Be Careful What You Wish For

On a hike on one of Berkeley’s beautiful trails in the summer of 2013 when I retired from full-time teaching, my hiking partner, a friend and therapist, asked me what the most important thing would be in my retirement. She was not yet retired. A few years younger than I, she had cut back from full-time work, but couldn’t give up her patients entirely. As for me, I said the most important thing I would do in retirement was work. I’m sure that did not help her in her decision to fully retire — or not.

Work, or school, has always been important to me. It has probably driven me since my first divorce when my sometime to be ex-husband (the divorce took almost eight years), continually threatened me with no spousal support, and no child support for our three daughters. He largely succeeded. I won’t bore you with his methodology, but only say he was helped by a noted and very misogynistic Minnesota judge. I had worked part-time for a few years, at that point, and had just finished my bachelor’s degree.

During the first year of the divorce I got a job running a state chapter of a non-profit. I knew that I would work from that first-time, full-time job until I was too old or too addled to work. And I have.

As I aged, I’ve taught courses for older adults. I’ve written curriculum for graduate business courses. I’ve facilitated a successful interest group. All of this has been at a fairly leisurely pace, allowing me to walk/hike with friends, take multiple yoga classes, and learn to draw.

About two months ago, the university program for which I have taught, asked me to develop a coaching program, an academic and professional specialty of mine, whereby their members would coach undergraduates to self-actualize. That’s a big ask for a program that will have six or seven coaching sessions. I said yes. My oldest daughter, who works full-time in marketing for a large university health system, asked me if I was ever going to quit. I said probably not.

I love writing curriculum. I love helping people learn new stuff. I love working, but NOT at the pace I am working now — 4 hours on Saturday and 5 hours on Sunday scheduling candidates for the coaching guide position. This week I had 3 interviews on Monday, 7 today and tomorrow, and 4 on Friday. I’m so tired I fell sound asleep during my regular massage yesterday afternoon — a first.

The colleague who is the lead administrator on this project has very different skills from mine. I truly appreciate her skills. In fact, I had a recent dream in which the administrator retired and her job was offered to me. I said I wouldn’t and couldn’t do that job even if I were threatened. But, as in every job, in every organization, working with people can sometimes be as much of a challenge as the job itself. This, as much as the work, has exhausted me. The project is funded for a year, but I may not survive that long.



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Sara Orem

Sara Orem

Sara speaks about and facilitates workshops for older adults about vitality in the aging process . See more about Sara at