MEET THE AUTHOR
What Shall I Do All Day?
(or, How I Learned to Stop
Worrying and Start Blogging)
By Susan Goldfein
So it was Monday morning, and there I was. Instead of rushing off to work, I was lingering over my second cup of coffee and contemplating the blessings of my recent retirement.
Listed among those blessings was the fact that I no longer had to settle for instant oatmeal. My membership in AARP was legitimized. I had the option to dawdle. And finally I had time do all those things I’d always wanted to do. What were they again?
Despite all the wonderful perks that bolstered my retiree status, I recognized with trepidation that life as I knew it was radically changed. Giving up my career was a little like experiencing the empty-nest syndrome all over again, but without the kid coming home with a load of dirty laundry. I was deeply saddened by the thought that I might never again be required to multitask.
No longer was I “Dr. Susan,” speech pathologist, consultant, and adjunct professor. The challenge of a full-time job had been replaced by the challenge of discovering my comfort zone in this new phase of my life.
I remembered once reading an announcement about a seminar on “Successful Retirement.” I couldn’t help but wonder if the term “successful retirement” implied that failure was a possibility? For me, failure was not an option. For a moment, I thought that, perhaps, I should consider signing up for one of those workshops without delay.
Instead, for guidance, I turned to reading affirming articles about retirement. I tried to be reassured by the promise that there were still “endless possibilities for fulfillment.” I was informed that I was not merely “retiring.” I was experiencing a passage. I was transitioning. I had choices. I could break free, or launch, or reinvent myself. But, first, I had to figure out which was the right path for me. Quite frankly, it all sounded positively exhausting.
I decided to table the existential questions for the moment in order to deal with a more immediate concern. How should I fill the void? What would I do on that Monday, the first day of the rest of my life?
Falling back on the organizational skills that had catapulted me to the top of my game professionally, as well as efficiently guiding me through the supermarket, I took out a pad and pen, and began making a list:
That might use up about forty minutes; only 550 more to go.
Getting dressed. There was a conundrum. What does a retired person wear? Does it matter? Whom would I see on my first day of retirement, and who would see me? A professional wardrobe no longer seemed appropriate now that every day was a weekend.
I occupied the afternoon by going to the dry cleaners, getting the car washed, doing laundry, and shopping for dinner. Things that I had previously managed to squeeze into a small segment of a working woman’s schedule were now stretched to fill an entire day.
I told myself that this would never do. I could not spend my time in this manner. I was at risk for becoming marginalized. If this continued, people would no longer find me interesting. Did I care? I hoped I didn’t, but I probably did.
And all the books said I was supposed to be discovering my creativity and passion, releasing my alter ego. The pressure was immense. I wasn’t sure I could handle this retirement thing. I seriously considered returning to work.
But gradually, I got a grip. I gave up self-help articles and began perusing catalogs, looking for activities more interesting than vacuuming dog hair. I rejected a gardening class. I wanted to smell the roses, not plant them. And my last attempt at yoga resulted in a series of chiropractic adjustments.
Salvation came in the form of a writing class for beginners. I had once been a good writer, and I wondered if I still had the stuff.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I suddenly had a new peer group, a community of fledging writers like myself, creating short stories, novels, or memoirs.
My own voice seemed to resonate best with humorous personal essays. I began writing about my marriage, about becoming an “older” woman, about friendships, consumerism, the movies, and about how, one summer, the birds ate my car. This was a very fruitful endeavor. I was able to develop two of my essential talents: writing and complaining. Eventually, I decided to create my own website and began posting my essays on line.
With that initiative in place, I felt a keen sense of accomplishment. I had achieved successful retirement status. I had transitioned, broken free. I was launched and reinvented. I was a blogger! I would take my place beside other authors who had turned kvetching into a literary genre.
I’m now many years and two books into this project, and have no plans to quit any time soon. I now view retirement as a gift. It has given me the time to see the world around me with a fresh eye and find fodder for my essays in placed I would never have thought to look. The pratfalls that life presents us on a daily basis have hardly been exhausted, and I intend to comment on all of them. I hope you’ll accompany me on my bi-weekly journey right here on this web site!
Susan is the author of two award-winning collections of humorous personal essays: “How Old Am I in Dog Years?” and “How to Complain When There’s Nothing to Complain About.” Check out her Author Page at http://j.mp/36ekrze.
Follow Susan on her web site: www.SusansUnfilteredWit.com