In conversation with an acquaintance recently, I remarked that I was getting ready for retirement.
"You've been getting ready for retirement for three years," he said. "You'll never retire."
"Oh yeah?" I answered with my usual snappy repartee. "I will so retire. One more year, tops."
But he was sure I wouldn't. "You can't retire. Instead of thinking about doing nothing, you should be thinking instead about what you want to do NEXT."
Well, I know what I want to do next. I'm already doing it (part-time anyway): WRITE.
But I think this guy may have meant something that pays money.
And I don't really have much hope for that by writing. I actually wrote something that made the New York Times bestseller list for a week or two - and still didn't get paid one cent. (All the proceeds went to St. Jude's Hospital, and that was great, but money in my bank account would have been great too.)
But a second career after retirement?
There are lots of careers I considered before I accidentally fell into Accounting.
The first thing I ever wanted to be was a movie star. First it was Shirley Temple. Then there was a long stretch of time where I thought I could be the next Hayley Mills. But even though I could cry at the drop of a hat (and often did - just ask my sisters) I see now that this would not be a good time to start a second career as an actress. There are only two movies per year for an actress over sixty, and Meryl Streep plays both parts. And she has an advantage over me. She can act.
I briefly toyed with the idea of becoming a nun. I was feeling that enormous stress of life's responsibilities that comes with turning nine. So I didn't want to be the kind of nun that I saw teaching in my school. No, I wanted to be a cloistered nun. Where your only job was to pray. That would be easy. I would just pray. And maybe iron. There's a lot of material in those big dresses and veils. I liked the convents where the nuns wore white, not black.
And although I still see the appeal of a life of serenity and simplicity, none of the nuns (cool nun pun) wears those flow-y veils anymore. And I also see now that along with all that praying, there is also a vow of obedience. Well, the first time someone told me what to do (gave me an order in the order, so to speak), well, that would be the end of my vow of silence.
After high school, I attended nurses' training for one semester. My mother is a nurse, but I did not go to nursing school at her suggestion. No. Her suggestion was that I would hate it. "It's mostly drudgery," she said. But I knew that underneath, she really liked Nursing. And underneath all my teenage angst, I really wanted to be like her. So I went. And just like I figured I'd pick a convent by the prettiness of the veils, I picked a nursing school with a very pretty uniform. And cap. And just like the nuns, no one even wears a cap anymore. So it was a good thing it didn't last.
My mother was right. It was drudgery. But not the actual working in the hospital so much as the classroom part. I just couldn't work up any enthusiasm. When I decided to quit, my adviser agreed that it didn't seem like the right coursework for me. "I don't really understand why you didn't opt for college and medical school instead," she remarked.
And she was right. I think I would have made a fine doctor. I excel at noticing everything that's wrong with everyone. What a great diagnostician I would have been. And I can just see myself striding down those hospital corridors with a name-tag and a stethoscope and a clipboard. I'd look great. Not in scrubs. There is nothing attractive about the cut of those drawstring pants. And a short sleeve top with a boxy cut makes your arms look heavy and your stomach big. But a nice white lab coat would be great. With a pencil skirt and stilettos.
But as cute as that outfit might be, I don't want all those years of medical school at my age. I need something that I can get right to doing a little quicker than that.
There's Hairdressing. I can still wear a white coat if I want to. And I have a great sense of style. I can pick hairdos for people. I don't want to stand on my feet all day though. I won't spend the rest of my life - or one day for that matter - in Crocs.
I went to college after the nurses' training fiasco. And when I finally graduated - I changed my major upteen times and finally ended up with a teaching certificate, but I knew during my student teaching that I didn't want a life of hollering at kids to sit down - I had a hard time finding a job. But I finally landed a position that entailed typing names and addresses on purchase orders. I actually liked that job. But I saw a guy every day who not only liked his job - he LOVED his job. It was the mailman. He told me he was the luckiest guy in the world. Because he got paid to walk around. So that's something to consider. What a great second career! Walking around! However, I would stick to June only. And maybe the beginning of September. Is there a walking-around job with that schedule?
But realizing that my happiness is weather-dependent has inspired me, and after a lot of consideration (as you can clearly see - this post is more than a thousand words, for god's sake), I have come up with the perfect job for me.
I cannot think of one other job in the world - not air-traffic controller, not auto mechanic, not bank teller, not even grocery-bagger - where you can consistently be WRONG - and you still get to keep your job.
And I can do it. I know I can.
I can stand in front of a map and be wrong.