Nancy, Age 79
I found the class in the Community Education schedule,”Finding Your Life’s Work at Any Age.” I thought. even at my age? This is what I shared with the class at the last session.
We’re supposed to start with where we were at Week 1. I have had a pretty rough time the last few years. My husband was diagnosed with cancer in May 2011. I spent that summer driving him to chemo and radiation treatments, feeding him through a feeding tube, and becoming his nurse (for which I was not suited at all.)
About the same time, the college foundation where I worked was being taken over by a rogue board of directors. I had worked part time for the foundation since my retirement from the college in 2001 and I loved the work.
In November we learned that my husband’s cancer had metastasized and any further treatment was palliative. He wanted to fight, so he started on more debilitating chemo.
Things were getting worse at the foundation. I was so stressed and anxious that I started seeing a counselor. In February, the foundation director reached a settlement with the board and resigned. The staff resigned as well.
My husband started Hospice care and he died in May 2012. I would have given anything to have had my foundation job to keep me busy and distracted from my grief and loneliness. But it was gone and I jumped into another part time job on campus just to get myself out of the house and with people.
So that’s where I was at Week 1. I knew when I signed up that most of the people in the class would be younger than I and that they would be career-focused. I though I might find some rewarding volunteer activity that would be creative and productive.
This 7-week journey has done something entirely different. I have discovered that I really want to write. I have always liked to write and I think I have done it well. When I went back to college and got my BA at age 55, writing was the best part of it. One of our assignments was to write our autobiography. For years I have thought about writing down family stories that I want to pass down to my grandchildren, but never quite made the time to do it, William Zinsser’s book “On Writing Well” is my inspiration. So at Week 7 I have found my life’s work – writing – at any age – 79.
Where am I headed? Zinsser says to write about what you know. My Autobiography, Part 2, is part family history, part memoir, part journal. I don’t know what it will end up to be. I write every day without fail – just 2 or 3 or 4 pages in a composition book I keep on my bedside table. I find there are so many stories already written in my head that it just flows. And some days, it doesn’t.