Bad Girl, Good Business

Route 66 Installment #37: Where Was I 45 Years Ago in August?

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45 years?

Damn! Whoa! 4.5 Decades!

That’s an entire lifetime ago.

And yet, 45 years ago this month I was in Ann Arbor, finishing up my senior year at the University of Michigan.

I’ve been seeing all the posts on social media of parents packing stuff into Ikea bags and making their kids’ dorm beds.

I, on the other hand, was dropped off at what’s now LaGuardia Airport with a big black trunk my freshman year.

By the time I went back for my senior year, I only had seven credits left to take and I was graduating a semester early. I lived in a funky old apartment in a house on South Division Street (pictured at right).

I took fun classes like Playwriting, did research and wrote my Psychology thesis (about the personalities of cigarette smokers), and got a part-time job working for a doctor and his wife.

The job was in a spooky Victorian manse and I sat in the attic, inputting medical billing codes using a manual typewriter and carbon paper. I quit after less than a week (because it was mind-numbing and lonely) and took a different job, helping two nursing professors write a book about the history and politics of nursing.

They were warm and smart and loved to eat, so even though my job consisted of finding articles on microfiche at the library, I was well-fed and happy. And I learned a lot about nurses, which helped me get my second job out of college (as an editor and marketer of nursing textbooks).

Fast-forward to 2022…when someone tells me they can’t find something on Google, I always challenge them. If I could do obscure research without a computer, anything is possible. 

What the Hell is Pretirement?

So, now that you know all about what I was doing 45 years ago, the big question is “What do I do now?”

I still research and write. I get paid more for it (usually) and use Grammarly rather than wite-out.

Since August of 1977, I’ve had many jobs, two kids, one (ended) marriage, lots of career and life reinventions, personal challenges, major moves, some interesting adventures, and more hairstyles and writing devices than I can count.

This month’s topic was unplugging, sloth, and rebooting.

I’m sooooo NOT ready to retire. I have too much energy and too much left to do professionally.

But this fall, I will consider myself “pretired.” Because, quite frankly, I’m tired of bureaucracy and bullshit.

What does my pretirement look like? I plan to:

  • Work with clients who are visionary and fun and appreciate what I do for them.
  • Travel as much as possible. I have been WFA (working from anywhere) for almost 20 years, so this whole remote work thing is old news to me.
  • Continue to make my voice heard to combat gendered ageism. A handful of companies have discovered that hiring me to build their brands and write their stories is more cost-efficient and effective in the long run than someone who graduated much more recently than 45 years ago. (And yes…I do move quickly and have incredible tech skills). My main competition these days is who I call the “content bros,” fellow English majors who use terms like “narrative” and “persona-based storytelling,” which is basically all the same stuff I was doing decades ago, but with CMS (content management systems) rather than manual typewriters and calculators.
  • Volunteer for and support the right non-profit organizations.
  • Feel less guilty about taking time off. After all, I’ve worked for 45 years. I deserve an occasional break.

Above all, I will structure my life to work hard and play hard, which is pretty much what I’ve attempted to do all along.

But commuting, raising kids, and looking after my aging mother all sometimes tipped the balance.

45 years = experience, calm, perspective, resilience, and freedom.

But enough (unpaid navel-gazing) writing labor before Labor Day.

I’ve been on a long strange trip since I unpacked that trunk in Ann Arbor and subsequently graduated.

I finished college in December of 1977, as planned. I then slept on my brother’s couch and wandered the streets of Manhattan looking for my first job, proudly flashing my blue leather portfolio of “clips.” I took an incredibly boring but educational position, lived on the upper East Side in a hell-hole of an apartment, and started my “adult” life.

I’m 45 years older and wiser (I think) and looking forward to the next 45, which will be a balance of growth and sloth.

September’s theme is “Back to School” and I’ll be writing about the fact that we’re all students of life and truly curious and happy people will never stop learning and evolving.

Enjoy your holiday weekend…and the fruits of your labors!




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