Over the last 9 months, since my roles as parental caregiver and pet mom ended, I have been working, fitfully at times, to redefine myself and discover what my next life chapter should be. It’s a strange feeling to suddenly have all the time in the world after you’ve spent nearly every waking moment caring for someone while also trying to maintain balance with a few outside interests that must be squeezed in to your schedule. At first, there’s a huge emptiness, a loss of purpose that is almost paralyzing, especially when you are a relatively introverted single person. But, over time, you begin to rediscover activities, friends, and interests that you had all but forgotten about.
I am now at a point where I am working actively to rebuild my life and set a course for the future, and I am just beginning to see the fruits of this work.
As a reminder to myself, and for anyone who’s feeling stuck, here are a few of my recently rediscovered interests and activities and their positive impacts on me.
Leadership and Collaboration
This time last week, I was scrambling to finalize the agenda and minutes for a community organization meeting I was scheduled to lead on Wednesday. It wasn’t the first time I’d done so. But this time felt different: I was reclaiming a skill I’d forgotten I had. And I liked it! It wasn’t just the power of wielding the gavel that excited me, however. Rather, it was the collaboration with my co-leaders and members, beforehand and throughout the meeting, that made it all worthwhile. Being able to coalesce different vantage points and views into a unified plan for moving our organization forward and generating programming that matters to our community was a feat of magic. And hard work. It was exhilarating!
On Thursday, I slept until noon. I awoke to a phone call and email messages validating my feeling that hard work pays off. Now, I’m thinking to myself, “May the work I do speak for me. Do more!”
Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog piece asking for help in finding a part-time job after 5 years of retirement. At the time, I was feeling desperate and scared. The response to that article has been astounding. Immediately, friends began sending me job postings. Suggestions continue to pour in. But before I can respond to these postings, I need to write a resumé. Two good friends have offered to help me write it, and yesterday, I met with one of those friends for two hours, to get started. I also found ways to stretch my existing funds in the meantime.
The first step in getting help is recognizing that you need it. The second step is asking for help. The third step is accepting the help that you asked for. Taking these steps is both humbling and empowering.
In creating this blog, I stepped out on faith. Writing was initially a way to share my own “wisdom” about the world around me, especially around The Question of Race. It was part of my “balancing act” to keep up my sense of individuality while caregiving. But in the process, as I began to engage with readers and fellow writers, I came to embrace and share other points of view, as well as other topics to write about. My circle of friends has grown, and I am beginning to explore other forms of writing—more poetry, for one—in addition to essays and book reviews, and the occasional music video.
Over the past two months, I’ve read three books—more than I’ve read in such a short span of time, in years: Michelle Obama’s memoir, Becoming; a wonderful coffee table book called Obama: An Intimate Portrait, compiled by President Obama’s official White House Photographer, Pete Souza; and Night, the Holocaust memoir by Elie Wiesel. These books are representative of ongoing topics of interest to me, yet they have broadened my understanding of myself and the world around me [reviews of these books will soon be posted.]
Explore Other Genres
I have also been reading works of poetry and fiction by authors I was not previously familiar with. These works were suggested by new friends and colleagues in the writing community who have invited me to join online group pages/forums for writers. Being open to other approaches to writing, and learning how other writers develop their craft, will, I hope, help me to improve and expand my own creative process.
Currently, I am reading the inaugural issue of a literary journal I learned about two weeks ago. It’s a publication by and for Black woman writers called midnight & indigo, and I am impressed! The stories are well written and captivating, and the publisher is both professional and customer oriented. (Tucked inside the package was a handwritten thank you note from the publisher!)
I feel like I’ve just discovered a whole new universe of word works.
Get Back on the Swing!
Next Friday, for the first time since I graduated high school 49 years ago (gulp!), I’ll be attending a Unity Luncheon sponsored by my alma mater’s (Western High School) Alumnae Association! Oh sure, I’ve gone to nearly all my class’s reunions, but I’ve never taken part in any other activities. Maybe it’s time to change that!
And next month, I have a date with one of my poetry colleagues to hear a reading by a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.
All of this is to say that to make any change in your life, you have to take the first step. Even on days when you’d rather stay in vegetate.