the semester, I realized I loved what I was doing. I talked to my partner, met with my retirement system, and decided to apply for the permanent job. After a long and somewhat stressful application and interview process, I was lucky enough to be the chosen candidate. On the last day of December, I submitted my reinstatement form and officially “unretired.”

I’ve talked about this more than I’m sure anyone has wanted to listen over the last few months, and I’ve gotten a variety of responses. Mostly, people are supportive, but my decision has caused many heads to shake. Lots of friends are quick with pronouncements that they will never return to work once they are retired. I’ve also heard several people say that my decision to unretire must also mean that I will no longer be writing this blog. I was actually surprised the first time I heard that, but I get their point. If one is writing about what happens after retirement, one should be retired. It turns out, that’s not completely true.

I came of age in the middle of what has been called the “Second Wave” of the women’s movement. The first byline I got in my college newspaper was on a story about a woman who was suing the university for sex discrimination. Getting married and having kids was the last thing on any of our minds the year I graduated from college. We were headed for careers and travel and adventure—completely different than what our mothers had done before us. When women my age did decide to marry and have families, they managed both careers and home responsibilities. For me, in addition to family and friends, work has been the primary source of meaning for me for most of my life. I’ve been lucky to be in higher education, because I have been surrounded by students who were starting out in their lives and with other faculty and administrators for whom education is the key to finding success and value in the world.

When I originally titled my blog “Finally Time for This,” what I meant was that it was finally time for me to take myself seriously as a writer and to put my words out there as part of the social conversation. It never occurred to me in 2015 that I would return to work full-time, but the whole experience has taught me many things that are as relevant to this blog as anything I’ve written up to now. For one thing, I realize that reaching a particular age doesn’t mean we must do a particular thing. I know also that I don't have to do one or the other—I can work and write. I’ve also learned that we can surprise ourselves, no matter how old we are. And, I’ve been thrilled to learn that, regardless of where we find ourselves in our lives, doors can open and we can be brave enough to walk through them.

I love not knowing exactly what comes next, and I love realizing that this is true throughout our entire lives. So I’m going to keep writing this blog, and I hope you’ll stick with me. It’s time to keep exploring and to continue sharing my discoveries. I hope you're game.

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