The Trayvon/Zimmerman Verdict
Elder Hunger and the Republican Party

How Did You Spend Your Working Life?

Back in June at The Elder Storytelling Place, Lyn Burnstine wrote about the progression of her career from writer to musician and back again to writer in her old age.

One reader, Karen Swift, left in part this comment:

”I wonder how many of us have had more than one career? I myself have had at least four different ones. Like you, each one pulled me to the next.”

Since then, I've been meaning to put together a post about how we who are retired or near the end of our working lives spent all those decades earning our living.

  • What kind of work did we do?
  • Did we choose it or fall into it somehow?
  • Did we stick with one career or switch to something different along the way?
  • Did we like the work we did?
  • Do those jobs relate to how we are spending our late years and if so, how?

Somewhat regularly here, I write about about how blogging (as writers and/or readers) opens us to a world of people we wouldn't have otherwise met and often leads to new friendships even if they are at a distance.

So such an exercise as this can help us get to know one another a bit better – particularly among those whose names we recognize from the comments and, perhaps, wonder about.

I'll start us off:

My first full-time job was as a typist at a mortgage loan company in San Francisco. I had no idea what I might want to study at Berkeley and it seemed easier to just get a job. In those days, if a “girl” could type, jobs were plentiful.

Also, then (the late 1950s and early 1960s), I had no more direction or ambition than supporting myself and indeed, we – women – were not encouraged to do much more. Marriage was the ultimate goal.

And so I did that in 1965. My husband was, at first, a disc jockey and then moved on to host a radio talk show in Houston in the earliest days of talk radio. It was otherwise a rock-and-roll station and management didn't understand that he needed a producer.

So I stepped in and we continued doing his show together – as producer and program host – in Minneapolis, Chicago and evenually New York where it became the number one talk show in town.

When we separated in 1971, it wasn't feasible to continue working together so a friend who was a producer at ABC-TV on The Dick Cavett Show got me a job there. After a couple of years, I moved on to producing local morning programs on several local channels and in the late 1970s, joined The Barbara Walters Specials while also producing stories for 20/20.

In the late 1980s, I moved on again to other television programs and then, in 1995, another friend asked me to take a job as managing editor at – the network's first website that was just getting started, not even online yet.

That – and other web production positions later – was fantastic. Working in television, I had always been enthralled with the stories of the old-timers who had been in the business from the earliest days in the 1940s.

Like those guys then, I found myself in the 1990s in on the beginning a brand new medium with no rules yet. We were inventing it on the spot day to day, trying out new things, seeing what succeeded and what didn't.

And I did that – websites – until I was forced into retirement nine years ago.

As Karen said in her comment, each job pulled (or pushed) me on to the next. From radio to television to the internet and, for the past decade, to blogging about getting old.

Most of the time, I loved what I did through those transitions. I used the access that working at television networks gave me to talk to the people who made the news or were experts in dozens of fields.

None of those people would have spoken with Ronni Bennett but they are always eager to talk with anyone who has network letters behind their name, and I took full advantage to learn from them.

In that way, although it took my entire life and continues still, it was my college education. There was something new to learn just about every week if not every day and I took complete advantage of my access.

Of course, it wasn't as smooth sailing as that sounds. In between the good jobs, I once ran a high-end dating service ($1500 to join) for an acquaintance who owned it, edited chapters for a textbook publisher, wrote stories for the in-flight magazine of an all-first class airline that is now defunct and for two years tried to run my own film and TV research company just as the internet was becoming ubiquitous and no one needed that kind of service anymore.

The biggest difference today with this blog is that I can voice my opinion which is a 180-degree departure from everything else I did that can, at times, still feel like I'm crossing a line I shouldn't – but I'm mostly comfortable with that now.

An ancillary thought to all this is that as I look back, it all seems inevitable which is, sometimes, how I feel about all of life itself – as though I had nothing to say about each step of the way through these 72 years, that it is written in some book somewhere and I'm just following the arrows pointing the way.

On other days I feel differently – that I've made every choice myself. But that's getting way too existential for this post.

Now it's your turn. How have you spent your working life? And remember, on the internet you are not confined by space – use as much as you want. Just please, use paragraphs so it's readable.

At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Henry Lowenstern: Apprehension


I fell into my career, if it could be called that, by accident.
I was a mathematician by training but I didn't want to be a teacher and I knew I wasn't good enough to win a Field prize (or come up with anything of interest really). So I took a job in the computer industry, really before there was a computer industry. I thought I'd do that until something better came along.
Unfortunately, it paid quite well, so I wasn't really tempted to go and look for something else; and it kept me in music, books and wine.
It did provide me with some interesting times – several trips to Silicon Valley, Boston, Los Angeles and so on, and I met a number of people who became significant in my life.
None of this was in any way useful to writing music columns as I'm doing now I'm retired, except for acquiring a large library of records and CDs over the years. I just make it up as I go along – pretty much the same as we did in the early days of computing.

It is always interesting to read about other peoples' career paths. My own is rather different. From the age of about 10 I wanted to get into engineering in some form. At school I loved chemistry so decided it would be chemical engineering and that was it until I was 17. After a long spell in hospital I came back to school and repeated my first year in what we in the UK call 6th Form - the years at school when we take the exams for university entrance. I soon realised that my maths was not up to a career as an engineer and started casting around for an alternative. I looked at everything - journalism, librarianship, industrial design, ergonomics, philosophy, economics...

Then by chance I came on a book about architecture and cities, which lead me in turn to Jane Jacobs book 'Death and life of great American Cities' based on her own time living in Greenwich Village in the 1950s.

That lead me to Planning or as we called it then in the UK 'Town and Country Planning'. I was accepted to study this and then spent the next 30 years working in local government, initially in planning but working from time to time on economic development, site planning, marketing, historic buildings conservation, town and city centres and environmental protection and gradually shifting into planning in its widest sense.

By the time I was made redundant I had done a lot of work on community involvement so when I began to work for myself as a consultant that was the area I focussed on, helping voluntary and community groups work out their own plans, or to challenge unwelcome proposals.

In parallel with all this I was taking photographs - I started when I was 17 on a trip to Norway, continued throughout University and beyond. Some of this fed into my work, much was for my own enjoyment. By the time I set up on my own I probably had some 15000 negatives and slides.

While recovering from another bout of illness, I began trying to organise and catalogue these photographs and realised some of my early colour slides had begun to fade badly. I began scanning these into the computer to preserve them, and started restoring them digitally. That led me on to realise that what I was doing to restore the images could equally well be used creatively. I started selling a few at local craft fairs.

I had my pictures mounted and framed locally. I discovered after a while that they also worked to make prints for major London galleries, working with artists like Howard Hodgkin and Gillian Ayres. At the time these names did not mean a lot to me, but one day, when collecting some framing, the frameshop owner, who was herself an artist invited me into the workshop space where I could see some work in progress by Hodgkin and Ayres. I was immediately hooked and within a week I had signed up to study printmaking.

Now, if asked to describe myself I'm usually an artist, occasionally a former planner, but rarely as retired - although technically I am.

This is a very different career path to Ronni's of course. Much of my time was spent in local government and only latterly as self employed. Even so, each development in my career seemed at the time to naturally spring from what I was already doing. I thought at the time that I was making a choice, but chance has been I think the real driver. I certainly would not have expected at age 17 to have been trying to pursue a new career aged 66 as a artist. It just would never have entered my head - kids from backgrounds like mine were lucky to make it to university then, never mind becoming anything so unlikely as an artist.

One thing I am always grateful for though is the endless support of my parents and my late aunt (my mother's sister) and uncle. Whatever I decided to do, however strange it may have seemed at the time, they accepted that I had to go my own way. Thank you.

How interesting, Ian!

When I joined a teaching order of Catholic nuns in 1964, it was inevitable that I would become a teacher. I did have some choice of my area of study and chose Biology, which led me into teaching at an all girls' private high school in Seattle in the 70’s. This school was in Seattle’s Central Area and had a third each Asian, Black and white students. It was an amazing school that piloted a Peace Education program and graduated some strong women leaders who were well known in the Pacific Northwest. After many financial and political struggles, the Archdiocese closed our school which was heartbreaking for those of us who wanted to work with the poor.
I taught another year in the “rich girls” school, couldn’t stand it, then went to Walla Walla and taught there for two years. It was like going back in time at least 10 years! But I loved the hard-working farm families and got to know the chaplain at the state penitentiary and began helping him out on the weekends.
I had music and liturgy experience so I returned to Seattle after getting my Masters in Theology from St. Mary’s College of California and worked part-time as a liturgy coordinator while looking for an opportunity to work in a prison ministry. I found a unique program that worked sort of like AA but for prisoners and wrote a grant so I could work there as a volunteer coordinator part time. We expanded the program to all the prisons in Western Washington. It provided preparation for release through weekly group meetings with “outsiders” including former inmates and then the support of a community when they were released.

During this time, I decided to leave the convent and did so. I needed a second job so began working at a coffee shop/dessert restaurant across the street from my tiny studio apartment on Capital Hill in Seattle. I had met a lawyer who was a volunteer in the prison program and we got married after a year. Eventually having two children and adopting a third.
During these years, I worked as an employment counselor for an agency (WORST job I ever had!), as a tour guide at a local winery (fun job but paid crap) then got a job at a Catholic high school for several years until after our daughter was born. They let me bring my nursing baby to school with me for six months because I was doing part-time administrative work and the senior boys would come “borrow” her at lunchtime so the girls would come talk to them! I quit teaching in 1985 when they wanted me to go back full time.
When we desperately needed more income because my husband was not good at the business side of being a lawyer (he put us through two bankruptcies due to his business), I began selling educational toys (direct sales). I became one of the top sellers and recruiters in the nation and we went on a free incentive trip every year to Mexico, Hawaii, the Caribbean or London and I made many wonderful friends and learned a lot about child development. This job helped me keep my sanity through the child-raising years!
Colon cancer in 1998 forced me to quit my toy business and after a year of treatment, I decided to go back into teaching and subbed for a few years. I ended up getting hired to teach science in a junior high and loved it. Started a Science Olympiad program after school there and my teaching partner and I took over 200 kids plus parent chaperones to Mt. St. Helens each Spring, an exhausting adventure!
In 2008, my husband suddenly left and served me divorce papers the same day, which came as a complete shock to me despite years of minor conflict, a lot over his conversion and involvement in the LDS church.
I continued teaching for one more year, then retired at 62 in order to move to Arizona and remarry after meeting a widower when we sat next to each other on a plane.
Now I tutor and drive two great kids four days a week after school (great p/t job for retirees, by the way, and much in demand!), have two VERY part-time direct sales businesses (one with toys) and am truly happily married and financially secure, which I was not in my first marriage. Maybe I will write a memoir when I slow down a bit!

When I graduated from High School most girls only aspired to finding a husband. College Scholarships were only available for the top 2% and my step-father didn't think girls needed college, so with no marketable skills I had to take any job I could get. I worked as a waitress, clerk, and telephone operator. (Is anyone left who still remember "Number please"?)

I did find my husband and continued working as a telephone operator until I became pregnant. I was very sick and when my son was born I became a stay-at-home mom. My husband did not want me to work so motherhood was my job for the next 30 years when I did, at last, get to go to college. I didn't get a degree, but I acquired office skills (bookkeeping, typing, management, accounting etc) so that I could become the office manager for my husband who was in Real Estate at that time. I worked with him until illness forced him to close his office. I had to go to work and I had to take any job I could get. The first one was as a receptionist in a Dental Lab, but I eventually got a job as Secretary in a Real Estate Office and stayed there until my hearing loss got so bad I was let go.

This is not the exciting career path that some of you experienced, but it was my rather mundane life.

Graduating from high school in 1968, I'm of the generation that went to Haight Ashbury instead of collage, and spent the next few years wandering around the country. When I met my husband, and we settled in TX, I went to college. But I still had no passion, except to read.

My first job made sense: a used and rare book store for 7 years. Then a friend mentioned a theater looking for a director of marketing, and I was ready for a change (and to make more money as I was now divorced). Suitably unqualified, I got the job, and that led me to 20 years as a consultant in marketing and fundraising for non-profits, living in California. I enjoyed it to some extent, but there is an endless pressure when doing fundraising that I do not miss.

Almost 25 years ago I met my current husband, and continued working until 2002 when we moved here, and I started working with him full time. As an author, songwriter and performer, I do booking and publicity, and general management, and travel with him. My own personal non-profit :) It has been fun, but I think we're both getting a bit weary, and doing a bit less.

What I discovered a few years ago, when I edited his book, is that I love editing, and wish I'd known that when I was 20, as I suspect it would have been my career.

But no regrets. I began by wandering a bit, and wandered in to some wonderful work and corners.

My core has always been that I am an artist. I ran away from home to join the Army and discovered set design...and a husband. I put him through Art Center in LA in the early sixties by filing, counting money, drawing line illustration, running a gallery and working as a cook. Divorce and a low bottom brought me to another gallery, then selling tickets at a theater, and managing rental units. Line drawing all the while. More line drawing, newspaper layout and pasteup, lots of that, and more line drawing. College degree with an emphasis in painting and Graduate work in Architectural History. Painting and drawing and more line illustration until the stroke damage got too much and I devolved into a security guard....while still trying to draw and learn to write and take pictures. Yup, retirement is never dull. Being an artist leads one to become a multidisciplinarian.

From teaching high school English for two years, I worked for the next few years as reporter, feature writer and photographer in a bureau for the daily paper in a larger town nearby.

That led to a writing and editing position with a research program for 15 years. That led to position as public information officer for a marine research lab for 11 years until I retired.

I miss gifted colleagues but not the deadlines, drama and university politics. And the "retired" label doesn't bother me at all.

I love to read personal testimonials and histories. I'll put some time into these later tonight. However, briefly stated, here's what I've done:

College: Degree in Geography
2n Degree Spanish Lit.
Was going to be a high school teacher but decided too much stress running heard on the kids.

Out of the frying pan into the fire--worked a youth detention center for a year in L.A.

Next, worked as a sales clerk in home improvement centers for 2 years in L.A.

Next, became a route sales representative for lawn and garden equipment in L.A.

Next, worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for 5 years. Washington D.C.

Next, became a distribution sales manager for Kemet Capcitors in L.A.

Next, became a sales engineer for Texas Instruments (electrical) for 29 years, CA, AZ, TX and East Coast.

Next, became a manufacturer sales representative. On 3rd job in 4.5 years. They don't want me to ever retire. Too much experience and well versed in sales. I may eject!

When will it end. I am 65 going on 66. Hair is thinning but have youthful immaturity going for me--seem younger than I am. (ref: sex makes you look young article?--just kidding)

Couldn’t wait to get out of high school – wanted to earn money and wear lipstick — so I left on my 16th birthday. Then followed a succession of jobs, all different, all interesting. Taught nursery school, worked for the army, worked in a library, was a hotel receptionist, secretary, factory worker, theatre usherette, filing clerk, mail clerk, insurance clerk, ballroom dance teacher. Then a housewife and stay-at-home mother from 1965 to 1974. And I loved it.

It had been a peripatetic life up till then and had taken me to three different continents, but now as a householder I inevitably got involved for the first time with a local community. And I got so interested in community that I went back to school and did a four-year degree in social work.

My social work career involved both community work and work with individuals and the latter was what I enjoyed the most. So I did lots of in-service training. Developed some specialties, like couple counselling and women’s groups. I also got into running seminars on stress-management and wellness.

Gradually I began doing a lot more in-depth work with individuals. Eventually I went to graduate school, got an advanced degree in psychology and ended up as a psychotherapist with a thriving private practice, plus teaching classes and running personal development groups.

My MA thesis had been on the psychological and spiritual aspects of menopause (based on my research with therapy clients and on my own menopause experience) and the thesis eventually became a book. That’s when my interest in ageing really kicked in. So that book was followed by another on the subject of women and ageing (entitled Elderwoman, published in 2002 and still my best-selling book). Gradually I morphed from therapist to author, writer, editor, blogger...

Somewhere in there, ‘retirement’ happened. But at 77, with eight books now in print I am still writing, still editing. Yes, this is how it goes. We hop from stepping stone to stepping stone and around unexpected corners and oh what a fascinating journey it all is. And it ain’t over till it’s over.

In high school I was on the newspaper staff and on Stage Crew. I thought I could combine my two loves by becoming a drama critic, so off I went to the University of Missouri to study journalism. But while there I got sidetracked with all the theater courses and ended up with a degree in Speech & Drama.

That was pretty useless, so when I was offered a fellowship to do a master's, I took it. It included a teaching internship at a community college that convinced me teaching was not my calling.

Graduate school over, I just needed a job, so I ended up working at a hospital, where I was to do supervisory training. Teaching adults, I thought, might be okay. But I was not very good at it, and I hated the hospital hierarchy. After three and a half years, I decided to quit, vowing I would not work again until I could get something I really wanted.

After thinking it over, I decided that what I really wanted to do was write. I held it together doing temp jobs for a year before I was able to convince the local newspaper editor to hire me. I started on the copy desk, then became a feature writer and yes, a film and theater critic. My high school ambition was realized.

I worked there for six years before becoming fed up with the conservative Midwest. I had also had my son by that time, and the nighttime hours of the job were difficult. I chose Seattle as my new place to live and moved there without a job in 1982.

I went through a couple of stopgap jobs before landing at the University of Washington, where I worked for 27 years doing the faculty/staff newspaper. It was enjoyable work for the most part, and I loved being on a university campus. I even picked up my PhD back in 1997.

I retired from that job in 2011 and now I do freelance editing. I work with individual writers on their books, which is very enjoyable and satisfying.

I sometimes wonder where I'd be today if I had gotten that coveted University of Missouri journalism degree, but really, I can't complain. I've had a pretty satisfying career, and I love my current work with writers.

Expecting to become a nurse because the boy i was involved with at the time was at the University of Michigan in pre-med, I was turned down by Michigan State but Western Michigan accepted me so I started as a freshman in September 1959. Influenced by my Western Civ professor Dr. Margaret McMullen, I switched to history and later, losing track of the boy, to education. I married his best friend though and went off to teach English and Social Studies in Lorain, Ohio. Most of the principals would not hire young marrieds such as I because "you girls tend to leave after a year to become mothers". I was lucky however, even though the school closest to our apartment didn't hire me, I did get a job across the river. And, as predicted, I promptly became pregnant, ending my teaching career after only a year. :-)Husband's employer moved us to another city in another state, which required a Master's to stay licensed. I went ahead and achieved this, produced another baby, managed a household and finally toddled back into the workplace when he was in second grade. Why did i drift into public affairs? I could write; a local not-for-profit needed someone who could work the hours I wanted, and it was sort of fun except for the staff who were in constant conflict with each other. Voila! An opening in city government at the department of transportation, publicizing their carpooling system. The people were fun this time, with the exception of the boss , who invited me into his office for a look at some lewd pictures he described as "artwork". We've all had this experience, right ladies? ALL of us, one way or another.
He never did anything else, amazingly.
Right about then my husband and I dissolved our marriage so it became necessary to support myself and make a lot of other life arrangements different from those of a householder/mother.
I moved on to the city department of planning, similar to Ian's work, but i only bragged about other people's work, which was great. So interesting to learn what they were doing, and they liked that i was making them "famous". Leaving local government after eleven years, I spent two years showing off a tony local school system already well known for its great graduation rate and well funded families; I found the coaches who had lived in the community when it was a farm town and loved what was behind their pride and the quiet love they had for their work. The bus garage guys were so good to my old 1984 Oldsmobile '98; I wrote stories about them and so many other aspects of the school system, but they didn't have funds for my job after two years, so there i was networking like crazy to stay afloat. Personally at this time i had one child in high school, the other in college. Deep breath.
I spent 18 months temping and part-timing, wondering if a woman with two degrees would really spend the rest of her working years bouncing from pillar to post! Finally I was lucky enough to set up newsletters and write stories about the Public Housing Authority but only for a year; public housing is rife with corruption everywhere and my boss was almost physically removed from his desk one day. Yikes. Soon someone from far away came in to "reform" our office and i was wafting in the breeze again. More temping and part-timing until networking landed me at a law firm working with the local media to promote law specialties and their good work in the community; by then both children were safely finished with college.
Now I am safely heading toward retirement as an executive assistant, what do you think of that? I use my public relations skills writing letters in other people's voices, helping when asked with grammar and sentence construction and directing people's schedules. My coworkers are such a great group of people and the customers, well, you know, some are happy some are not. But I am! I am 72 and plan to retire in another couple of years, all things being equal.

In grade school I read a biography of Marie Curie and decided then that I would emulate her. I was good at science and math. Unfortunately, it turned out that while twenty five years had passed since her death, attitudes toward women in science had not changed very much. I was discouraged by teachers and by my Mother. However, my Dad cheered me on and I'm very stubborn.

I gave up on the pursuit of a PhD (in physics) when I "accidently" overheard one of my professors telling another that no "girl" would be award that degree if he could help it. I knew that he was in a position to insure that I would not succeed so I took the master's degree and moved on. Interesting side note: During the Vietnam conflict when many male graduate students were being drafted, that same professer tracked me down to inquire if I would like to return to "complete" my degree. Uh... no.

I worked at a couple of jobs in Boston. This was a wonderful city for a young woman just out on her own. The first job was a glorified lab tech. The second was classified goverment research and a real use of my education. The 1968 recession ended that job and there were few others like it available.

I moved to a different city with a job at a large international company. Unlike the previous two jobs, this one paid me on the same pay scale as my male co-workers. I had many interesting assignments (and a few boring ones) during the next twenty five years. Then business turned sour and management began to treat their older employees badly. This was possibly with the hope that they would leave... and I did in 1995.

I've been retired since... doing some volunteer work which included a five year gig with a senior "Rockette" style dance troupe. Other than that I spend my time playing my piano, tending my garden, riding my bicycle and hanging out with my best friend (for the last 45 years) and reading Ronni's blog.

Wow - My first job was dictation at Prudential Ins. Co. followed by 1 and 1/2 years at Macalester College in St. Paul where I met my husband. I worked nights as an aide at Mpls General Hospital in the mens' genital urinary ward- quite an eye opener for an 18 year-old only child. We got married when we were both 20 and for the next 23 years I raised our seven children and helped my husband in our family owned restaurants. There was also a turkey farming stint in that time period. I still don't eat turkey to this day. When the youngest was 3 I returned to school and got my B.S. degree from the Univ of MN in Mortuary Science. I also had more than 48 credits each in Gerontology, Biology and Sociology. My husband followed suit two years later. After graduation I took a full time job as a funeral home manager and also returned to graduate school for Grief and Bereavement. Four years after my husband graduated he had an aneurysm of the brain which left him with a partial disability. The ensuing years found us working together in funeral homes throughout the state of MN. In 2004, I took a job as the assistant to the CEO of a healthcare center and continued to work there for two years until we relocated to the northern part of the state where I took a job doing Quality, Risk Management and transcription and coding for another healthcare center which I continued to do until March of this year when I was severance d out due to downsizing. My husband has been in the nursing home since January 3rd due to the effects of his aneurysm, Parkinson's, and severe brain atrophy. It has been quite a year, however, I just got a call today that I have a new job and my faith is restored!!! To actually get a new job at 71 is huge. I will start Friday and it is doing transcription at home for a local Emergency Room. which is something that I truly enjoy doing. I can just live in my p.j.'s and not use any gas or have wear and tear on my car. It will allow me to financially survive. It has been quite a ride over the past 50 years, but like you said, Ronni, it is like one is following the arrows along the way....hoping that I followed the right arrows. A big thank you Ronni for caring what we all did during our lives.

I grew up in the 40' and 50's and was lucky enough to have parents who expected me to go to college. At the time, I felt I had the choice of nurse, teacher, nun or dietitian -- all appropriate for a woman, I was told. Since I was good in science, I picked dietitian, having absolutely no clue what one did. But after 2 years, the siren song of marriage and relief from boring studies got to me. I married my HS sweetheart, who had morphed into a Marine jet pilot.

After 1.5 yrs, he morphed into a dead marine due to an auto accident after Happy Hour. I was left a 23 y/o widow, no kids. What to do? I had a small widow's stipend, but not enough to support me in So. Cal. I found a job as chair assistant to a dentist who trained me. I soon tired of people's mouths and sitting there with the vacudent. Following an ad in the LA Times, I decided to interview for Flight Attendant with Continental Airlines, and woo-woo, I got it!

After training in Denver, I was sent to glamorous Midland, TX, to fly on DC-3s over TX and NM. I actually loved it. But, after 2 yrs., I was moved to Denver and flights with other "Hostesses" and not as much interaction with the passengers. Along came an old boyfriend from my So.Cal. days to propose marriage.(!) This was 1961 and I was 25 with no other prospects except forced retirement at 32 (policy).

So we married and were off to Graduate School (him); I began making babies --4 of them in 6 yrs. By now he had a faculty position at Iowa State, I had 4 children and no marketable skills to fall back on. So, I took advantage of proximity and went back to college in 1970 at age 34. After 7 long years, I graduated with a MS in Nutrition and was eligible for the R.D. designation. I worked at an Area Agency on Aging, then a large hospital for 5 yrs as Clinical Dietitian. The politics finally got to me and I quit to go into another RD's practice. This fizzled, but I found a spot with a software company that developed a system for hospital dietaries. This was VERY new territory for me and I was instantly way in over my head.

Meanwhile, I'd been divorced from the Math Prof and 3 kids were off to college and beyond. I cast about for something else and at last, found my perfect spot as Consultant Dietitian for a Nursing Home Corp. at 7 of their Iowa homes. I was independent and mobile and the work offered great variety. Why hadn't I thought of it sooner?? But, two years into this, I married again. He was promptly offered a very nice early retirement package and he made me an offer I couldn't refuse. So, at age 55, I left the world of the employed and went blue water cruising for 9 years. That was the end of my working life, which was only about 15 yrs and not very highly paid, so you can figure how tiny my SS check is. Still, it wasn't without a lot of variety, for sure!

I have to go way back – 56 years – to think about my career trajectory. At the age of 16 and still at high school, my father insisted I get a “holiday job” for 6 weeks in the summer. I had no qualifications or skills so I got a job in a laundry where I spent all day shaking out and folding sheets ready for the older women to feed through giant hot rollers. It was back breaking and boring and I earned £3 p.w., which I could keep. It was an introduction to older people’s company (a great social experience for a teenager) and to those whose job was going nowhere and to which, my father warned, I would be doomed to follow if I didn’t study. I was a real slow starter and all I managed was a School Cert and qualifications in shorthand and typing, not the high-flying academic road my father wanted me to take.
It was the time of the personal assistant/secretary , for twinsets and pearls, high heels and chic hairdos. I worked in hospital administration concerned with the total Committee work and loved it. I never wanted to marry or have children but at 26, I did marry and went off to the Far East to work in the diplomatic service for nearly 3 years. On our return, the marriage was almost on its last legs and at the breakup he went off to University and I applied and was accepted at age 30 to learn about psychology, sociology and the law. The prissy twinset and pearls and high heels were cast off for beads and sandals (we’re in 1971 now) bellbottom jeans, tunics, belts and long hair. It was a time when grants were available for mature students. Noone in the UK has that opportunity now.
I went into hospital social work when my studies were over. This was a gift to someone like me, always curious to learn more. And there are so many clinical specialties that areas of work can be changed without changing employer (the local authority). For a while I specialised in working in the rehabilitation of people after a stroke, people awaiting a kidney transplant and setting up home dialysis and older people, assessing their needs and wants as they became frailer.
I married again (big mistake which took me 25 years to discover…..well I did say I was a slow starter) and accompanied him to the Middle East. I was lucky enough to find secretarial work in an ultra modern hospital in Riyadh otherwise I think I would have flipped out with boredom. Life for a woman in that country warrants an article in itself. I have to note again a complete change in the way I dressed….kaftans that covered everything up.
I’m in the 1980s now and back in UK, working in medical social work in London and moving into child protection, then HIV/AIDS and then into working with people with a substance dependency, which was part of Adult Psychiatry. I became a volunteer counsellor for the Terence Higgins Trust and at that point started a training course in psychotherapy. I couldn’t juggle all these balls and never finished or qualified at the time. It took a different place and different course for that to change and more importantly, a different time in that by then I was single for the second time. Marriage and career progression were incompatible to me: I know that now.
The last 8 years of my working life were my happiest and most fulfilling. I did courses in art therapy and psychodrama, massage and aromatherapy, meditation and guided visualisations, all very useful when I worked in a rehab unit for people who misused alcohol and drugs.
My, I have rambled on a bit and been on a bit of a nostalgic 45 year tour of my working life. I have been retired for 10 years now and call on my experience to train volunteers for a charity concerned with English-speaking people who need help in their advancing years. I volunteer, with others, to highlight the gaps in provision for older people, e.g. palliative care/practical help/hospital visiting, with the aim of plugging the gaps.

Phew, I see I haven't stopped yet and I don't know if I ever will.

Amazing how our lives take such interesting turns, starting with the first 'luck' of whatever family one is born into...

When we're tiny we don't know from class, and perhaps it's only in hindsight I see myself more clearly, the only daughter of an older middle-class couple, whose sister was a St. Bernard.

We lived on 'the hill' with doctors and dentists and other mill managers, but all I wanted on a summer's day was to take off on my lime-green bicycle with my girlfriends in the tiny town beside the Columbia River in WA state. But when I was 12 and 13, first my father and then my Mom succumbed to different kinds of cancer, and I was suddenly shipped to live with an elderly and very strict aunt and uncle in southern CA.

They didn't know what to do with a budding precocious teenager, so they threw me into boarding schools for the next five years. Whew.

I began to learn what privilege was, and how much poorer I was than the gals who maybe didn't know what their moms' last name was that month. The students were rich and snotty and lost as well, as the turblent Sixties ensued...

College was always assumed on both sides of my family for all children, so I followed the family to Stanford, tho I wept when admitted because I wanted to go to Texas to be with my first love, but that would have been heresy. Dutiful I was, and burdened with the false premise that somehow, I'd caused my parents' deaths & so had to prove my and their worths by good academic performance...

So, Class of '71 in English with Honors, but even then, the options presented were NIL. Be a secretary or a nurse or a teacher...So, I stuck around for a year and got a Master's in Education, which turned out to be useless in CA for teaching at the community college level, necessitating another Master's in English, Communication and Psychology years later (five years' commute to Oregon while working full-time).

By this time, I'd also taught every level from pre-school to university, but settled into a 27-year career as a faculty member in a teensy community college in the far northern woods near Mt. Shasta.

Married once, for a shorter time than Ronni, during which we bought and ran a natural foods restaurant which was waayy ahead of its time. As was the union with a giant gentle guy who happened to be black. Which was my introduction to poor black culture, which seemed familiar, as the fates had ushered me earlier to a Hawaiian summer school where I met and loved locals for five endless summers.

Maybe because I had to adapt and adjust, I've always been pretty 'good with people' and the college thus handed me re-entry adults, disabled loggers, foreign students, financial aid single moms, etc. in my long career, which included teaching study skills classes for 25 years (arghh)...I also ended up running the Intercultural Club, which I invented, which was the most active club on campus for decades!

Dear second (white) hubby helped immensely with that, hauling students to events and helping with tasty 100-person potlucks while he built his construction company.

And so the years galloped on--we built the house we still live in, though on my bucket list is traveling around as a full or quasi-full time RVer.

I'd have to say, the most salient fact of my careers has been working with the poor and the very poor, now that I volunteer with the local humane society, which survives on donation only. I don't know which is worse, people giving up their pets for lack of money, or the transient folks who come to beg food for their bedraggled pets. Both are heartbreaking.

It has all given me a vision that understands the dreadfulness of poverty and the difficulty of alleviating it in any meaningful way, given the racism and classism which permeates this society.

I am only one, but I'll use whatever time's granted to me after these 64 years to do a little good where I can. I'd love to hear from anyone who'd like to chat--use [email protected].

AND MOST SINCERE THANKS to RONNI, who's a very intelligent and diligent friend who helps us keep an even keel, 'eh whot!?

(Ronni--if this is too long, feel free to omit--written mostly for you, anyhoo, just so you'll know a bit more about me.)

Ronni, my comment disappeared when first posted but resurfaced an hour or so later. Gremlins at work?

Well, let's see. My first job was a summer one, working at the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, where my father, an engineer, had worked in the years after he emigrated from Germany and before he died in 1945, when I was 5. It was a job in the payroll dept. and it mostly thrilled me because I got a paycheck every week.
Goucher College, where my mother had gone for her BA, was my choice, mainly because I could live at home. I came in as pre-med, having won a prestigious award in the future Scientists of America competition in our particular region, which included all the bright kids from Oak Ridge Tennessee. But about the time I was a sophomore - and doing well in biology and related things - the man who was to become my mentor looked at me one day and made the remark that changed the direction of my life: "Ruth-Ellen, anybody can be a doctor, but not many people write as well as you do." I majored then in German, not entirely sure why. Had a Fulbright, studied in Hamburg, married a Baltimore friend who was German, we lived there while he was doing his army stint. Back to Baltimore, caring for my mother much of the time. And then off to Washington DC for an MA in German. Right after that, to Johns Hopkins for my PhD. During that time, we adopted our lovely Melissa, several years later our equally lovely Timothy. Got the PhD in 1971; absolutely no positions available. What was I thinking.. We moved to Madison WI, where my husband got an asst. professor position at the U of WI. Eventually, I worked as the editor of a University of Wisconsin professional journal for the Dept. of Special Education--then got a post-doc to work on a book at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the UW. Went year after year to the Modern Language Assoc. hunting for jobs and finally got a real one, which required my husband to commute to where I and the children were living in Columbus Missouri and I was teaching at the U of Mo. German, of course. While we were both on research fellowships in Munich, I was offered a job at the U of Minnesota, and I have been there ever since. Still writing, a number of books, many articles, and in my spare time, and still mostly just for me, a series of grotesque tales that somehow have caught my fancy.I retired just this past January--I wrote once to Time Goes By about my fears connected with retirement, but I have been too busy with continuing to advise 6 students to think about it too much.
Got divorced after 10 years of commuting between Madison and Mpls, although it was not the commuting that separated us, it was my finally coming out.
So I never became a doctor. But I continue to love reading and writing. Having just completed a book with a colleague on the problems with academic writing, I am returning to the memoir I started a long time ago. It is daunting. And I continue to lead a sort of life of the mind, I guess, although I keep involved in the world. But to sum this all up, I feel vastly inexperienced when I read all of what you all have done. Still, my mentor was right in one way, I guess I do best and am happiest in reading, writing, teaching.

After college I joined the highly secret "Flying Squad" of a very large consumer products company. I did research on their products with the public, was sent to large cities and small towns for a week or two at a time, full expense account, three to five of us in the city at a time. I was on the road fifty weeks of the year, only home to change seasonal wardrobes. It was very unusual for young women to travel alone on business in the 60's but I loved the life, saw the country, had many adventures including time in dangerous parts of cities and then farms in the middle of nowhere.

After two years I moved to New York. It was the only place I had seen that was as interesting as my traveling life. It was the crazy 60's and 70's, saw Tina Turner, Janice Joplin,lots of peace marches. My career there was related to the earlier one, and I ended up serving on the board of my professional association for many years, became manager of a department in a large company, and traveled to Europe several times alone as a young business woman, not a hippie like so many kids of that era. Interesting times.

Still single, I decided to head back West and took a job in Chicago so the company would pay to move me that far. I stayed fifteen years, married twice (both lawyers, what was I thinking?), eventually gave up the corporate life to move to the West Coast with second husband.

A mother at 39, I loved having this new "career", did consulting in my old field.

Fifteen years ago the opportunity came to become a Field Editor for a major magazine publishing company. I loved that work, produced many magazine articles on gardens and homes, met lovely people, was active in the industry on boards.

I retired from that when my husband decided he no longer need his at-home employee two months after he retired. It turned out to be a blessing; now I take challenging classes at nearby universities, did summer school at Oxford, love my independent life even though it means I do everything myself at age 70. With good health, I hope I can keep on having adventures for a while longer.

Thank-you everyone for these greats stories. I enjoyed each one, I'd was so impressed with your lives. Wouldn't this topic be a good book?

My first jobs were babysitting in my neighborhood. At night I made 50 cents an hour. Then at age 12, I got a summer job watching a baby girl while her parents worked during the day. For that, I was paid 35 cents an hour.
My first real job was sorting potatoes in Eastern Washington. Girls made $1.65 an hour and boys got a dime more. I lived with my grandparents and my grandmother, who I miss to this day, let me cash my first check for spending money. The rest of the checks were put under her mattress, un-cashed until I went home. I made so much money, I was able to buy myself expensive green contacts to replace my coke-bottle glasses. Worth every penny. I worked two summers at this job. The second summer I made enough money to purchase one quarter of a 1966 Chevy Nova. (My sister and parents owned the other three quarters).
My next job was in Portland working at Inventory Auditors. I worked graveyard keypunching car part inventory numbers. Boring! But the kids I worked with were so much fun. I made enough money to pay for my tuition at OSU. My parents paid for the room and board. I had to leave the car at home. I was at OSU for all of two weeks, when I met the man who would become my husband less than a year later. Now it’s been 40 years and we are still going strong.
Before we had our two daughters, I worked as a clerk at several insurance companies. Again Boring! I stayed home with the girls until the youngest was in kindergarten. Next job was at a Union Local. I was a clerk and then the bookkeeper and then the administrative assistant to the President. I came from a Union family, so this was good fit for me. I worked there for 12 years.
Now I am working part time for a Union newspaper in Oregon. I have been at this job for almost 15 years and I love it. I am the office manager, which sounds more important than it is considering that there are only 3 employees including me.
This is not the career that I chose when I started at OSU. I wanted to be an English teacher. But life has a way of changing a person’s mind. My only regret is that I didn’t get my degree, and who knows, I may get it yet.

Nothing very planned.
Graduated college in 1972. Lots of traveling and odd, interesting work. Eventually settled in South West of England (husband is British) running a Youth Hostel on long distance coast path. Lovely. But, after many years time for a complete change. Packed everything, including two small children and moved to Boston,
MA to pursue new careers: while working full time (he in library and me in school) attending graduate
programs to achieve professional status. After another move back to rural setting and new positions (he in
university library and me as teacher in correctional facility) and after many years, we have recently both
retired. And now for something completely different again! (We haven't made that decision yet!)

Upon graduating from high school in ’65, I moved from Louisiana to San Francisco. I was only 17 when I began working at my first real job as a secretary in a typing pool for Bank of America. I can’t recollect how I got the job, I guess it was through an agency – I don’t recall. I formed friendships with other secretaries and it was through one of my work colleagues, that I met my husband. Shortly after getting married, I went to work for California Pacific Utilities where I worked until I had my first child. I was a stay at home mom for a few years. After my divorce I returned to Louisiana where I went to work for Allied Chemical. Their offices were housed in a refurbished tugboat located on the Mississippi River. Nice people but true river rats and blue collar. At the time, my father had a grocery store nearby and frequently drove me to and from work since I did not drive --- he was concerned about my safety and immediately put out his radar for a more suitable job. Thus, I followed in his footsteps and began working in grocery for a large food store chain – National Tea where I worked as a grocery clerk and customer service for almost 11 years. I really enjoyed that job, as the store evolved into a flagship, upscale model for some of the larger grocery chains across the country today. I was paid well thanks to union wages. By my 30’s I decided that I wanted to return to administrative. So I went to work Union National Life Insurance. The job was a stark contrast to the previous job as a cashier. The offices were elegant and housed in an antebellum-style building with a spiraling staircase in the foyer. It was here that I got my first taste of the real corporate world of suits, ties, and fashionable work attire and the old “DOS” computer. This family owned company was a class act, with gracious, hard-working people running the show. About this time, my sons were graduating from high school and showing signs of independence --- and I realized I could double my salary by moving elsewhere. So in 1989, after a two failed relationships, I returned to San Francisco to start anew.

In 1990, I hit the jackpot and landed a job at another boutique insurance company. This time it was workers compensation. The executive I would support as his assistant hired me on the spot because of my previous experience (and my appearance I think). The offices were amazing with views of the bay at every window. It was here I learned the most about technology, Microsoft, and the whole MS office package as well as the business acumen and professionalism. Sadly, we were spun off and a large conglomerate health care company bought us and that was the end of that act.

Around 1998-2000, the event was beginning to unfold. By that I mean Internet startups and millionaires were springing up everywhere --- Silicon Valley was booming and on fire. Stock options were the norm and it was a time that anyone who had a pulse could get a job despite their age or education. So in 1999, I went to work for a Silicon Valley executive recruiting firm and enjoyed a successful career as an executive assistant until 2008. The rest is history, but somehow I’ve managed to survive terminations, layoffs, downsizing, restructuring, ageism, you name it! At 65, I’ve returned to work on a part-time or as needed basis for one of those companies. The extra money helps and I have a sense of worth that I’m still valued for my professionalism and contribution. Don’t know how long the opportunity to temp will last, but I’m enjoying the ride for now.

How I Spent My Working Life
Ellen Younkins
Other than babysiting I had my first partime job at age 16 at F.W. Woolworth’s where I got paid the minimum wage of 57 and 1/2 cents an hour. Encouraged by my parents I opened a savings account and deposited a portion of this pay that would eventually help with my college tuition.
I went on from working at Woolworths to another part time job working as a sales girl at an exclusive (well exclusive at least for Schenectady NY) ladies dress shop. This was a fun job in that the kind owners let us girls try on some of the elegant clothes when the store wasn’t busy. That may have been the start of my interest in fashion.
After I graduated from High School I did a stint as a long distance operator with the telephone company to earn enough money to start college the following year. After a year of this I finally began college in 1953 as an art and design major at Rochester Institute of Technology but my working days were not over. I still had to work part time to make enough money to help pay tuition - first as a salesgirl in a Department Store and then as a waitress in a homey tearoom. I worked the dinner hours there, waited on the same customers every night, got 10 cent tips, good food and and a very small salary.
After graduating from RIT in 1956 I got a job with the L.M. Berry Company in Rochester doing illustrations for the yellow pages. This lasted for about a year and then I went on to a new job in Rochester for a printing company that specialized in designing and printing bank and commercial checks. My job was to do mock up checks for the sales men to show prospective clients - not a particularly exciting job.
After about a year of this I decided to move back home to Schenectady NY and my timing was not good at all. A recession was just beginning and jobs were scarce.
I managed to find a job after several months with an advertising agency in Albany NY where I did mostly paste-ups and occassionaly got to do some design work. Then I got laid off (I like that term better than fired) because the business at the ad agency wasn’t the greatest. Since I was one of the last ones in I was one of the first ones out.
I collected unemployment insurance for a while, took a Civil Service Test for an art job with the State of New York (out of desperation) and was jobless for a few months.
Then I interviewed for a job at a small Art Service in Albany and I got the job. I worked for two men who were very capable artists and they serviced local advertising agencys and printing companys. I was the girl Friday, paste-up artist, dark room assistant and what ever. I got paid $50. a week and I probably learned more about working as an artist in the real world than I ever did in College.
In the early 60’s I got a surprise call from a man that worked as an artist for Governor Nelson Rockefeller. He was looking for an assistant and obtained my name from a list of people who had taken a Civil Service exam for future employment with the State of New York. He asked me if I would be interested in interviewing, explaining that the job he was offering was not a Civil Service position but a poltical exempt positiion. It sounded pretty exciting to me so I went for an interview and was offered the job - providing that I was a registered Republican. I was not, having registered as a Democrat, while I was home for a summer from college in order to get a job working at a Town Park. I really was not very interested in politics but I wanted that job in the Governor’s Office so I changed my political registration post haste.
I got the job and my new boss became a wonderful mentor to me. We were a two person operation in a tiny corner office of the Capital Building in Albany down the hall from the Governor’s Office. My first assignment was to work on a brochure on how to build a fall-out shelter (one of Nelson Rockefeler’s pet projects). The Governor was fond of using overhead slides for meetings and press conferences so we did a lot of that. We did brochures, we did charts and whatever graphics the Governor wanted. One of fhe more interesting projects that I worked on was promoting the deveopment of what was then called The South Mall. This was a Super pet project of Governor Rockefeller to transform the slums of downtown Albany into a reputable Capital City. It became a huge building project and is now known as The Empire State Plaza.
After having worked in the Executive Chamber for several years I was offered a position with the New York State Senate to start an in house Senate graphic arts office - the rationale being to save money that was being spent at contract printing houses for various publications. I took the job and with one assistant we took on the task of designing constituent publicatiions, Senate news letters and various other graphic arts related material. We expanded the staff, learned how to use computers to do what we had previously done on a drawing board and sweated out Senatorial electiions every two years. Our positions were considered exempt jobs and were at the whim of the elected officials.
It was a good job for many years but it became increasingly difficult for me to compromise my esthetic graphic art principles to please the many egos that are a part of politics. I retired from my job in 1991 after having over 30 years of State Service - some of them very interesting and exciting.
Now in my old age (78) I am fulfilling a dream I once had when I was young. Back then I aspired to be a fashion designer but when I realized that a knowledge of sewing was a prerequisite I changed my mind and went on to study art and design because I knew nothing about sewing. I became a self taught sewer somewhere along the way and after retiring I started to design and sew jackets and handbags that I sell at local museum shops and boutiques. I don’t make much money but I like what I’m doing and I like keeping my mind active and creative.

Dear Ronni, These are simply wonderful. Yes, do consider making these into a book. As I read of others lives, I find I learn more about my own. All those things I forgot to tell you.

I'd buy it.

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