At the end of this year I go on Medicare—and the next year I start collecting Social Security. While I have my share of aches and pains, I don’t feel “elderly” or like a senior citizen. But I imagine if I went out and did something crazy and they wrote about me in the newspaper, they would probably toss in some adjective to let the readers know I was old—in their estimation.
I suppose in years I am considered old. But that’s not always a bad thing; age does have some perks. It gives us the experience to look back on life and reassess how we view things. One thing I have been reassessing—how did I get here?
Before I go on, I want to tell a story my husband tells. Before entering high school his school counselor asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up. Being just thirteen, he told her he had no idea. She did not receive the answer well and berated Don for not knowing what he wanted to do when he grew up.
We often laugh at that counselor’s naïve belief that people choose careers by thirteen—especially when we found ourselves—me in my late forties and him in his early fifties—trying to figure out (once again) what we wanted to do when we grew up.
Careers people settle in are often not about an early plan—it’s often about a deck of card they are handed and how they choose to play the deck. Some people follow their passions—while others seize opportunities they find along the way. And sometimes, it is a combination.
Early on I wanted to write fiction. As a child I loved making up stories. In sixth grade I wrote the class play. The summer of my freshman year in high school I wrote my first novel. And as a senior in high school, I was co-editor of our school newspaper. During college I wrote a screenplay, which I later adapted to a novel.
My major in college was Communications, and before enrolling I decided to change my career path and tell stories through a camera instead of words. My emphasis was photography—a career I never seriously pursued after graduation.
Until about ten years ago, I might have considered myself one of those people who seized opportunities along the way, without some grand masterplan. My first job, beginning at age 13, was working for the Havasu Palms store, at my parents’ resort, something I did every summer throughout high school and college.
I also did other side jobs during this time—canvasing for Westinghouse and selling Avon. After I got married I worked for a while at the water company my husband worked at—he basically got me the job. After that I substitute taught, before becoming a mother.
I opened a gift shop for a while when we moved to Wrightwood—big mistake. And then I went back to my first love—writing. But instead of fiction, something I didn’t think I could earn a living with, I started a community paper and wrote non-fiction—local articles on history and current events.
I had the paper for over five years and then that deck of cards dealt me a hand I felt obligated to play. My husband and I moved with our children to Havasu to take over my parent’s resort when my father became ill.
We managed Havasu Palms for over ten years, and when the lease was about to expire we opened our own restaurant. Like my gift shop years before, a mistake.
This takes us to the time my husband and I had to reinvent ourselves, me being in my late forties and him in his early fifties. While we both had college degrees, well-paying jobs were scarce in Havasu. And who wanted to hire us? Already that age thing was working against us.
To get by, we briefly substitute taught, but then got our real estate licenses and started a new chapter in our lives. It was a lot of fun, and we did relatively well, but had you asked me in college if I wanted to sell real estate, I would have laughed at the thought.
With the economy downturn of 2008 I left real estate—my husband remained—and I returned to my first love, writing.
I realize now, I have come full circle. I am exactly where I am meant to be. Looking back, I understand the gift shop and the restaurant were things I was supposed to do—but not succeed at. They were life lessons, my story fodder for the career I had been training for all my life.
You see, during all those years, I still wrote. When my children were small and I was a stay at home mom I wrote short stories, a recipe book, and then a book of poems which I published years later—with the help of my daughter who illustrated the book for her senior project in art school (Motherhood).
I never stopped writing stories. When I had the gift shop I wrote a (never to be published) romance novel. When I managed Havasu Palms I wrote another romance novel (Coulson’s Lessons) and my first Havasu Palms book (Where the Road Ends, Havasu Palms Recipes and Remembrances.)
Today I feel extremely blessed. I’m actually making a living doing something I sincerely love—something I have wanted to do since I was a small child. It took me a number of years to get here, but I have enjoyed the ride—even those times of extreme hardship and sorrow. As one of my writer friends, Suzie O’Connell, says, it’s all story fodder.
(Photo: Late 1980s Bobbi Holmes editor/publisher of Mountain/Hi-Desert Guide.)