It’s hard to believe it’s been 12 years since I visited this awe-inspiring place. I was still married, still working freelance for McGraw-Hill Education as a photographer, still had a gallery in Tucson, and even still painted a bit. The thought of writing a novel, much less two or three, hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Now, I’m seven years divorced, my grandkids from that marriage are 14 and 19, I’m retired in Oaxaca, just published my second novel, and am working on my third. This year I allowed both my painting and my photography websites to expire. I rarely take photos except with my phone, and I see no paintings in my future (although no door is ever closed).
Many people feel lost when they retire. Their identity through life is wrapped up in and dependent upon their work. In the United States, very few of us have more than two weeks of vacation a year. We work all week and spend the weekend doing chores, watching TV, online, and occasionally socializing with family and friends. We cram so much into the two weeks off that we can’t even relax before we have to get back to work again. We spend our money on things we are told we need or should want.
In the end, it is empty. When we retire, what do we have except back to back weekends with TV, internet, and friends and family we don’t know what to do with after a few hours?
I feel lucky. My work was never my identity. I was an artist. Not a hobbyist, an artist. The only reason I had jobs was to pay for the basic necessities of life. My jobs were never my identity, except for my brief stint photographing for McGraw-Hill. I didn’t have children so I wouldn’t have the responsibility. Maybe I missed out, but I do have two wonderful grandchildren from my marriage. When I retired, I wasn’t abandoning my identity, I was freed to pursue it full time.
That identity has always been “creator”, whether it be painting, photography, or writing. That is who I will be until I die, hopefully a long time from now.