There was a time in my life when I jetted off to exotic places, worked with kings and queens and movie stars and heads of state, hobnobbed at press parties with big-time rock and classical music stars and even visited the White House a couple of times including the Oval Office and the hallways, although not the private rooms, of the residence. That was when I was producing television shows.
Later, at the dawn of the internet era, I became the managing editor at cbsnews.com when it was new. Nobody knew then how to build web pages that worked, there were hardly any retail sites let alone Google, Wikipedia, YouTube and all the other services we take for granted now. The New York Times wasn't online yet and CNN.com, which launched about the same time as cbsnews.com, was our only news competitor for a few months.
We helped invent how the internet – or, the editorial end of it – works during those first couple of years and it was as exciting as my years in television had been – like what television must have been when it was in its infancy and many of the production techniques had not been developed yet.
In both careers, there were always hard deadlines and the hours were long, sometimes weeks (in one case, three months) without a day off. I used to think the reason I never married a second time was due to all the dates I canceled when emergencies and last-minute glitches arose.
I wouldn't trade a minute of it. I traveled the world on someone else's dime, got a peek at the lives of the rich, famous and powerful, worked with really smart people and best of all, it was a better education than any college or university could have given me.
In 2005, I was forced to accept the idea that I had retired. After a year of looking for work following a layoff from my last place of employment, I had become too old – at least in the eyes of the 20-something interviewers I met.
It took awhile to become accustomed not only to my new circumstance, but the to the word “retirement” itself. I didn't like it. It sounded tired, worn out, useless, boring. I got over my negative feelings about it, but when I step back and look at my days now, I can see why many young people dismiss us. Here is what I did yesterday, more or less in the order of occurrence:
- Read the papers online with my morning coffee
- Answered overnight email
- Read some blogs
- Played with the cat for 15 minutes until he decided a nap was in order
- Paid some bills
- Did two loads of laundry
- Watched the first television reports of the Madoff guilty plea
- Made a big batch of beef stew
- Cut short a walk when I got too cold, having been fooled by the bright sun into thinking it was warmer than it was
- Ran a couple of errands in the car
- Read a couple of chapters of a book
- Played with the cat again
- Folded all the laundry (god, I dislike folding laundry)
- Wrote this blog post
- Answered more email
- Had dinner while clicking through various TV news programs
- More cat play time
- Read a couple more chapters of the book
- Watched The Daily Show from the day before
Have you fallen asleep? With minor variations, especially for seasons of the year, that's what happens every day, occasionally interspersed with lunch or dinner with friends.
And I LOVE IT. I love it as much as I loved all that running around the world meeting people and doing new things. A big part of it is that every day I can work at my own schedule rather than an employers'. If there's something more interesting than dirty laundry, the wash will wait for me. When I sometimes feel snoozy in the afternoon, I can have a nap. And when the warm weather arrives, with my little Eee PC now, I can walk down to the ocean even when I have a blog post to write.
There is the kind of time I never had before to work for a political candidate, have long phone conversations with faraway friends and leisurely walk through a museum or take a drive to a town I haven't seen in my new home state. I no longer need to cram all the household chores into a weekend and my personal interests into an hour here or there as I did for decades.
I would never have guessed it 15 or 20 years ago, but retirement suits me and I don't care how boring it appears to others. It feels right for this season of my life and that list is all the excitement I need.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Cowtown Pattie presents us with the tale of the life of Auntie McGasser.]