Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Free At Last!

I walked out of the office on Monday for the last time without a qualm. Yes, I'll miss some of the people I worked with. Maybe, I'll even give a thought now and then to some of my more memorable clients, wondering how their situations turned out. But then, once I found them attorneys (or more likely, didn't find them attorneys), I rarely knew the final resolution of their cases anyway. All those desperate mothers....all those furious fathers....all those sorrowful grandparents. I'm more than ready to walk away, having gone far beyond my quota of heartrending stories.

Retirement feels like one of the great plateaus in life, like graduating school or getting married or having children. I actually sat and tried to write down all the places of employment I've had in my life but it was an impossible task, one I gave up on fairly quickly. I always envied the stable people who lived in one town and married one spouse and worked at one profession but that definitely wasn't me. I've lived a will-o-wisp life that included two husbands, many states and innumerable jobs.

I've bartended and filed and drilled. I've baby-sat chickens and made pizzas and underwrote insurance policies. I've soldered and sold real estate and secretaried (or in later years, administratively assisted) high school principals, industrial relations managers and deans of Arts & Science, mayors and sheriffs and prosecutors. I've punch-pressed and performed blood draws and peddled sweepers. I've had titles like Paralegal and Plan Administrator and Womens' Advocate, all of which sounded more important than they really were.

I started my working life with manual typewriters, calculators and cash registers. You corrected errors by erasing, totaled figures by pulling an arm at the side, made change in your head. I learned to operate a switchboard by means of plugging in cords. When I worked for Aetna Insurance, our production rate was monitored by accumulating the little tickets that were paper-clipped to each endorsement. I got my first computer in 1985. It send my column to New York at the heart-stopping rate of 1200 baud.

When I began working, the minimum wage was $1.05 and you accepted that all your bosses would be men. All the librarians might be women but the Head Librarian would be a man. Every teacher might be a woman but the Principal would be a man. Postal clerks might be women but the Postmaster would be a man. When I first bar-tended, women weren't allowed to sit at the bar in Indiana. Doctors were mostly men and so were lawyers. When the first women marched and sued and burned their bras (which never really happened but it is so much a part of our belief system, it might as well have, rather like Al Gore saying he invented the internet), they were scorned as rabble-rousing "women's libbers" but today's women should appreciate them for the changes they brought about.

In all those years of doing all those jobs, it seems as if you'll never reach the end of the road until, finally, you do. All that remains is the one calling that has brought the most joy and the one title that brought the most pride, which is Writer. But it is all the deductions made from all those other paychecks that allow me to focus now. The dream that is left is making the transition from Columnist to Novelist.

Onward and upward to new challenges.