My 65th birthday is on the second of December. There is so much more to this milestone in life than just another birthday. My sixteen years of crack addiction during my twenties and early thirties prevented me from seeing the possibility of turning sixty-five. In retrospect, I never thought about making it into my forties after near-overdoses and suicide attempts. However, once I accepted the sober lifestyle at thirty-six, I was college-bound and started my mental health career. I loved what I was doing and thought I would continue doing it until I was ready to retire on my own.
A few months before turning sixty-one, I was physically assaulted by a client. A few months after I turned sixty-one, I witnessed another client assault his mother and COVID-19 started.
The physical assault resulted in back surgery after I had two back surgeries several years earlier. To be honest, at the time, I had no thought of returning to work. After spending time with my psychologist for PTSD, he helped me understand that returning to the field of mental health and dangerous clients needed to end for me. I decided retirement at sixty-one was the right thing to do. It was also necessary for my mental health. As a result of my former husband’s death, I would now be dependent on his social security.
My first year and a half was spent with my psychologist and a three-month house repair after a tree fell through the roof into my bedroom. Once my former employers settled, I redecorated my newly renovated living room and bedroom. I binge-watched all the television shows I missed while working. Then I decided to get a dog because I was tired of my boyfriend telling me I needed a dog to keep me company. So, the hunt for the right companion dog was on. Then I found Tidbit.
Tidbit became the most adorable lap dog. He is a Chihuahua Jack Russell mix. I fell in love with him the day we met. He followed me everywhere. We took walks in the park three times a day. After several months, Tidbit binge-watched my shows with me. However, once I began having conversations about the shows with Tidbit, and he was not responding, I began to wonder if it was time to play with the idea of returning to work.
So, for the next few weeks, I considered what kind of job I might be interested in. During my time at the mental health center, I taught social skills at an elementary school. In light of its wonderful nature, I decided to apply for a position as a substitute teacher. Although there were only six weeks left, I was hired.
As a substitute teacher, you can choose when and where to work. I knew there were three elementary schools within eight minutes of the house and one about twenty-five minutes away. During those six weeks, I worked every school day. Each day was different. Although I was serious about teaching, I tried to make every class fun whenever possible. Teaching allowed me to help kids who were also struggling with math, reading, and social skills. This allowed me to go home with satisfaction every day.
As the last week of school approached, I was preparing to be off for twelve weeks for the summer. During my last day at Hixson Elementary, the principal, Dr. Greene, suggested I apply for a position at her school. So, I did. Before the summer was over, I had a successful interview and was hired as an exceptional education assistant. I was excited to know I had successfully changed my career at sixty-four.
The true highlight of being at Hixson Elementary is not only engaging with children but the staff. Front office personnel are the best. The teacher I work with is Mrs. Hays, who is a great teacher. To work with the students in our class, teamwork is essential. The bonus is knowing that the principal, Dr. Greene, and the vice principal, Mrs. Johnson are available to the teachers and jump in to help where help is needed.
As with substitute teaching, where you can be at multiple schools each week, having a base school does not guarantee mundane days. Which means no boring days and I prefer that. Hixson Elementary teachers are wonderful. They love what they do and are always open to helpful conversations about the children they share in different classes. Despite moments of chaos, I love my job. When you work with children who struggle to learn, hearing them say a color, a number, or the letters that form their name, is a powerful moment.
I decided to take a risk and pursue another career path. This would allow me to use my life experiences and skills to their fullest potential. I was at an age when many were prepared for more time with the grandkids and traveling. I suppose I could have sat at home continuing to have one-way conversations with my dog while binge-watching all the entertaining shows I missed while working my previous job. I miss sleeping late whenever I want to. However, I am now able to help children in a meaningful way who are all in the same place. Although I am no longer actively a therapist or crisis worker, the skills I learned in those positions have been valuable.
As a result of my experience, I found an entirely different career path, one I had not contemplated before. I learned and grew in a completely different field. Teaching for the Board of Education is different from teaching in the mental health system. However, I now know that my first experience as a teacher left an indelible memory for me. It allowed me to find a fulfilling job and allowed me to use my skills in a way I had never done before. It was an exciting challenge I was eager to take on. I started the next chapter in my life, one that I am grateful for.
I still enjoy writing and am preparing for my third book. I hope one day to have my own column in a newspaper or magazine and will continue to write for Senior Life Style Magazine. I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue my desires and do something meaningful for me.
It was a reminder of all the dedication and work I put in and the changes I have made in my life. I could reflect on how grateful I am for the opportunity to pursue my passion and dreams. During this time, I was reminded of how significant it is to take risks and embrace change. I could reflect on all the achievements and lessons I had learned. It is also a time to cherish my time and celebrate.
Now I do have my fantasy of becoming a senior face model. Hopefully, I will find a way to open that door as well.