Back in September of 2013, Jimmy Greenfield gave a confused recent retiree a voice and a purpose. That floundering soul was me. When Jimmy helped me begin blogging on ChicagoNow, I was one grateful 68-year-old woman who was struggling with the loss of my identity after retiring as the founding director of Cherry Preschool.
When I published by first post, Reinvented, Not Retired, I loved the challenge of trying something new. Yes, I had joined a book club and caught up with old friends over the summer, but I knew myself well enough to understand that without some structure in my life, I would be depressed and lost. And Jimmy was patient enough to answer some ridiculous questions from a newbie blogger without making me feel old or useless.
This is post 363 for my ChicagoNow blog. A few have been read by many folks. Most of the time, I have no idea how many readers I have. What matters is the opportunity to use my voice and write about the things I care about. As a former educator, I write a lot about education, particularly early childhood and special education. I advocate for a variety of causes. I try to see the humor and beauty in growing older and being a grandparent. I share my sorrows and joys, and I occasionally vent about all kinds of injustice.
Since my subject matter is all over the place, I have worried that I don’t fit into the mold of ChicagoNow. But Jimmy always encouraged me to write about what mattered to me, and I thank him for not putting me in a box and for allowing me to indulge my opinionated self and lately my political angst. He even indulged my desire to write the book I had told my mother I would never attempt because "I'm not that kind of writer." And maybe I'm not but after she died, I just had to do it, and so Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real was how I dealt with my loss and with turning seventy.
What I have loved about writing for ChicagoNow under Jimmy’s guidance is the freedom to put whatever crazy thought I have in the shower (my best space for allowing my mind to wander) into a blog post. Retirees often feel useless, adrift, and frankly old. Writing has unleashed my creativity and given me a sense of purpose.
I’m sure Jimmy doesn’t realize how much he impacted the folks who write for ChicagoNow. So I will share with him what I learned from the high school students I taught almost fifty years ago. When I left my position as an English teacher in 1971 to have my first child, my homeroom gifted me with a plate that said, “Flowers leave their fragrance on the hands that caress them.” At the time, I thought I was just doing my job, but since I started blogging I have heard from a few of them. Nothing makes my day like one of them telling me I made a difference in their lives.
This is what I want Jimmy Greenfield to know. As community manager of ChicagoNow, you made a huge difference in my life and I am sure the lives of many others. Thank you for the opportunity you have given me, and best of luck in your new position.