Have you noticed how easy it is to stereotype people? We see them everywhere, at every level of most cultures. Far too many people may be most comfortable when they can put others in neat packages. But life isn’t just about comfort: it’s about growing in strength of character, exploring and learning new ideas and skills, and learning how to function as part of at least one community.
After a varied, colorful life, I began working for myself when I was in my fifties, during the massive layoffs that took place in the 1987-1990 window. I followed with a couple of brief jobs, but yearned to go in a new direction. I wanted to write and learn to use a computer. At my last long-term job, the computer setup had been on a par with using rotary telephones…or the ones where you picked up the receiver and heard, “Number please.”
There was a large age gap between my husband, Jack, and me. He retired in the early 1970s, and we soon discovered that we couldn’t live on his pension. In the meantime, he’d been helping more and more with grocery shopping and cooking. Our shopping sessions at the supermarket sometimes got a little, um, uncomfortable as he challenged my choices of items, based on his criteria.
That said, we came to an agreement: I’d go back to work, and he would handle most of the shopping and cooking. Fantastic! Years later, after I was laid off, everything pointed toward starting my own business. Jack had increasing amounts of medical challenges, and this new way of life gave me flexibility I’d never had when I was an employee of a large company.
In 1990, while thinking about launching a home-based business, I cheerfully realized that—if things went well—I could continue working into my “retirement years.” My business began as a secretarial service, but ended up as an editing and writing service with much of the focus on Web development.
Also in 1990, I discovered I had a rather severe hearing loss. This became a huge issue as I went out to apply for jobs. I felt like a Walking Wrinkle with plugged ears in a world filled with vibrant young people with perfect hearing. After indulging in moments of extreme self pity, I pulled myself together and realized that I had intelligence, experience, motivation, resourcefulness, and ability. What could stop me? Nothing! Watch out, world!
The only way I could get work was to get out in my community and network, and I did this with great enthusiasm for several years. Arising so I could attend 7 A.M. meetings was not my idea of fun, but once I got there I always had a great time, and I loved meeting so many bright, talented people with hope coming out of every pore. In the beginning, all my clients were local.
We converted a bedroom into an office, and as my contacts with the community increased, so did my business. I slowly I moved away from so much networking as I was now needed to serve my clients and my husband. In the midst of all this, the Web came into full bloom, and I jumped into this new culture with both feet. Now there were new and exciting ways to network. And to learn and grow. I began taking online classes to improve my knowledge of the Web. Taking online classes is a way of life for me.
In addition to my business, I was a caregiver for Jack until his death in 2004. We had lots of visitors, and I took time to meet friends for coffee or lunch. I wanted to be productive and resourceful in every area of my life, locally and on the Internet. Easy? Nope. But I hadn’t been raised to expect life to be perfect.
I don’t have a strong concept of retirement; it’s never been that important to me. Would I like to cruise around the world? Live on a houseboat (somewhere where the water is calm and the breezes are tropical)? Travel to New York, London, Paris, Rome, BZ Corner, and Kyoto? Sure. Be able to visit my large and wonderful family and friends with frequency? Absolutely. Will it happen in my lifetime? Time will tell. In the meantime, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
So, who am I? What am I? A little old deaf widow lady with glasses and tinted hair who took care of her elderly, partially crippled, deaf (yes he was, although he wouldn’t admit it—he insisted that people just needed to speak up!) husband? Is it inappropriate to wear tee shirts and jeans and tops with sequins at my age? What about flip flops? Should I be allowed to sit on the floor and play silly games with my grandchildren, nieces, and nephews? Am I a wacky old broad because every once in a while I dance around the room if I’m especially happy? And what about my being a computer geek at my age? And I just remembered: I’m somewhat dyslexic: does that count?
Are all those things who I am, or what I am? Isn’t it okay for me to just be Judy?
What am I suggesting? The world is flat. If you’re in the habit of stereotyping people in any way, consider changing. It might be difficult and won’t happen overnight, but you’ll get a lot more joy out of life. And you’ll sprinkle lots more stardust.