"How did I ever have time to go to work?"
I quit my last full-time paid job in June of 2010. Nearly eight years ago. I envisioned quiet days, long walks, lots of reading.
I should have known better. That happened for about four months. Then I got busy.
We could have just traveled. As it is, I've taken 63 trips of three days or longer in the last eight years. But on one of them, I came across a couple hundred refugees in the Saltzburg train station, and within a year I became a volunteer at a refugee camp in Greece. After my first time there, I went back three more times. I joined the board of Do Your Part, the disaster recovery nonprofit I worked for at the camp.
I could have spent time on just one hobby. I love genealogy and have been working on my family history for nearly 20 years. Hours can go by while I explore online. But instead of focusing on genealogy, I took 140 hours of mediation training and got certified. As a volunteer, I've done about 80 mediations in the last four years - some at the dispute resolution center in my county, some at small claims court, some out in the world. I've gotten better at it, and I still love it.
We spend winters in Tucson. For the first four years mostly I played: swimming, discussion groups, line dancing, handbells. And then the Voyager Theatre Company came along. The first year I did ticket sales; the second, assistant to the producer; this year, I'm part of the cast for a one-act play. Just for this year, though. Next year I want to have a quieter winter. I think.
In the meantime, I've started volunteering with Keep Tucson Together, doing work similar to what I did at the refugee camp. Talking to people now in the US who fear for their lives should they be forced to relocate to Mexico or Central America. Helping as I can. For KTT, I took on a new project this week. It's only three hours a week - at my request - but still, it's three hours.
And two weeks from tomorrow I'm giving a lecture on my experience at the refugee camp. I really need to get started on preparing for that. Most of it is in my head, but it needs to get transferred to a script and a PowerPoint presentation.
Almost everything I'm doing is important to me. I'm not sure what I will give up. I know for sure that I want to keep the friendships I've made in all of these endeavors.
But about having a quieter time. My sister reminds me every now and then that when I'm quiet, I think too much. She and I both say "our minds are a dangerous neighborhood. We should never go in there alone." When I'm busy and engaged, my mind is useful, and that's a good thing.
I had time to go to work because I volunteered very little. I traveled only a couple of times a year. I raised two kids and established bonds with six stepkids. It was a full life, and mostly satisfying.
I can say the same thing now. I have a full life and it is almost always satisfying.
Still. Every now and then I'd like to spend an afternoon lying on the couch, reading a book. Maybe I'll do that.