Today my family got together to remember my father who passed away on Memorial Day at the age of 98. We had a picnic, which is fitting, because dad was known to drop everything and travel for miles for a good picnic. While I was helping mom go through the storage a couple weeks ago, I came across a little medical container of polished rocks that dad had collected out in the Arizona desert. I decided to make all his children and grandchildren a pendant that could be hung on a ribbon or a chain or even a key chain. I'm not crafty, but I think they turned out pretty well.
I also wrote a poem that I will share here for my family who couldn't make it today... it's not really a poem, more of a word picture, really, but I think it represents my father well.
Sage brush roamer
One line teaser
Wood stove welder
Bloody Mary sipper
Lyle George Foreman
So a while back I posted a bucket list of things I want to accomplish in the final third of my life. One of those things was to get a master's degree and teach college level writing, English or history. Of course, that brave young woman, (I wrote it in April, I think), had no idea just how difficult going back to school and working three jobs would be. I began my academic journey soon after and I have never juggled so much in my life. I had no clue what I was letting myself in for. (Keep in mind that I am just starting my academic career so I have years to go...)
That isn't to say I didn't rock spring term... I got a 4.0 and managed to finish a book, teach daily at an after school care program and teach a novel-writing course at my local community college.
But by the end of term, I was exhausted and within spitting distance to burn out. My father passed away just before the term finished so I can't say my emotional malaise was totally because of overwork. However, the doubts kept pouring in. Is this something I really want? How important is being Professor Teri to me? And most importantly, what if I get there and hate it?
Isn't that frightening as all get out? It's the final third of my life, people, I no longer have the luxury of switching careers midstream because I am TOO CLOSE to the estuary that leads into the final ocean of my life... I've had cancer twice, I've seen the reaches of the horizon and I DO NOT WANT TO FUCK UP HERE.
Constantly reevaluating goals is essential to personal, professional and financial success. Things change, priorities change, circumstances change. As we gain more knowledge, we need to adapt and change up the game plan. While I'm not quite ready to give up my dream of Professor Teri sitting at an old chipped desk, surrounded by books in an ivy covered office, there are some things I need to consider.
- My age. Would a university really hire an old professor fresh out of school no matter how many books I've had published?
- Will I make enough money at the end to recoup the cost of attending college? (As an aside, does anyone know of scholarships for middle-class, middle-aged women?)
- Would I want to sit and grade bad essays by students who just want to pass the class and move on? I've judged many a contest and sometimes it's just excruciating. My dream is to be a sort of traveling professor. Teach a term here, teach a term there, dragging my happily retired hubby from place to place. Can I do that? Is that a thing?
- Right now, I teach writing and creativity classes for Portland Community College's Community Ed Program, which means I get a ton of students who REALLY WANT TO WRITE. I don't have to follow college plans or outcomes--I get to make up my own lesson plans and only have to worry about my student's growth and satisfaction. I also give workshops at local events and conferences. I make my own schedule. Don't I already have the best part of teaching without the politics, grading and constraints?
- I really love learning and going to school. I love being challenged. School is fun in a way that it wasn't back in the day. But do I really want to spend eight or nine years of my final third going to school?
- Will my writing suffer? Returning to school will make be a better teacher, for sure, but will it make me a better writer?
- Do I want to finish school for the right reasons or underneath it all, do I want to succeed because I have an academic inferiority complex?
So there you have it--the things that swirl around in my head at night when I can't sleep. Would love some input.
So one of the things I would like to do in my final third is learn a martial art. I really don't know much about them except it looks like a really cool, tough way to keep in shape. It also addresses the things that all of us in our final third should all be aware of--balance and flexibility. I won't have time for karate or kickboxing classes in the near future but I plan on doing it at some point.
My friend, author April Henry already has.
And she's pretty bad ass at it, actually.
And here's what April has to say about her love for martial arts:
A few years ago, I took a kickboxing class that was really fun. The instructor had a black belt in kajukenbo, and he started up a mini kajukenbo school at our gym. I joined because I loved the feeling. Some grappling/Brazilian jiujitsu, (BJJ), was always part of our requirements, but then our teacher began offering formal BJJ four times a week - and I go all four!
In terms of self-defense, kung fu is fairly practical, BJJ even more so. Almost all fights will end up on the ground, if they are serious. I can now take care of myself, especially if my attacker hadn’t studied any martial arts.
It’s also good for me as someone who writes mysteries and thrillers. I have even worked through scenarios of what a character could do if, say, they were being dragged out to the woods. Martial arts teaches you about fighting back, how to read a person’s thoughts (like where they are going to hit you) and how to cope with a certain level of violence.
If you are interested in martial arts, I would observe or try out several schools to find one where you like the instructor and students. Many schools will offer a free week or something similar. Look for someplace that will meet you were you are - not demand that you be some whirling dervish. I would highly recommend Westsideakf.com. Check your ego at the door and you will learn a lot!
To learn more about April and her writing, visit www.aprilhenrymysteries.com
This final third blog series is basically me outlining what the last years of my life is going to look like. It has helped me clarify my own personal goals and serves as a reminder of why I'm doing what I'm doing. So while it may look like I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I'm actually moving ahead in a whirl of business. So onward:
Related to getting my degree is this goal of my final third: I want to teach university level writing.
I came to my love of teaching late in life, but I realized that there were always two things I ended up doing… write and teach. I’ve been teaching children off and on for years, but last year I was offered an opportunity to teach at our local community college for their adult education program.
I absolutely love it.
I thought that my teaching talents were limited my age, but it turns out that I’m just a pretty durn good teacher. My evaluations have been great and I have multiple students who come back and take every class I offer.
So I have this dream… I get a master’s degree and continue to write my books and I teach at different universities and MFA programs around the country and the world. I get to see the places I’ve always wanted to see, live in foreign countries and different places and take in everything. That’s why my education is key to everything.
Professor Teri Brown
It could happen, right?
Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius and freedigitalphotos.net
I’ve always been a rock and roll kind of girl. When I was about five, my babysitter introduced me to Sugar, Sugar by the Archies. Then I heard my very cool big brother and his friends listening to In A Gadda Da Vida by Iron Butterfly. I was hooked.
After my brother married and moved away, there was a dearth of good music until my parents bought me a little transistor radio when I was about ten and I heard Under Cover Angel. Then came a whole slew of hits: Dream Weaver, Silly Love Songs, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, everything by the Eagles, etc. Songs that propelled me from childhood to teendom.
Then, as a teen, my mind was blown by Journey, Pink Floyd, The Cars, Def Leppard, Rush, Boston… the list goes on.
In fifth grade, I decided to play a musical instrument and I chose the flute because it sounded pretty. However it takes a lot of work to learn a musical instrument and I was more into horses at the time and though I finished out the school year in band, I decided it wasn’t for me. Besides, in fifth grade I was obsessed with Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road and the disconnect between Benny and the Jets and the Streets of Laredo was just too vast.
As an adult, I discovered Alternative music and that was my passion for ages. I mean, COLLECTIVE SOUL! It was during writing Born of Illusion that I started listening almost exclusively to old jazz and during the Summerset Abbey series, I fell in love with ragtime.
Then I went even further back and now it’s all classical, all the time, which brings me to another item on my final third list… I want to learn how to play the flute. Yep, I have gone back to the lilting beauty of the flute and wish with all my heart that I could play the Streets of Laredo.
Life’s funny like that.
Of course, that will have to come after I finish school and write all the books, as mastering a musical instrument does take time and energy, of which I have little to spare right now. But it will happen and someday, I will rock the Streets of Laredo.
Photo courtesy of coward_lion and freedigitalphots.net
My grandmother was an amazing woman. I think she was 50 the first time she went to Europe and I think she went four times before she passed. She told me once that she thought she was meant to live in England, that she actually got homesick for London and the surrounding areas.
I’ve never been abroad unless you count Mexico and Canada. But before I die I want to live for three to nine months in another country. My wish list includes Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy or Spain. One of the reasons I’m going to school is to get a degree so I can teach somewhere for a few months. It could work, right?
I think part of my longing to live elsewhere and experience another culture is my love of history. I want to immerse myself in places where I can wander into buildings that can count their years in thousands rather than the hundreds. I want to live in a tiny garret in an old village somewhere and mingle with the people, eat the food and maybe learn the language, (if in Spain, France or Italy). And I want to write a book there.
My worry is the world is turning into such a unstable place that such adventures won’t be prudent for much longer, but maybe I’m just being a provincial American. Or maybe that’s part of the growing that I need to do.
At any rate, It’s on my list.
Photo courtesy of Jannoon028 and freedigitalphotos.net
I want to climb a volcano.
There, I said it. I know it sounds totally crazy, especially for an overweight fifty-year-old, but I don’t think it is and here’s why…
As many of you know, I have been fitness crazy since my last bout with cancer. I spent a year learning to run, increasing my strength and my stamina. Last fall I ran The Bridge of the Goddess half marathon. It was epic. But training for it also took hours and hours of my time. Some of my runner friends were like, “You could totally do a full marathon!” I looked at the hours it took me to train for the half and decided that that was a big ole noper.
About the same time, I came up with a case of plantar fasciitis and my podiatrist told me that while I could still run once it was healed, I should probably mix that up with some other form of exercise, so I took to hiking.
And I absolutely love it.
Always wanting to challenge myself, I did Cascade Head on the Oregon coast.
Then I did Saddle Mountain.
Then I did Dog Mountain.
Big climbs. Big, BIG climbs.
I plan on doing several mountain hikes this summer and then next year I’m going for Mt. St Helens. It’s practically vertical in places as you scramble over pumice and rocks, but it’s so close and how many people say they’ve climbed a volcano???
I don’t feel like this is my year. I am still too heavy (I am one of those odd cases where a person can train for a 13 mile run and still be 40 pounds overweight!) and I feel like I can be stronger, so I consider myself in training:
To hike up the side of a volcano and look inside.
When thinking about the final third, I think it’s important to remember to really look at the items on your bucket list. Why is it there? What are your motivations? I already shared that I want to learn another language and outlined my reasons why. When I first decided to put it on the list I gave it some serious thought, (especially since it would take such a huge chunk of my final third!)
Do I want to learn a language because that’s what I truly want or do I want to learn it because cultured people know more than one language and I want other people to consider me cultured? It’s that old conundrum-- the difference between what I appear to be and who I truly am. Is this item on my bucket list because I really want to do it, or is it there because I want other people to see me doing it?
I love social media and use it often, but I think it has exacerbated that problem. Do I like to cook fancy food while drinking wine and listening to classical music because that’s who I truly am or is it because I share it on facebook so people think that’s who I am.
See the problem?
(And, actually, those things are my delight so it’s part of the real me)
Am I being me or do I simply want people to think it’s me is a question I thought long and hard about when I put this item on my bucket list.
I want to walk in a cap and gown in a large auditorium and have someone hand me a college degree.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m an educational rebel. I wrote about alternative methods of education. I homeschooled my kids, for crying out loud. I think outside the box. Why am I going all traditional now?
I am also fairly accomplished in the industry of my choosing. I have a job that I love. Why on earth would I go to the expense and effort to obtain a college degree? Is it because I want a college degree or is it because I want to be one of those women who go back to school and people think it’s really cool?
I think it comes down to what I want to do in my final third. I am a writer and an author and I will always be those things. But it’s not all I want to be. I want to play in academia. Test my own metal with others. I love to learn and research and a college degree will provide both of those things. I also love to teach and I want to teach on the college level. I love to travel and I think it will help me do that, as well. So yes, I want to get my Bachelors and I want to get my Masters.
And again…. I need to start that now!!
Photo courtesy of Scottchan and freedigitalphotos.net
Why do people make bucket lists? Is it to commemorate the passage of time and a longing to make our final dreams come true or are we giving the finger to father time. When I turned forty, I jumped out of a plane. That was definitely me flipping off the decades. At fifty, I’m mellower. It is less about flipping off anyone and more about me finishing the work I was meant to do and enjoying my final third.
One of the things I would really love--something that is on every writer’s bucket list--is to score a spot on the New York Times best seller list. Now that would be something, huh? But honestly, that's something I can’t make happen no matter how diligently I write or how hard I study craft. And I feel as if bucket list item should be things you can achieve on your own power, don't you? The NYT best seller list isn’t something I have control over so phht. Off the list.
The rest of the items on my list are things that I can make happen. I’m a huge believer in making your mind and body work equally hard to stave off the rotting part of old age. I want to age gracefully, not decay. So I made a conscious effort to include things that were both physical, mental and of course, things that feed my soul.
So first thing on the bucket list.
I want to learn to speak another language.
I don’t want to die being fluent in only English and Pig Latin. I truly believe that the world is small and growing smaller and I feel so damn provincial knowing only English. I’m not exactly sure which language I'd like to learn, but I'll learn one of them. I may not be fluent in it, but I'd like a working knowledge.
For practicality’s sake, Spanish would win hands down. I live on the west coast and knowing Spanish would be very handy. But I am seriously drawn to Italian or French. I think it must be my love of European history. Of course, I love Spanish history, as well, so we’ll see.
As learning a language takes some time, I think it’s something I should start on fairly soon, don’t you?
Au Revoir! Arrivederci! Adios!
photo courtesy of Aleks Melnik and freedigitalphotos.net
On December 22nd, I turned fifty. According to the powers that be, I am entering the final third of my life. Not sure how they are doing the math since the average age of women in the United States is 82 according to the World Health Organization, but whatever.
The final third.
This sort of blows my mind because I feel as if I’m just sort of coming into my own, you know?
And this final third? What do I want it to be about?
Actually, I kind of want it to be about me.
I’ve discovered my own strength and my own potential in the past decade—cancer tends to do that— and I started my career late. So I have this sense that I’m just now truly picking up speed. It isn’t a selfish thing… just as a blossom isn’t selfish. It blooms because it’s time to bloom. In doing so, the blossom feeds the bees, a host of animals and occasionally brings about new life. It’s not selfish. It’s just time.
If I don’t do and accomplish the things I want now, I never will.
Somethings are a given. I want to age gracefully and be physically active. To that end, I’m following the advice of a book my endocrinologist recommended, Younger Next Year. I also want to preserve my brain to try to ward off dementia, which can severely curtail your accomplishments in the final third. To help do this, I meditate and am learning and trying new things. I’m also compiling a bucket list of things I want to do in this final third of my life.
The main thing I needed to keep in mind as I compiled my bucket list is time and money. How much time would this or that take and how much money would it cost. The other thing I have to keep in mind is that I'm a married person and I need to keep my husband in mind as I make my list.
Time is crucial because I have to continue to write and work, because I love both and both are as necessary to me as breathing. I'm also going back to school because a degree will help me live the rest of my life the way I want to. That’s going to eat up some of my final third!
For the next month, I’ll be sharing some of the things on my final third and my strategies on how I’m going to accomplish them! Hopefully, this will not only help me, but inspire some people to start thinking about their final third.