I knew this day would come. I just didn’t know it would come so soon. And I’m not ready to face it; but face it I must.
When I retired from my job 5½ years ago, after nearly 38 years of working for a single employer (with multiple owners), I did so out of necessity: to care for my ailing mother and escape a career whose time had come and gone. As so many of my retired friends and I have said, you just know when it’s time to move on.
My entire adult career was spent in the field of editing for a single STEM printer/publisher. “Editing” encompassed more than editing authors’ manuscripts; it also entailed checking authors’ proofs for their accuracy, consistency, and journal style (the same approach made for manuscript editing)—which sometimes meant reversing an author’s desired change in the proofs, with tact and facts to back up the decision. It also meant “journal production”: working with our colleagues in typesetting, printing, and delivery of the finished journal to ensure an accurate product.
The original company I joined in 1975 was family owned—ultimately, for 100 years. It trained me well, and in turn, I used what I learned to the company’s benefit and mine. I was a copy editor for over a dozen respected medical and scientific journals; some were my sole responsibility, while others were part of a team effort. Just before the original company decided to sell itself to a competitor in 1990, I had developed and started running a department-wide training program for new editors, which included converting the department from manual editing with pen on paper, to electronic editing on computers. The second company also saw value in this work and continued to help me grow in training and leadership skills. As journals grew larger and published more frequently (monthly journals became weeklies), we developed teams of editors to handle the work. But the economics of jobs in the country as a whole and of this field in particular were changing. In 2000, the company again changed owners. The era of cutting back had begun: Fewer leaders were wanted, so I was “demoted” back to copy-editing full time. The personal touch—pride in one’s work, customer loyalty and accountability, and customized service—gave way to a more cookie-cutter approach to the job. By the time I retired, copy-editing had largely been outsourced to freelance editors and the in-house editing staff was largely relegated to proofreading. At least, that’s how it felt at the time. It’s difficult to see the big picture when you’re in the midst of change.
During my last four months of work, while I waited for my mother during her chemo and radiation treatments (thanks to FMLA), I plotted my “escape” into retirement. It was a big risk. The pension plans from the first two owners had been frozen and replaced with 401K plans in the mid-1990s. Thus, though I could say that I was retiring with two pensions, an IRA, and Social Security benefits, the actual amount of funds this produced was roughly equal to my working salary, but without the benefit of employer health insurance.
I spent the first year of retirement without health insurance; COBRA plans were too expensive. Getting coverage under ACA was no picnic either, and I wound up paying thousands more for that coverage than I now pay for Medicare.
But it was worth it. I got to spend five wonderful years with my mother, in friendship, mutual care, and love. And I rediscovered and grew my love for writing by starting and maintaining this blog. I’ve also spent time volunteering in two community organizations, one located in my childhood community in West Baltimore, the other in my current community in Northeast Baltimore.
I haven’t even mentioned my other love, music—I spent a few years singing and playing folk music on guitar, and more than 20 years, off and on, as a church organist, choir director, and chorister. Even that passion has largely come and gone.
But the party’s over now. I need to supplement my retirement income with a job—preferably a part-time one. And I don’t have a clue of how or where to start! Remember, unlike most folks in today’s job market, I spent my entire working career at one company! I haven’t had to really look for a new job for 44 years!
To be sure, I can name lots of skills I’ve developed over all these years: written and oral communication, research, administrative, training, and organizational skills, telephone and computer skills, and more. What I don’t know how to do—and it pains me to admit this—is to translate all these skill sets into marketable bytes that will land me a part-time job in today’s world. I have other requirements, too, which I won’t go into here. Like I said at the top, I’m not ready to face this challenge; but face it I must.
So, I offer a challenge to my readers—especially those of you who live in or near Baltimore, Maryland: Help this poor, 65-year-old retired Baltimore Black Woman find a job!