Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gainfully employed

It’s been 3-1/2 years since I downshifted to part-time work, and people often ask me why I continue to work at all. (These are usually people who have already retired and, I think, are looking for someone to play with—and by that I mean lunches, shopping, visiting.) My answer always begins with “There are three good reasons I’m still working.” At that point, those who asked just to be polite are starting to regret the effort.

Here are my three top reasons, not necessarily in order of importance. And, with luck, I’ll think of a fourth by the time I’m done.

1) I love the income stream. Not only am I receiving an hourly wage for my 21 hours per week (although no vacation, illness, or holiday pay), but the company is still contributing to my retirement account—and still allowing me to add my own funds to the supplemental retirement account. That’s golden, even “bleeping” golden… (sorry, Chicagoland readers; I’ve heard the Blago tapes so often, I’ve picked up the lingo).

With the up and down stock markets, the on-again, off-again recession, and just plain old uncertainly, I like the fact that I can bring in money almost as fast as I can spend it.

2) I enjoy the work, most of the time. I get to be imaginative in my approach to marketing natural gas industry training and conferences, and it's delightfully challenging. I write a monthly e-newsletter and the copy for our brochures, catalogs, ads, and web site and have a lot of creative freedom.
There are always tasks I don’t much care for, but they’re usually short-term. I can also turn down a high level of responsibility for an ongoing task I don’t like. When “but I’m only here three days a week” doesn’t get me out of it, mumbling “Maybe I’ll retire” usually does.

3) I love my colleagues. Or, I very much like most of them, but I truly love some of them. I enjoy gossiping with them, hearing their after-work stories, and, especially, telling my own day-off stories. And when it comes to the women, I like to see what they’re wearing. Most important of all, they’re fun to work with.

I haven’t yet thought of a solid fourth reason, but I do believe that if I were not working those three days, I would sleep too much, watch too much TV, shop way over my budget, and more often grab my husband’s iTouch to waste another hour playing Boggle.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Old friends are new again

There are still many simple pleasures in our seventh decade. The other day I had lunch followed by delightful shopping with a long-time friend. We first met when we were both back-to-college moms—I thought I might be the only older student there, and she probably thought the same. Then we were seated next to each other during a break one day and revealed our backgrounds. She had a daughter about 12 or so, a year older than one of mine. Since then, through the years, we’ve met for dinner or lunch occasionally. But our hectic schedules were out of sync, and months—years—would pass without any contact.

We connected again on Facebook (it does have its advantages), and started making plans to get together. She’s newly retired, and I’m semi-retired, so we felt like ladies of leisure when we met recently to have a slow-paced meal with more chatting than eating. Since my next “obligation” was a 3:00 hair appointment, I had time to show her my favorite shops, and we commiserated over all the expensive things we’d like to buy if only we could count on the stock market keeping our retirement funds intact. (Insert laughter here.)

We found it hard to believe that it was over 35 years ago since we were both wondering if we could blend into academic life after seeing our girls through their early years. Now, it’s as if we got reacquainted as very different people. We’re now grandmothers, we’ve pretty much run out of the energy we had when we were in our 30s and 40s. But with that energy also came some very low lows—tying our fragile self-esteem to what others did or said to us.

We’re not completely self-assured now. But we are comfortable. Sure, we commiserate over eyelashes that are getting skimpy, bags under our eyes that are getting baggier, and having to make that dreaded call to Medicare—the one in which you’re shouting into the phone “Enroll in Part B!” and the automatic system starts running a long spiel about Part D. But we’re also relaxed and happy that our daily commuting and work stress are behind us.

I wish I could end this with a funny line or twist, but I’m still basking in the glow of friendships—old and new.