I’ve mentioned this often—I’ve retired from my job at DSS. I want to tell you folks a little bit of how that feels. So that you know at least one person’s experience. I often wondered about it before I did it.
I felt a little hesitant and a little afraid. What would it be like? I’d wondered. Events conspired to push me to that decision, which I admit I hadn’t been in a rush to make. I’ve read articles that say that it is healthier for body, mind and spirit to keep working, to stay engaged. And I believe it.
I’ve been engaged with writing—writing stories and poems here and there, even beginning two novels, abandoning them and now working for a number of years on another. I went back to school to get my bachelor’s degree, which I did in 1994.
I discovered a passion for creative writing while doing my adult study through Empire State College, a wonderful resource for the adult returning student. My passion did not end with my studies then.
I got involved with facilitating a writer’s group and organizing a reading series where we host featured readers from the region and from throughout the U.S. We began in 1994 and are celebrating our 20 year anniversary this month.
Still I worked my full-time job at DSS. My own writing, while continuous, due to time and energy constraints, was not prolific. I wondered if I had it, and the doubts continued. I conceived the idea for my third novel attempt—a historical novel about the early nineteenth-century woman who owned the property where I live. Though I had had some poems published, I was not convinced I could write well enough.
So I went back to school again. This time for my master’s degree in liberal studies, which is interdisciplinary and requires a student to concentrate on at least three disciplines. Perfect, I thought. Mine will be writing, history, and psychology. I learned much and I do write better. There is a conflict between scholarly writing and the more informal style, though. As a writer, you have to work through that conflict. You need to know the scholar writing style, and then you need to unlearn some of for scholarly papers. This will not serve you well. I digress. The scholars will tell you not to wander. Stay tight to your topic, only they won’t say it like that.
I earned my master degree while working so that I would be ready for my next career as a writer. I would be the Social Services worker turned writer. Still, I hung on the fence. You can stay a long time on the fence. Fence riders seldom make much movement. Now that I have tipped over onto the other side of the fence, I feel wonderful.
My hands are swollen from pulling weeds in the garden. Those same swollen hands are typing words on the computer. I’m experiencing some of what my character would have experienced. I’m pushing my body to its limits making and taking care of a vegetable garden. She did that here. I experience some of what she did. I could do that some while I worked a full-time job pushing papers, then coming home working in the garden, but it was not the same. Now I can feel her here with me. Rachel (aka Rhoda), my novel’s protagonist, and I are doing this together, growing the garden, writing the book—she penetrates my soul. And I will write her story. Now I have the time.