I have managed, so far at least, to keep the fact that my retirement date is very near separate from the fact that this involves a great loss and major energetic shift.
For the longest time I called myself “a writer.” From the time I was six years old I just knew I had to “be a writer,” and from that point on, I wrote.
A day did not pass without me scratching out some sort of forlorn poem or fantasy filled exercise of my outsized imagination. Going through the folks’ house a few years ago I came across dozens of poems I laminated onto pieces of wood, or scrawled on the back of something I called “art” that they hung in the basement.
Daily writing continued throughout the junior and senior high school years. Mostly done in wirebound notebooks I called “journals,” most days contained multiple attempts at translating my feelings into words, and capturing a mood or moment in their structured cages.
In adulthood, the writing continued. I took an adult ed class (remember when school districts were flush enough to offer adult enrichment?) called ‘how to get published,’ and guess what? Shortly after the class ended, my first poem was accepted for publication in a literary journal. Another was chosen for a calender. Shortly thereafter I began freelancing with feature pieces—the first one in the early ’90s was about the growing popularity of tattoos. This was when people sporting tattoos were considered “different,” and “bold.” Today, you’re more unique if you don’t have one than if you do, and the only feature stories I see about them are about what it takes, both timewise and costwise, to have them removed or re-done.
I soon realized the only way to get paid for writing was to write for a newspaper. Though working full time at a law firm in Birmingham, again in the early ’90s I met with the editor of the Royal Oak Daily Tribune and he gave me a shot. I was, finally, “a writer” in the eyes of myself, my family, and the general public. It had gone from the “hobby” realm into that of a “professional.”
So landing a gig here 25 years ago just confirmed that. And now, that is all changing. For the first time in 34 years I will no longer be working as “a writer.” I am letting it go, and it’s scary.
I’ve also managed to block out—or perhaps a better way of saying it is “back burner” the fact that in moving on from this job, I am leaving an entire family. A real life one, and a virtual one as well, as many of our columnists work off site. A family where it’s been safe to be who I am. People who have accepted me and all my moods, faults, foibles, ramblings, moods, imperfections, ideas, quirks, ego and did I mention moods? behind.
A family that has always been kind and understanding, that has seen me through some of the most difficult and even tragic major events of my life. The loss of my parents, changes in relationships, calamities at the homestead, vehicles blowing up, property destroyed by trees, extended illness and the unexpected surprises, both good and bad, life brings.
My colleagues and bosses here have done everything from pick me up when the roads were too icy or snow covered for my passenger vehicle to navigate, to dealing with predators who’d tried to kill my chickens and ducks. I’ve been offered money in down times, empathy in hard times and condolences in times of great loss…
…Like now. Leaving this Tri-City Times family is a huge shift in my reality and one that I’ve conveniently separated from the excitement of my retirement. Putting these two things together renders me almost immobile. My heart begins to squeeze together in my chest, and my eyes well up and I can no longer see.
Though I’ll still be around, and stopping in often to advertise, I’m not sure what a weekday morning will feel like without the greetings, jokes, moods and ’tudes I’ve grown to count on and love for the past 25 years.
The Buddhists say the only constant is change, so learning to embrace it makes life much easier. I still have another week to pretend it’s not so.
Email Catherine at cminolli@pageone-inc.com.