Writing My Way into Retirement by
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Prompted By Why We Write

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Just retired — now what?

I flunked the talent portion of the University of Michigan homecoming queen competition in 1965 by reading something I had written. When I shockingly made it to the final round, I was stumped as to what talent to share. Singing, dancing, and musical instruments were out. I had never taken a lesson in my life. All I could do was write, so I read a memoir that received an “A” in my writing class. And they chose someone who could sing and tap dance instead.

But if I must confess the truth, I write for myself because that is who I am.

I have always loved to write, although my attempts at fiction and poetry have left much to be desired. I kept diaries, wrote school newspaper articles, and produced good student essays. I loved teaching writing to my students as a high school English teacher, as well as to my children when I felt their schools fell short in that department. As part of my job as an early childhood program director, I actually enjoyed writing school handbooks, letters to parents, teaching guides, and board manuals. But my favorite thing was writing my column in the monthly newsletter. I was full of opinions about education and child development. I guess I was blogging before I knew such a thing existed.

Just before retiring, I was at a loss. Of course, I would continue helping out with my grandkids, but I was never a going-out-to-lunch type. I could join a book club to satisfy my reading needs, take adult education classes to continue learning, and catch up with old friends for pleasure, but what else? Luckily, a writing coach, whose children attended the preschool, suggested I spend my summer writing the history of Cherry Preschool, which I did (see Betrayed by a Church). After that, I worked with her to write essays and blog posts about the my passions — education, child development, children with disabilities, community, and (having recently experienced the death of my father) aging and loss. She helped me create a blog for Chicago Now. Other opportunities followed with Huffington Post, Alternet, Midcentury Modern, Medium, and most recently Retrospect.

Pondering my next blog post. In those days, I wrote 3-4/week!

Still, as my 70th birthday loomed large and my mother nagged me to write a book, I started compiling essays for what eventually became Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real, which I self-published in 2016. While I was working on this project, my mother died in April, 2015, and I was in a hurry to move on from the book. Looking back, I had no interest in promoting a book or working with a publishing company to perfect what I had written. For me, the act of writing was therapeutic and, as we often said as early childhood educators, the process was far more important than the product.

My one and only book signing at my preschool

Writing for Retrospect, along with producing monthly pieces for my writing group, I rarely advocate for issues related to education and children with disabilities these days. I have moved too far away from what is currently happening to feel confident that what I think is still relevant. Instead, I have been looking back and writing memoir pieces for my children and grandchildren, which I recently collected in a Mixbook, complete with photos to accompany my stories.

I don’t know what will come next, only that I will continue to write for as long as possible. I have written to share my opinions and to explain who I am and how I lived to younger generations of my family. If others enjoy reading my posts and reflections, that’s great. But if I must confess the truth, I write for myself because that is who I am.

 

 

Profile photo of Laurie Levy Laurie Levy
Boomer. Educator. Advocate. Eclectic topics: grandkids, special needs, values, aging, loss, & whatever. Author: Terribly Strange and Wonderfully Real.

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Characterizations: funny, moving, right on!, well written

Comments

  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    You have a long and storied history of writing, Laurie – all to good benefit. You’ve used your talents to teach, advocate, blog and write your weekly newsletter for your school. You’ve written a book, and now are content mostly to write for Retrospect along with the rest of us. You can rest on your laurels and write when and where you please and we are so pleased that you choose to share your writing with us!

  2. Laurie, Wonderful hearing about what has indeed been your very full writing life!

    You ended your story with a confession , now here’s mine – I bought your book awhile ago but, like Charles’ book that I also bought, it got buried on my night table.

    Now I vow to catch up and read it!

  3. Suzy says:

    Wonderful story, Laurie, all the way from the Homecoming Queen competition (you obviously should have won!) up to the present. You are a great writer, and I look forward to reading what you post every week. Interesting to learn that you write for yourself (unlike me), and yet you have generously shared your thoughts on so many different forums. Thank you for choosing Retrospect as one of the places you write!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      LOL about homecoming queen, Suzy. I’m so glad to be part of this community. Like you, I print out and save my stories for … I’m not sure who, but I fantasize that someone who cares will find them.

  4. Khati Hendry says:

    Writing has been an important part of your life! The proto-blogs and newsletters surely helped move the pre-school forward—even in such humble publications, the pen can be mighty. I found that true when I did a newsletter for my union local. Writing a book is impressive any time, but especially with your mom dying. That must have been tough. And I’m sure your mix-books are treasures. Thanks for carrying your talent here to Retrospect too.

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Thanks, Khati. I think we all value learning about each other through our stories. I agree that organizational newsletters, however humble they may have seemed, did have an impact on many people who read them.

  5. Marian says:

    While I’ll bet that what you think about education and children with disabilities is still relevant, Laurie, I am glad you took up other topics that I enjoy in your Retrospect stories. Writing is a much deeper accomplishment than being named homecoming queen, after all!

    • Laurie Levy says:

      Agreed. I would have been a terrible homecoming queen (LOL). While it is hard to come up with prompts and challenging to find things to say at times, it is a great challenge to express ourselves and give voice to our ideas and feelings.

  6. John Shutkin says:

    Your last sentence says it all, Laurie. And everything you have said before that make clear that your life led inextricably to that revelation.

    As you may have seen from my story, I realize that I feel the same way myself, But you have expressed it much more elegantly and cogently. As Pogo might say, “It is who we is.”

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