Every Five Years

A long time ago, I learned something significant about myself. I’m not proud of it; I’m not sorry about it. It’s just how I am. My life naturally divides itself into 5-year increments. I discovered this in terms of the jobs I held. I was uber-enthusiastic about my work for about five years. After that, I got bored, restless, and needed a change. Once I realized that, I was able to do a better job of planning my life.

Now that I’m retired, I see that the same thing holds true. The first five years after I retired, I played. A three-year motor home vacation followed by the fun of buying a house and furnishing it and getting to know my new community. The next five years, I became a caregiver for my mother then for my husband. It’s been almost six years since my husband died. I’ve spent these past five years grieving and exploring my identity as a single person who is aging.

It would be a brave, bold statement to say I now know who I am and what I want. But, I’m saying it. To all the world. At least, to you. The commitment I made to myself this year is to be a writer for the next five years. That doesn’t mean I’m any good at it. It means that I am going to give it my all for five years. Be the best I can be. No wimping out.

Why do you care? Well, you might not. But, if I tell you, it helps me firm up my commitment. Like going to Weight Watchers or AA.

This morning, I read that Aristotle said, “The most characteristically human activity is planning your life.” Kenneth Atchity of A Writer’s Time added, “Those who do are the productive people; those who don’t disappear under the surface without leaving a bubble behind to brighten the world.”

I’m certain that you are brightening the world in your own way. We’d all like you to tell us how you do that. Please.

By the way, do come back here after a few days and read all the comments. They are the best part of this blog.

(To respond, click on comments in the grey box below.)

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Every Five Years

  1. Millie Lill

    Funny you should mention this, Alice. I see my life going by in larger chunks. In my 20s, I raised my children (and helped with numerous nieces and nephews as well.) In my 30s, I took care of very sick husband. My 40s were spent being a grandmother. Yes, I became a grandmother at age 38. My 50s were spent learning to be a widow, getting more education and traveling. In my 60s, I remarried and moved to Canada. Now I’m in my 70s and living alone as a divorcee. I’m not sure how I’ll spend this decade, but I am doing my bi-monthly column, putting out an online polio newsletter, being a director on the board here at my coop and doing the newsletter and calendar for the coop as well. So whatever happens, I expect I’ll keep busy.

  2. Carol Alonzo

    I have never forgotten that you told me years ago, “I can do anything for 5 years.” I’ve used that saying as reminder to myself many times. I literally say to myself, “Alice said she could do anything for 5 years, so I can too!” Whenever I reach that 5 year mile mark, I really feel proud of myself! So thank you for sharing that with me many years ago. And next year will be my 5th year as a certified teacher…so it’s exciting to think “what comes next?” or “will I do this for another five years?” We’ll see!

  3. Pam Kingsley

    We are not defined by our losses; but, we are defined by how we survive them. I love your 5-year Plan, Alice! I have spent most of my working life as a development professional, raising money for non-profits through grants, annual/capital giving campaigns and events. In the world of fund development, you usually move on to the next organization every 3 years or so. By default, that became a pattern for my life! The one thing I could always “plan” on was change! Now that I am retired, I love the “flexibility” of long-term planning–and, it starts with an internal “vision statement” for my life. I know the things I want to see, experience, accomplish, revisit…and, each day, month, year, I plan accordingly. Currently I’m: in year three of my shorty story writing pursuits, making a return to acting/directing, saving for a trip to Ireland, reconnecting with old friends, exploring a new living environment, and challenging right brain/left brain preconceptions. I’ve actually been reading a magazine dedicated to all the R&D being done for future technologies–who knew I’d love it?!

  4. Octavia

    What?! I do not plan ahead. Never did, never will. Guess I’ll disappear under the surface without leaving a bubble.

  5. Kestra Akina

    For me, it’s seven-year increments. I can’t tell you how many seven-year careers I’ve had! I’ve been in my current career for fourteen years (two seven-year increments!). I’ve had to reinvent my job several times to keep from going crazy, as I can’t really leave the job yet. But I am about to embark on some new adventures, so looking forward to that!

  6. Pam Steinke

    The older I get, the more I learn to just live right here, right now, and I am loving it! Living in this present moment is joy and freedom to me. I’ll leave plenty of bubbles behind, and in the end, I believe, I will be shown just where each little life bubble of mine landed.

  7. Ok, so being the nerd who has to have more structure, I want to know what you will write, how many you will write, when you will write, etc? Wow! That sounds like too much work. Ok, how about a small, bite-sized goal. I guess this blog is a bite-sized goal. You are posting regulary! Nice going. I too remember you saying that you can do anything for 5 years. My time frame seems to be 10 to 15 years. Keep on writing!

  8. I agree with Kestra Akina; for me it’s about every seven years. There is, in fact, a theory that our bodies shed an entire body’s worth of cells every seven years. I call them “skins.” My current “skin” will end when I’m seventy, another five years. Without saying too much, I’ve seen that each “skin” has offered up something different by way of personal choices and personal growth. Maybe it’s only a way for me to justify the way that certain things happened to me during a certain time period. At any rate, Alice, I like your five-year idea. It’s a solid way of providing a way to continue growing!

    • Kestra Akina

      I like that idea of “skins,” Richard; that makes sense to me. In my life I have had not only different careers but different identities. I suppose it sounds kinda multiple personality disorder, but really it’s more about being creative and willing to reexamine and explore different paths and ways of being, to “try on” different “skins,” if you will, almost like an avatar.

  9. Bonnie Aycock, Lubbock, Texas

    I am reading your book, “Happy Birthday”, loaned to my by a mutual friend of ours. I am so grateful you wrote it, and am pleased to find this blog. I have been widowed for 4 years, am contnuing to evolve. But I have maintained that a woman’s life is made up of phases and stages. We have different patterns, and different choices, but mostly within the realm of our circumstances. I began working to just stay busy with friends and volunteer activities after the caretaker role was over. Now I am seeking more meaning to my busyness. Accepting some small amount of productivity will be my goal.

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