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Reinvented, Not Retired

My first blog post, published in Chicago Now, September 26, 2013

I’m entering the blogosphere at age 68, retired but not really. I was inspired by 64-year-old Diana Nyad, who swam 110 miles from Cuba to Florida, something she had been trying to do for 35 years. She had trained for this fifth attempt for four years, and said upon emerging from the water:

“I have three messages. One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport, but it takes a team.”

Instead of launching into a silent rendition of the Beatles When I’m 64(which I no longer thought was funny when I hit that age!), I thought of my feelings about launching an encore career at this stage of life. Yes, I have retired after working since 1967 as a high school English teacher, an at-home mom of three, a preschool teacher, a preschool director, and the founder and executive director of Cherry Preschool, an innovative, developmental school that includes and celebrates all children. But what does retired actually mean?

  • RetirEd (as in a retired educator with lots of opinions about the current state of education)?

  • Retired (as in falling asleep even earlier watching TV – LOL – or more seriously as in feeling exhausted sandwiched between the needs of a 90 year old mother and 7 grandchildren)?

  • Re-tired (as in getting new tires for a used car or in this case starting a new venture as a “previously driven” person)?

Diana Nyad’s three messages resonated with me.

Never give up. If I did not live by these words, the preschool I founded would not have been created. My grandchild with special needs would not improve. My grandchild with cystic fibrosis would not be taking the medication that has altered the course of her life. And my opinionated self would have stopped speaking out when I retired.

You are never too old to chase your dreams. I have to believe that one or I wouldn’t be doing this. When I was in college majoring in English with a minor in secondary education, my father belatedly suggested I would be a good journalist. Too late, I thought, but maybe not.

My team at Cherry Preschool

It takes a team. I have always lived by this principle and in the value of creating caring communities that work together on behalf of causes. I am simply in search of a new team.

So here’s my hope: That some people will read what a 68-year-old neophyte journalist thinks about her passions — children, education, schools, special needs, community, and how “seniors” function in an era when they can’t retire for economic reasons or they have to find a purpose for the last few decades of their lives. Thank you for being here.


by Laurie Levy
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