By Lisa Hess
"Creating a life that reflects your values and satisfies your soul is a rare achievement. In a culture that relentlessly promotes avarice and excess as the good life, a person happy doing his own work is usually considered an eccentric, if not a subversive."
Or maybe a writer.
I found this quote earlier this month when a friend of mine shared a Writers Write blog written in honor of Bill Watterson’s 55th birthday. Like many other readers, I loved “Calvin and Hobbes,” and was sad to see it go when Watterson retired the strip in 1995. “Calvin and Hobbes” is one of only two comic strips I ever purchased in book form -- the other is Cathy Guisewhite’s “Cathy” -- both are strips laced with as much truth as comedy.
I always identified with Cathy, but as it turns out, Watterson and I have something in common, too. Both of us felt the need to, in his words, “leave the party early,” retiring at ages considered suspicious by most standards. After 10 years of drawing “Calvin and Hobbes,” Watterson put down his pen. While his decision disappointed many readers, it allowed him to remain true to the standards he set for himself.
Similarly, after 27 years in education, I felt the need to make my way to the door. Worn down by the growing role of politics in education and the negative impact it was having on everyone involved, I took advantage of an opportunity to leave the profession. At 51, I became a retiree.
While Watterson has been reclusive in his retirement, I have taken another path -- one that has allowed me to create exactly the life the Watterson described. I became a stay-at-home mom to my teenage daughter, walking the “family first” walk after years of staggering between work and home. I sought opportunities to teach new audiences in new places, offering classes for kids at a local theatre, for adults through community education programs and for retirees through an institute at a local college.
And I wrote. A lot.
The things I value, and those that feed my soul were never a mystery, and as long as my job made the list, it was a keeper. But when it became something that no longer did those things, it was time to find those soul satisfiers and go after them, grabbing at them with both hands if necessary. Not ripping them away from others, mind you -- just not being shy about going after the things that feed me and energize me and help to make me whole.
Retirement doesn’t have to be an end point. For those who are able, it can -- and should -- simply be opening a door into new rooms in our lives, rooms that fill us with joy and nourish our spirit.
These doors don’t have to open into mansions or cruises or bank-breaking spending sprees. The best ones, in fact, lead us into places that cost little money, but fill our time in ways that make us wish we had more than the allotted 24 hours in each day.
And those like Watterson and I -- those lucky enough to retire before we’re geezer guys and gals? We need to carry the torch to light the way.
And if we can dance with joy while we’re doing it, so much the better.
Lisa Lawmaster Hess is a transplanted Jersey girl who spent 27 years as an elementary school counselor, and is now trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up. Her current roles as wife, mother, author and instructor/speaker keep her both busy and happy.
Lisa is the author of Acting Assertively and Diverse Divorce, both inspired by her interactions with her students. Her first novel, Casting the First Stone, has been accepted for publication by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and is due out in 2014.
An organizational work-in-progress, Lisa enjoys teaching and speaking on unique ways to get organized, and is at work on a book on that topic. She continues to write articles and novels as well. Lisa’s website is http://www.l2hess.com/index.htm