I wrote this in 2006 as a guest post for a blog called A Little Red Hen. It popped into my face the other day for some reason and I decided to put it here.
I didn’t imagine when I was younger that I would enjoy my 50s and 60s so much, or look forward to my 70s with such anticipation. The elder years have been among my happiest, a bit of information that would have shocked my younger self.
I was an only child and I live alone now. It suits me, being alone. It’s one of the reasons I’m happy. I love my family and my beautiful grandchildren, my friends, my online communities. But I like having a room of my own, too.
I made some major changes in my life after my 50s began. Many people thought it was bold or brave, but to me it was merely finding that soul-place where I’d always wanted to be. My internal image of myself always was as a writer, never as a teacher. Yet I spent a lot of years teaching. Toward the end of that career, I trained in cooperative learning and in the writing process. The combination of cooperative learning and writing process were a perfect fit for me. I wrote four books that help teachers teach writing. I was also very active in writers’ groups and attempted all sorts of writing on my own.
I wanted to retire from teaching in the public schools and leave the little town in New Mexico where I lived. Someone told me Austin, Texas had a great writers’ group, plus seven nearby universities and a nice music scene, so I moved to Austin. I drove a U-Haul truck by myself with my car hitched on behind. I didn’t know a soul in Austin. The writers there were wonderful and helped me find work and keep writing. I took a class that I thought would help me find a day job as a technical writer, which led me to a class in HTML. That HTML class really changed my life. It was about 1995, the Internet boom was just beginning, and I thought if I knew HTML I could publish some of my writing on my own web site. This was long before blogging. Little did I know that everyone would be her own publisher in a few years! I fell crazy in love with HTML. I was in the zone, in the groove, a goner. I couldn’t stop making web pages. I did find work as a technical writer, but what I was actually doing was making web pages that happened to be on technical topics. I was soaking up new technical information as it if would sustain me like food. Ambrosia!
I started teaching web page building at the same college where I’d learned it myself. That started me on a crusade to change the way the books that teach web design approach the material. I’m still yapping on about that topic, and have written two books of my own about making web sites now. I blog about teaching web design at http://www.webteacher.ws.
The Internet boom hit Austin hard; thousands of people a month moved there for high tech jobs. The traffic was awful and I was at an age where an 8 to 5 job didn’t look as good as Social Security and retirement income. I also realized I missed the mountains and the seasons. Austin is beautiful, but it’s endless summer there. I wanted some spring and fall to go with summer.
I packed it all up again and headed back to New Mexico. I downsized in the process: smaller house, fewer things. If I still have something, it’s because I really want it.
I missed my old writing practice group from Austin, though. I decided to make my own writing practice group of one. I started First 50 Words. No technical writing allowed, instead I write 50 or so words about anything at all. I can’t seem to stop dreaming up writing prompts as if I were still teaching youngsters to write. I love that minute or two each day when I can be creative for 50 words.
I can’t say I’m actually retired, since I’m writing more than ever, but I don’t have to go somewhere during rush hour each day to get to my computer. I just crawl out of bed and start typing. There’s a mountain right outside my front door, and the full array of all four seasons. For me, this is the right place and the right time.
Please leave a comment with your first 50 words (I went way over today. You can, too.) on the topic “my story.”