Retired but Certainly not the Retiring Type: My Encore Career

Not useless or used up – just a retired volunteer. What a pathetic headline for a whiny blog post. Back in October of 2013, less than a month into my blog, I wrote this rant about how hard it was to volunteer my time and talent. After unloading my sorrows on my friend, Marcia Liss, she drew this cartoon for me:

Cartoon by Marcia Liss

Cartoon by Marcia Liss

Yep, that’s exactly how I felt. I had time, enthusiasm, and experience but all I could see before me was closed doors. Here are some of the awful questions I asked in that piece after leaving my long career as an early childhood administrator:

  • Is it my age or a bias against using volunteers in general?
  • Am I knocking on the wrong doors?
  • Behind which door will I find the organization that both interests me and is also interested in the skills I have acquired over a lifetime?
  • Why are “community volunteers” (translation: retired people) only used as a last resort by schools, which prefer to have parents (translation: young people)?
  • Is someone my age viewed as too old to be useful?
  • Is it a shift in volunteerism?  Are there not only fewer volunteers, but are also fewer organizations interesting in using them?

I had never felt the sting of a non-response when I volunteered prior to retiring. I was especially bitter that an elementary school principal who was new and clearly swamped did not take me up on my offer of help. I knew how to run a school. Heck, I even knew how to start one. So I interpreted her unresponsiveness as further confirmation that I was too old to be useful.

Marcia, who had retired a year before me, diagnosed my problem as “loss of the boss syndrome.” We had both been in charge of organizations. After retiring, we were both only in charge of ourselves. How would I fill my time now? Lunches with friends and continuing education classes would not be fulfilling to me. Retiring was a bitch.

I’m not sure exactly when my ChicagoNow blog became the solution, but by the end of that October back in 2013, I was writing a ton and discovered there was a lot I wanted to say about education. It took a bit longer to find my voice and venture into other areas that interested me. The more I wrote, the better I felt.  I just know that writing dragged me out of my post-retirement lethargy and self-pity. I will be forever grateful to Jimmy Greenfield for this opportunity to have an encore career.

What I learned was that although I retired from my career in early childhood education, I still had opinions, ideas, and the drive to follow my passion and try something new. I still cared deeply about a lot of things. I still loved feeling inspired to write about an injustice, a news event, or something I found to be poignant or funny.

So thanks to Kerri Morris from ChicagoNow for this idea of a do-over of an old post. It was a fun exercise to see how I have changed since my initial grief over my retirement. I’m still me and I’m still advocating.

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