Finding Your Own Lane in “Semi-Retirement”

stratton mtn

On a family trip one summer to Vermont we stopped at a familiar ski area to ride its’ alpine slide.

For the uninitiated, an alpine slide starts at the top of a non-snow-covered mountain where you sit on a sled, with a control stick between your knees, and guide your own ride along the twists and turns of a trail down the hill to the bottom.

The best part about this summer slide at Bromley Mountain is that it’s a triple track – described as “North America’s first triple-tracked” alpine slide, 2/3 of a mile long.

Triple Track means (duh) that each rider has three tracks to chose from. As I remember they were labeled – Fast, Medium and Slow – or maybe the three tracks had more clever names like #1 -“Speed For Teens”, #2 – “Active Dads” and #3 – “Moms Who Are Very Cautious.”

Whatever their designations were, I chose – no surprise here  – the latter, the slowest but steady track, kind of my life mantra, expressed on the side of a mountain. My husband and teenage son picked the faster paths, then whizzed down the mountain on their own sleds.

They were waiting for me when I arrived, five minutes later, having applied my own s-l-o-w sled’s brake multiple times as I approached every sharp turn and fast straightaway.

That triple alpine track was made for me – I like to be in charge of my own ride. I love the opportunity to choose my lane. If only life was like that alpine track.

Lately I have been veering from lane to lane.

One day I am happily zooming around with multiple plans and projects, volunteering, lunching with friends, going to meetings. The next I am contentedly at home by myself – along with our trusty terrier at my side – thinking that nothing is better than being able to sit alone in a comfortable chair (I know, don’t sit too long! bad for your health. I get it) – and write.

I did not choose to retire from my law firm at age 60 – that was an unexpected decision made for me by the cardiac authorities.  All of the articles on what to do to plan for retirement were suddenly irrelevant. I was plopped into it whether I liked it or not.

Three years have passed since then and I am still finding my way in what I call “semi-retirement.” Every day I either do too much – or I do too little.  Finding the right balance, the right lane has been tricky.

I would love nothing more than to sit at a desk all day and write. I’ve written a few short stories featuring (what else) witty and worried women in law firm settings.  Do I turn one of my favorite of these short stories into the first chapter of a novel? Or do I keep writing stories until I come up with a collection of them? Haven’t I set aside my childhood dream of becoming a published author for too long?

How ambitious those plans sound. And how self-indulgent. I now have the choice to spend hours doing what I love – while my husband is very much not-retired – (he likes his job, but loving it? you’d have to ask him.)

I  feel responsible to be productive. So some of what I write is non-fiction and earns a (tiny) fee, and I talk and write about young adult mental health and get paid for that too – and next fall, if it happens and I hope it will, I may get to teach a class about the state of mental health on college campuses.

Do these small paying “gigs” add up to giving me the right to stay in the slow lane with my writing projects?

Will the guilt I feel when I sit down to write ever subside?

I think about this as I veer from “semi-retirement” lane to lane and then back again.












Filed under Baby Boomers, Books, Communications, Empty Nest, Husbands, Law firm life, Lawyers, Marriage, Men vs Women, Moms, Reading, Retirement, Second Careers, Semi-Retired, Women, Women in the Workplace, Women's Health, Working Moms, Working Women, Writing, Young Adult Mental Health

5 responses to “Finding Your Own Lane in “Semi-Retirement”

  1. Miriam Daniel


    On Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 3:58 PM, Witty Worried and Wolf wrote:

    > Nancy Wolf posted: ” On a family trip one summer to Vermont we stopped at > a familiar ski area to ride its’ alpine slide. For the uninitiated, an > alpine slide starts at the top of a non-snow-covered mountain where you sit > on a sled, with a control stick between your knees, ” >


  2. Bonnie J. Weissman

    Re: forced semi-retirement— been there, and it’s not for the faint of heart. After military service, and then about 20 years in government marketing and sales, we began having a lot of “handwriting on the wall” with our younger girl (YG), who was getting into lots of trouble at school, skipping class, hanging out with dodgy kids, etc. My husband had just launched his business, which was taking off, so our old solution of tag team parenting in crises was not going to work either. According to the testing psychologist, YG was highly gifted… and had the worst case of ADD in a female he’d ever seen.

    We had to transfer her from public to Catholic school ( her public school counselor agreed she needed a structured environment they could provide). YG was also a master con artist, so hiring someone for after school rides and supervision was risky too. We were in for a wild ride, and I had to quit my old job in order to become her concierge. I had just turned 52. I worked in my old field PT for my husband, and when that was unavailable, I substitute taught; we took a substantial cut in income for quite a while after adding tuition and other costs to the budget. All this went on while our other one was in college too. It was not fun. I got the weird looks from other parents because YG was known to be eccentric, and had few friends. Other mental health issues appeared, and we found a great psychiatrist who “got her.” For a time she had seizures and nasty side effects from different meds. That’s why I could relate to your article about having a struggling child.

    YG had to attend NOVA CC for the first two years as her grades were terrible in spite of stellar SATs. We found a small liberal arts college (read very expensive) which thankfully took her, and provided support for ADD/LD students (at an additional charge of course). It was all costly in terms of money and career loss, and sometimes I don’t know how we got through it. When she left, I’d been out of pocket other than occasional freelancing, and could not find full-time work in my old field. I was 59 by then.

    And YG? She spent her final five semesters on the dean’s list. Today she works a day job, is founder and managing editor of a media review website (has advertisers and averages 4000 hits a day after a November launch) and while supervising other writers from 11 countries. Oh, and she’s working on her MFA in Creative Writing too. It was well worth the struggles although I missed my old job and would have liked to retire on an upward trajectory like other women. Today I paint landscapes, work out regularly, sing in a group which performs at hospitals and nursing homes, and help out with my twin grandsons (older girl and SIL are attorneys in large firms). It all worked out, but I wonder about how many others who are not so lucky in similar circumstances in their 50s and 60s. Good luck to you in continuing your writing!


  3. Balance, what a weighted word. Nancy, you often pick the exact issue I’m stuck on, not surprisingly since we’re same age, same kind of upbringing, same busy, productive husbands. I’m not retired, insist I write full-time, am self-employed, etc., etc. Still filing a Schedule C for my writing business. But I do a lot besides writing at my laptop, or reading the latest literary fiction to keep up, or speaking to book clubs and writers’ groups. For instance, last Thursday, with a line of new plants stretching from one water spigot on the north side of the house to another spigot on the west side, I was up and out in my sporty rubber half-boots, shovel and compost bag in hand, ready to add to a redesigned garden Aunt Patte started in 1986 and to begin a new garden under our ancient struggling oak tree where we had new boulders placed to deter erosion on our windy riverside hill. it was 8:30 a.m. Twleve hours later when the sun had set, the moon was glinting across the river’s plane of blue, I finally gave it up and went inside. Vise-grip in my spine, cracked knuckles, bloody scratches on my shins. A long hot shower and an icy whiskey sour later, I fell asleep watching Nadal and Monfils battle it out by the Mediterranean. Thank you, dear husband, for adding the Tennis Channel this winter.
    Do I understand balance any better for that grueling but glorious day in the dirt? Will I remember all the wonderful side stories and personality flaws I conjured up for the characters in my new novel manuscript? Will my grandchildren understand why I didn’t come to watch ballet class or share the family stroller walk with my daughter the resident doc and her 15 month old son who thinks he’s Tarzan? I don’t know, but they don’t worry about me, and I don’t worry about me. Balance may not yet be in my vocabulary at 63, but I’m too busy to worry about it. (And too tired.)


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