Reflecting On The End Of An Era

As some of you know, I’ve now reached the last week of my day job and will retire on Friday. In many ways it’s the end of an era. Although I was a stay-at-home mom in the 90’s, I returned to the work force when my youngest was seven and have worked different types of jobs over the years.

SFU_burnaby_campus,_1_sept_2007,_8[1]This last stint was at Simon Fraser University. Oddly, it was also one of my first jobs. When I was just twenty years old in the mid-70’s, I landed a job in SFU’s Registrar’s Department. I didn’t like my supervisor, so I eagerly took a job in the Computing Science Department, working as a secretary for the department chair. The man had a formidable reputation as being difficult to work with and the position had been vacant for some time. He turned out to be one of the best and most interesting bosses I’ve ever worked for. He was one of those conducting research to establish a definite correlation between cancer rates and asbestos workers, and all we know how that turned out.

My husband graduated from SFU. Although we were both on campus at the same time, we never met until years later where we both wound up employed for the same company. My son and daughter have also graduated from the university, and it was my great pleasure to see them receive their diplomas.

I returned to SFU in the fall of 2013, where my sister also worked. In fact, I got her started in the Registrar’s office way back then, but she stayed and I left to return to school full time. For a year, we were both up there again until she retired in the fall of 2014.

My first job back on campus was a year-long- temporary assignment in the Biology department. When that ended I was offered another year-long position in the same department, and from there I moved to continuous, part-time employment in Linguistics. Continuous employment meant that the university would subsidize my son’s university education. I worked 60% of a full-time week, and the university paid for 60% of his education. It was a great deal.

My son graduated two years ago with a degree in chemical/physics (minoring in computing science),  and I stayed on, partly because he wasn’t sure what, if any, job he’d find and I had visions of him going to grad school. But that didn’t happen. He wound up with a great job.

I have to admit that working 40-50 hour weeks at my writing and day job for the past seven years has worn me out. Compounding things was my mom’s dementia and cancer in 2018 and 2019. It’s been almost a year since she passed away.

Work-2My daughter’s in the last trimester of her pregnancy, and I feel that now is the right time to leave. An important new chapter in my life is about to begin and this grandma doesn’t want to miss a thing. Of course, I’ll still keep writing and publishing, though I might slow down a bit. Or not. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, thank you Linguistics. I’ll miss you.

 

Keeping The Routine Alive

skd190324sdcWhen I’m on vacation, one of my favorite activities is to drink my morning coffee outside in the warm sunshine and think about nothing. It’s pure bliss. I have a sundeck at the front of my house, and a patio in back but, even in summer, I don’t use either of them when not on vacation. I’m either editing at the computer, then heading out to the day job, or running errands on the weekend before the traffic gets bad and the stores fill up. And then, of course, there’s the housework.

Until recently, I hadn’t given much thought to what, if any, routine I’ll have as retirement day approaches. All I’ve really thought about is living a less structured life, where I can do more of the things I want when I want.

Patio, Summer 2019I love the idea of sitting outside weekday mornings this coming summer, coffee mug in hand, and enjoying downtime and taking life easier. As it happens, my current stay-at-home life is giving me a glimpse—probably a somewhat skewed one—as to what retirement could look like.

Aside from being an introvert, one of the other main reasons I’m doing fine with self-isolation is because I’m keeping a routine. I still get up at the same time and after breakfast, head downstairs to my basement office to work on editing before starting the day job. I’m keeping the same hours at the day job and even taking the same break time. All other activities are pretty much carried out along my regular timeline as well.

Without all of the outdoor errands and other excursions, I’ve had time to organize my bookshelves and clear my bulletin boards of outdated papers. This is a project I hadn’t planned to tackle until retirement. It feels great. I’m going through my clothes closet next.

I’ve come to realize that when retirement starts, it’s probably not a good idea to throw my entire routine away. I like being productive and making to-do lists. I just don’t want to fill up every day the way I’ve done these past few years. My retired friends and colleagues assure me that this can happen before I’m even aware of it, so I’ll be mindful of this in the coming weeks.

wine_PNG9456[1]In some ways, retirement won’t feel that different than it does now. On another level, there is a psychological component, a sense of freedom in regaining a large chunk of my day just for me. I picture myself having that coffee on the sundeck, or a glass of wine in the afternoon. Pure bliss.

Stepping Off the Treadmill

lazy[1]Plenty of writers face burnout, but these days mine centers around real-life family issues which culminated in July when I learned that my mother has a cancerous tumor on her pancreas. We learned this four days before we’d arranged (after much cleaning, sorting, and recycling) to move her into assisted living for her deteriorating dementia issues.

Compounding the challenges was the state of the apartment building she’s living in. The woodframe building’s exterior was being replaced when the contractors discovered major rot inside, resulting in more work and special levy fees for condo owners.

My sister, Val, and I dealt with all of this and were doing okay until Val had a bad fall last month and broke her left kneecap into several pieces. A two-hour long surgery occurred the same day and her knee’s been put back together with wire and screws. She’s currently in an enormous leg brace and will need help around the house and to get to physiotherapy, and so forth.

Combined with my day job and the facilitating I do for a writers’ group on Saturday mornings, I’m feeling a tad worn out. I’d already spent many months going out to my mother’s home to shop, cook, and clean on weekends because she was no longer capable. So, with the support and understanding of terrific work colleagues, I’ve just begun a four-month leave of absence from the day job. As you can imagine, it won’t be all fun or relaxation, but it’s a start at the slowing down process I feel is necessary for my physical and mental well-being.

I had one day to train my replacement. After that I went home, and had a nap, exhausted. I’ve been napping a lot lately. As writers and family members, we need to recognize when it’s time to step off the busy-life treadmill we’ve inadvertently hopped onto.

I’m grateful that I’m able to do this. I’m hoping to write and read a little more, as they are calming distractions from real-life challenges. Besides, it’s what I do. And I know I’ll sleep more, and visit my mother and sister more often, and take care of what needs to be taken care of. It feels somewhat surreal to end the year this way (I won’t be back at work till mid-Feb.) but it feels right. I don’t know if four months is too long or not long enough, but time will tell.

Compartmentalizing My Life

mujerdetective-841x1024[1]I have a part-time secretarial job at a university. I’ve worked in a couple of different departments over the past five years, yet only a handful of colleagues from each department know that I’m a mystery writer who spends her free time plotting crimes and coming up with intriguing ways to kill people. You can see why I don’t advertise this fact, right?

Marketing-savvy folks will likely be aghast at my reluctance to discuss my books, and tell me that I’m throwing away plenty of selling opportunities. But the truth is I simply don’t feel that comfortable talking about writing while I’m being paid to do other things. And when you only work four hours a day, you don’t get lunch breaks to sit and chat.

 

Occasionally, on quiet days, someone will ask me a few questions, and I’ll answer them, but I don’t encourage these types of conversations. This week, a colleague asked to purchase a couple of books for birthday presents. While I certainly obliged, I handed the books discreetly to her while no one else was around.

Everybody has a private life and personal challenges, or hobbies…important parts of their lives that they don’t spend much time, if any, yakking about at the office. It seems only natural to compartmentalize our lives. There’s a time and place for each of those boxes to be opened and explored. I’ve learned to pick and choose my times wisely.