Quite often these days I am asked how I am enjoying retirement. Technically, I resigned my teaching job. Retiring would have brought with it a pension and perhaps an AARP card. I have neither enough years of age nor service for retirement. Right now, I’m fine with that.
But to get back to the matter at hand, people often ask this question with a slightly envious gleam in their eyes. They want to hear how utterly fantastic it is to do nothing all day, how I’ve already written that book, and how I spend my days rescuing starving orphans all around the globe. Okay. Perhaps that’s me projecting just a little. I have found myself tossing off the chit-chat reply, “Man, it’s great!” and leaving it there. Thing is, this is a tough question to answer authentically in the time that whirlwind greetings typically allow. As we have learned from every telling of Aladin, when you get what you wish for, you also get what comes along with that wish. Many times these are challenging consequences, or at least by-products, you had not considered.
With this in mind, I have compiled a list of the pros (+) and cons (-) of leaving the incredibly lucrative career (HA!) of teaching to become a professional writer.
(+) Each day presents me with 24 hours. I can invest or squander them however I wish.
(-) The majority of my friends have regular jobs during the day, so I have no one to hang out with. Some days I tire of my own jokes.
(+) No one tells me how I should spend my day.
(-) I miss the camaraderie of a team in a work setting. Occasionally I feel isolated and alone. I enjoy collaborating with others and bouncing ideas off them.
(+) Thankfully, there are people I can email or text or IM on Facebook. They help me talk my way through the fog and come up with a workable premise. They also help me gain perspective during those times when throwing my body under a bus starts to sound like a fantastic idea. These conversations are not as quick or as personal as walking across the hall, but technology certainly makes this a viable option.
(-) I have started sleeping later. Some days, embarrassingly late. Two or three hours of productivity can easily be lost.
(+) The last two years of my life have been exceptionally stressful. It is nice to Be Still and REST! Restoring my soul now will help me to be more productive in the days to come.
(+) I have time to exercise and run. This challenges me. This makes me stronger. When I am physically fit, my mind works better.
(-) This can quickly turn into an excuse to procrastinate in other areas: “Oh, hey, It’s already 11:00. I’ll start on that project/laundry/article after lunch.”
(-) I have no money. I know this will improve in time, but as of today, this is a grim reality.
(+) Since I don’t have a regular job, I am able to participate in ministries that I love and believe in, such as teaching English to refugee women. Their individual stories and cultures are varied, but their needs – language, help understanding life in a new land, and friendship – are universal. And there is a whole melanin rainbow of babies who need my kisses!
(+) I have time to write!
(-) It is time to get serious. That whole “I am going to write a book” thing has passed from One Day to NOW. I have done enough talking; it is time for action. And one thing I’ve learned – this is pretty profound; you may want to jot this down – is that words do not write themselves. They require your time and attention and effort. And effort. And effort.
(-) Writing requires a great deal of discipline and self-motivation.
(+) I have given myself the luxury of flying by the seat of my pants for several weeks. That’s new territory, but I have enjoyed it. However, now my OCD nature longs for structure. I get more done when I have a definite plan. I feel better when I get more done. That’s a nice loop. This week I am working on establishing “office hours” to bring some order to my day. I love to set goals then cross them off the list once they are accomplished. Even if they are baby steps, each one taken is forward momentum.
So, the honest answer to how I am enjoying this new season of life is that, while it is not perfect, it truly is good. Very, very good. I am struggling with redefining Normal and with choosing the best use of my time on a daily basis. Still, I know that God has entrusted me with Words. This amazing gift is not just for myself, but to strengthen and inform and encourage others. There is much to learn as I hone my skills, and I have no idea where this writer girl journey will lead, but I am excited to find out.