The Perils of Being a Writer and Other Favorites

This month marks WordSisters’ three-year anniversary. To celebrate, we’re sharing a selection of blogs—our favorites and yours.

crazyquiltWe hope our new readers will enjoy getting to know us better. If you’ve been reading WordSisters from the beginning, we hope you’ll enjoy rediscovering some of our perspectives on parenting, families and relationships, working women, and the writing life.

On Losing My Ambition (Open Letter to 35-Year-Old Hiring Managers) 

My friend C. mentioned that after years of freelance writing, she was interviewing to be a marketing communications manager—a position she’s eminently qualified for. During the preliminary phone interview, the interviewer expressed concern that C. wouldn’t be satisfied with being a mid-level manager. We both burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. More

The Perils of Being a Writer

“I knew it,” she says. “I knew it! I knew you were going to say it one day!” She jumps up and runs out of the room.

“What!” I say, alarmed.

I look down at the writing on my laptop and immediately know what happened. There in black and white it says Antonio and Crystel aren’t my children….More

It’s a Good Day When I Kick Somebody in the Head

I started Tae Kwon Do, at Kor Am Tae Kwon Do School when I was 50 years old. Yes, it was an age thing, time to do something new, challenge myself, and show the world that I’m really not all that old. More

Competing with Friends for Writing Awards

Earlier this month, I applied for an Emerging Writer’s Grant and a Loft Creative Prose Mentorship, knowing full well that I’m competing with my good friends for these honors. I really want to win. So do the women in my creative nonfiction writers group. More

Your Moms Can Get Married Now

I imagine someone at school saying that to Antonio and Crystel and them responding, “Huh?” As far as they are concerned, we are already married, and Crystel, much to her chagrin, wasn’t a part of the wedding that we had before she and Antonio came home from Guatemala. She can hardly believe that we had a life before them. More

God Bless Middle-Aged Daughters

As I walk into the skilled nursing center where Mom is rehabilitating, I see other women like myself and think, “God bless middle-aged daughters.” We’re the sensible, competent women who make it all happen. More

When we launched this blog, we envisioned making new friends and sharing our perspectives. But the reality of our weekly conversations with you has exceeded our expectations. Thank you for reading WordSisters and sharing your thoughts!

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Slouching Toward Retirement

I’m not ready to retire yet.  But if I squint I can see it from here. And I don’t like how it looks.

womanondock Baby Boomer To Do List

1. Figure out a retirement that I want to be a part of.

2. Invent a new approach to assisted living/aging in place.

3. Think up better ways to volunteer/give back.

4. Consider my legacy—what it is and how I can help others understand and value it.

5. Resist irrelevancy, crankiness, and being set in my ways.

1. Figure out a retirement that I want to be a part of. 

Trend specialists are always predicting that Baby Boomers will change the face of retirement, just as we have changed so many other institutions (the workplace, motherhood, marriage, etc.)  I sure hope so. Living in a retirement community where golf and bingo are the main attractions does not appeal to me.

Boomers tend to think we’re pretty interesting, and we assume we’ll remain so in retirement. In fact, being cool is probably our birthright! Of course, we’ll invent a better version of retirement.

But I wonder how excited we’ll be about riding our Harleys across the country, when our backs ache and our knees are going . . . . And that assumes we’ll even be retiring. Financial necessity will motivate a lot of Boomers to keep working past age 65. And who will be taking care of our elderly parents and the kids that might not be fully launched?

OK, OK. That’s WAY too much reality. Retirement is years away. Let me get back to creatively daydreaming about how I want retirement to look.

I want it to look like less work, more fun. I want a smaller place (less cleaning, less stuff), but I still want to have a postage stamp-sized yard so I can garden on a smaller scale. I hope to resume some hobbies I set aside for lack of time – pottery, for example. I’d like to learn how to do raku. Making stuff from paper—cards, collages and so forth. Jewelry and stained glass. Quilting and sewing. Maybe I’ll take up canning. Indulge my foodie self a bit more. Start a gourmet dinner group.

Travel. Maybe I can learn enough Italian so I could teach English in Italy while my husband learns the secrets of Italian cooking. Or perhaps I can study abroad (can grown-ups do that, too?), Sounds expensive. Wait, wait. No reality.  I’m daydreaming here.

Be more random and spontaneous. Take back roads and visit antique stores and cafes in little towns instead of always taking the interstate. Go to movies, concerts, plays, art galleries that I’ve never heard of. Decide on a Thursday to visit an airline fare sale city on Saturday—just to see what’s there.

I’ll definitely keep on writing whether or not I get paid. I’ve got a lot more stories to tell and perspectives to share. Besides, I’m a writer to the bone—I can’t stop even if I want to.

Keep thinking and learning. I’ve never understood how you retire your mind.  I’m way too curious and I love learning new things. I hope to audit college classes, take workshops, and read voraciously.

I intend to continue volunteering, but perhaps in different ways (more to come about #3).

I plan to keep active and healthy, but I don’t want to be obsessed with it. I’m unlikely to spend more than an hour per day on keeping fit.

I want to help my kids fix up their homes when they buy them and play with their kids if they have some.

Oh yeah, I’m still hoping to have some lasting impact on the world. I figure I’ve got at least 20 more good years. I ought to be able to change the world in that amount of time, right? I know, I know. Tick tock.

Well, except for the last one, these are pretty modest retirement goals. Sounds like a life I could live.

What do you hope to be doing?

On Losing My Ambition (Open Letter to 35-Year-Old Hiring Managers)

Recently I had dinner with my friend C., who mentioned that after years of freelance writing, she was interviewing to be a marketing communications manager—a position she’s eminently qualified for.

She confided that during the preliminary phone interview, the interviewer expressed concern that C. wouldn’t be satisfied with being a mid-level manager. Perhaps C. would be uncomfortable taking direction from the younger director of the organization. C. paused during this anecdote, with her eyes wide and eyebrows raised. We both burst out laughing and couldn’t stop.

“Being the director is the last thing I want! I just want to do the kind of work I’ve been doing . . . but someplace else. For me, learning the rhythms of that office will be challenging enough,” C. said and paused for a sip of white wine.

“I know! I just want to do interesting work with coworkers I like and be respected for what I know,” I said.

I’m not sure when I lost my ambition for climbing the corporate ladder, but it’s been gone for a while.

womanclimbingladderEven saying that feels odd. I have always cared about my career, and I’ve gone to some trouble to have one (got a graduate degree, made several cross-country moves in pursuit of jobs, been a working mother). But I simply no longer have a driving need to be promoted. Unlike Sheryl Sandburg, who encourages working mothers to be all they can be career-wise (see Lean In), I leaned back a long time ago.

When I was in my 20’s and early 30’s, my career was my main focus. But my priorities broadened after my sons were born. Instead of pursuing a classic corporate marketing or ad agency path, I launched my own freelance writing business. Would I have made different decisions if the workplace had been more flexible? Maybe. But having my own business worked well for me—stacked hat logo

a) It gave me the flexible hours I wanted when my sons were growing up so I could be a bigger part of their lives. They spent fewer hours in daycare. In the summer, I’d occasionally knock off early and we’d go on excursions—the beach, the zoo, or the park. When they were sick, I’d be home. I still had deadlines and needed to work late after my husband returned from his job, but it was easier to manage. Plus, I could volunteer at their school and go on their field trips.

b) With half a dozen clients, I could have the creative variety that’s often lacking for ad agency copywriters. Instead of being the head writer on the agency’s Visa team, I’d write for Land o’ Lakes, Visa, Radisson, Medtronic, Sears—whichever account was active that week.

c) As a freelance writer, I had more free time to write personal essays and memoir pieces—the kind of creative writing I’d always wanted to do.

I made choices that supported the life I wanted; my decisions did not advance a traditional career path.

Shortly after my second son was born, while I was still working full-time, I was offered the opportunity to be promoted from senior copywriter to associate creative director. It was hard to say no—at that point I still had traditional ambitions and wanted to advance. But I turned down the promotion, because between work and family, I was already at or beyond full capacity. I simply didn’t have the energy to do more and to do the job justice.

Several years ago, I chose to leave my freelance business behind (it stopped being as much fun and my sons were grown) and take a part-time job writing marketing communications for a children’s hospital. I’ve had several chances to go full-time and get back on the classic path to career advancement. Ambition flickered in my heart. I briefly heard the siren song of advancement, “You’ve got more in you–you’d be good at that job.”  But I leaned back again. New logo 2

I have other goals and responsibilities now—

a) Having the flexibility to help my siblings care for my 91-year-old mother in Ohio

b) Having fun with my husband who recently retired

c) Making time for my creative writing projects

As I told C. during dinner, “Hiring managers don’t have to be so worried about Baby Boomers. A lot of us don’t want to take over anything. Work is just one of the things we care about. We have a number of priorities.

C. and I raised a toast to that reality.