It’s only the closing of a discotheque*

I applied for a job today, as a clinical social worker at the large children’s hospital around the corner, the one that lands helicopters 50 yards from our balcony. I didn’t apply in person and the online form was mercifully short and to the point so it wasn’t an option to go on endlessly about my life achievements. I didn’t even have to put in dates- just list some education and work history.

Then I moped around reading a sordid little novel, The Ice Harvest, for a fews hours while waiting to pass away of boredom. The cat, sleeping in her bed 20 hours a day, is leading a more interesting life and I’m sure she isn’t pommeling herself with guilt as she dozes. After I finished that book I considered how miserable I might be if I do go back to work full time and then considered how miserable I’ll be when no one ever calls me about my application.

I decided to get out my resume, or curriculae vitae or whatever one calls it and spruce it up. That has cast me further still into a sea of despair. Frankly, if that resume came across my desk I would think, "Impressive. And what year did you say this person died?" It’s laughable really. I trained with T. Berry Brazelton and Selma Fraiberg but at this point in time, that’s like saying I trained with Sigmund Freud. I’m that old.

The thing is, a year ago, as a fifty-five year old kinda youthful psychotherapist, I was busy and productive, helping people. Thirty times a week, on average, someone came through my office door and we sat down to tackle their psychic aches and pains, often quite successfully. Adolescents and children and adults of all ages and none of them acted as though they were seeing a demented and distracted geriatric has been. If they thought it, they politely kept it to themselves and continued coming. I had a waiting list.

What’s clear to me now is that, towards the end of a career, a person would be well advised to just hunker down until they are really and truly done with their work life because starting over is not attractive. In fact, it’s downright harsh.

I remember being absolutely delighted that both of my children had the same bright and sparkly first grade teacher who was well into her fifties. She had all the very best attributes of experience, knowledge and dedication; she retained enough energy and yet she was pleasantly calm and mellowed and because she had seen it all, my children’s issues were normalized, brought down to size and made manageable. But now, imagine that same matronly woman walking into the board of education front office, presenting herself for a new position. She’s not all that  exciting or innovative to look at. You see what I mean here?

My father was a very successful young business man in the world of marketing and promotions when he started at Ford Tractor in the late 40s. From there he went on to his own marketing agency and his professional life flourished. In the 70’s, when he was in his fifties, the bottom fell out of the economy in Oklahoma and advertising agencies went under daily. His did and in the end, because advertising was a young man’s profession, he worked at a convenience store/gas station. He did it mostly because he couldn’t stand to be idle. I think about that and I feel some significant shame that I’d prefer to sit around and read, knit and garden than go to work doing something that feels beneath me.

I do believe that volunteer effort is a profound force in this country and I would be hard pressed to give up the volunteer work I do now and if I work full time, well, that’s a problem. So is going to Florida. In fact, the likely solution to this midlife crisis (ha! who am I kidding? I would have to live to be 110 and have my face on a jelly jar for this to be midlife.) is to step up my volunteer efforts. St. Vincent de Paul Society world headquarters is also right around the corner and they have numerous outreach programs involving very young children and their parents as well as a large outreach program for the homeless. So I could go over there tomorrow and see what’s up. There’s still the problem of the obsolete resume. And the fluid retention.
Here are some pictures of a small courtyard renovation I did by myself, for what it’s worth. Well, I had the nice immigrants put the stone in, but I did the design and planting and lights and fountain and power washing…It takes exactly 7 minutes to weed and fertilize and deadhead the entire thing. It’s too tidy for my taste but small space eliminates the possibility of a rambly cottage garden. I did manage to incorporate the bleeding heart salvaged from my grandmother’s garden over three decades ago, plus the tulips my sister gave me last year and that big rock is a piece of marble we moved that marked the grave of a most favored cat, Velcro. Sophie likes the fresh dirt. Still, with all modesty, I’ll suggest that it looks as good as the 20,000. courtyard renovation the neighbor had done recently. People here in Chicago have a lot of money and hire a lot of stuff done while they go work at productive professional careers. Dammit.Courtyardmess_3





*It’s not the ending of the world
It’s only the closing of a discotheque
I used to go three times a week
But that was a long long time ago
Yeah, that was a long long time ago

And that roaring that you hear
Is only the blood that circles constantly
No it is not applause my dear
No, that was a long long time ago
That was a long long time ago

Ooh, oh ooh

In between stations I can hear
A million possibilities
It’s only the singing of the stars
That burned out a long long time ago
They burned out a long long time ago   (David Byrne)

28 responses to “It’s only the closing of a discotheque*

  1. Ok, so I emailed you a convoluted preachy bit that will surely put me to shame. Heh, that’s why I emailed it.

    However, what I will say in public is that I adore you.

    And the re-do of your garden space is inspiring. Really!

  2. You need to update your resume and go with it in person to let them see what a vibrant, young 55 you are. If they have any smarts at all, they’ll grab you in a minute!!! I love your patio. You are truly an artist…why don’t you join up with Larry down here and transform yards in Florida…even though it gets might hot in the summer. But then again, it gets hot in Chicago too.

    The only thing about working full-time is that it does hinder doing what you want to do when you want to do it. I retired at 57, and I think I really needed to, because at that age I was no longer the vibrant, creative teacher that your children’s 55 year old teacher was. Besides that, they offered an early package to us fossils who were costing the school board too much money. They were able to replace us with two new teachers for the price. I’m not sorry I retired when I did, but I’ve had plenty to keep me busy.

    You are young. You are vibrant. Go tell them so.

  3. You sound like you’re in a rut. I think you should fly to Africa and pay a surprise visit to your daughter. Come riding in on one of those elephants over there. The look on her face alone would be worth the trip.

  4. I need to redo my indoor AND outdoor space, as well as my attitude some days! I think giving up one’s profession(or calling as it were) would be one of the most difficult things imaginable, and would require LOTS of adjustment. You will figure it out, Vicki. Even a non-professional like me can see that you have been through a devastating year, full of changes, tragedies, stress and moves–both in a physical and emotional sense. Much as I complain about my job and don’t want to do it much longer(HA), I would be set adrift if I suddenly didn’t have it. Plus, my girls are growing up and I have to rediscover myself, whoever that is.

  5. I think you have finally fallen in the pit of despair that I fell into three years ago… except I don’t have a gainfully employed husband. I get nauseous looking at my CV, still. You must pull out of this… how can we get out together! Sigh!

  6. I used to think the invisibility of middle aged women was a myth, until I became one. I can’t change the world, so I’ve made it my latest mission to figure out how to turn invisibility to my advantage. I’ll let you know if I succeed.

    The thing about tough years (I don’t know the details of yours, but I know what one feels like) is that they aren’t over when they are over. You know that intellectually and professionally, but you may not have internalized it yet. Don’t make any rash decisions; jobs you can quit, but tattoos are painful to remove.

  7. I forgot to mention that I love your courtyard… a peaceful place to regroup no doubt!

  8. Such a soothing and inviting space! You could be a landscape architect, you know.

    I am no bleeding heart where this age and vocation business is concerned. What difference does your age and time of your training and experience make? I became a professional cellist at 19, a wife at 21, a mother and home educator at 25 and continued re-becoming a mother 10 more times until I had my last baby at 45. I became an orchestra conductor at 47, a chamber ensemble director at 50, an art history, music history and yoga teacher at 51, a grandmother at 52, and, Lord willing, ON JUNE 29 I WILL BE A 52 YEAR OLD 200 HOUR CERTIFIED YOGA INSTRUCTOR!!!

    And now, I need to cool down and hold Savasana in a lovely court yard somewhere…

  9. Your new courtyard is fabulous. You are quite the talented designer.

    I know how you feel. I turn age 52 in a couple of weeks and haven’t officially worked full time in about 9 years. I am studying grant writing and fancy doing that full time, preferrably out of my own home office. Yet, I hesitate on the committment of full time work after all this time. You think your resume looks dated…

    I go back and forth. My son will be a senior in high school this upcoming year so I’m thinking I’ll put the decision off another year till he’s off to college. I’ve always done volunteer work and I rely on that to fight off the boredom.

  10. I can’t believe that your incredible wealth of experience and expertise is not desperately needed and wanted, but I also hear your frustration at the idea of proving yourself again in your field, as well as your reluctance to give up the flexibility of not being tied down to a fulltime job. Damn, that was a long sentence. But heartfelt, every word.

    Oh, and the courtyard is beautiful. And so are you. Inside and out.

  11. You are a woman of so many talents. Look at that patio space. It’s absolutely beautiful. You have vision, Vicki. Everything you do is done with passion, compassion, art, and soul. There are a zillion things you could be doing. The real work is finding which direction to head in. The rest will be a piece of cake. You know you totally knock me out. And really age is such bullsh*t. I’m 55, I know.

  12. If they are anything but 20-something dolts, they will jump at the chance to have anything to do with you! Go see them!

    I love your courtyard. It puts my yard and deck to shame and I’ve had 25 years to groom it.

    If you ever really do want to work again, take what you can get now. I am 66, and although I am very active and somewhat youthful-acting than most, I know that some people (young brides) do not trust in my ability to deliver what is promised, due to my age. Now that I have turned gray – it is even worse than it was. I want to slow down some, but I am being forced to slow down faster than I prefer – or need to. It’s a shame.

  13. I feel your career despair acutely. It makes breathing a little more difficult. I’m starting to wrack my brain for possibilities. Of course, I think you should resume private practice, and put out your shingle. OR become a consultant! Doesn’t everyone want to be a consultant? Or a writer? You can see I have a one-track mind.

    Can’t wait to see you in July. Please don’t go to Africa or anywhere else until after the fourth of July, okay?

  14. Two more things:

    “It is necessary to write, if the days are not to slip emptily by. How else, indeed, to clap the net over the butterfly of the moment? For the moment passes, it is forgotten; the mood is gone; life itself is gone. That is where the writer scores over his fellows: he catches the changes of his mind on the hop.” ~Vita Sackville-West


  15. OMG, Vicki, you must click on the link Jen sent. And make sure you test drive the product!

  16. Reading this truly hit the nail I’ve been holding….my thumb too. I have been threatening for a few years to get a job at the University in the Arts and Sciences Advising department. College advising is NOT what it was when I was in school, so many years ago to make me a similarly middle aged person. (What brand of jelly jar are you describing???) Call me nerdy, but I really love the computerised registration now (as opposed to standing in ridiculous lines to get a punch card) and find creating a well-spaced schedule quite exciting. Plus my opinion of the advising my daughter received is LOW! They need better!

    Maybe call me something less complimentary than nerdy?

    ANYWAY, checking the university employment pages as I often do, I found a posting for a full time, reasonably well paid, advising position. But if you want to see a dated, odd and basically useless resume, see mine! I’ve more than the requisite undergraduate degree – a masters and a half from this same university (though from the dark ages), but my work has been, well, off the grid of normal.

    How do I turn “I’ve been wary of all occupations requiring new clothes” into “I’m cool, quick to learn, enthusiastic, reliable and prompt, if underdressed” plus all those years of “self employment/caretaking/bossing everyone in sight” into “relevant job experience”. Plus, I don’t really want to and can’t work full time. How do I convince the department to hire me for two days a week??? Now where’s my book and my porch chair.

    Vicki, this garden is beautiful too. You have a special talent for creating calm in the midst of chaos.

  17. Vicki and I both have decades old graduate educations in psych related fields. Both of us covered aging in our classes and probably said “Yeah, uh huh, ok, so?” as we read.

    Being the gainfully employed husband, I spent all three days of the Memorial Day weekend very intentionally NOT working or thinking about work. Vicki and I didn’t have a very full dance card for the weekend either. It was great to have the time together. But I have to tell you, by the end of the third day I was very ready to go back to work. Only by spending three days without “having” to do anything could I begin to appreciate what every day must be like for her when she is left with all the crap work necessary to continue the transition from a life in Michigan to a new life in Chicago and Florida. I really found myself literally saying to myself “so this is what she is feeling…”

    I have NEVER met anyone with as many gifts and as much life and love flowing through those gifts as my wife Vicki.

    The kids…
    Her couseling practice…
    Converting “real estate” into incredible homes…
    Animals of all kinds…

    She would be “All Star” and mentor and first in class and master and more in all of these categories. She excels in them all and could “go pro” in any one of them.

    Reading the comments to her blog always reminds me how she captures the feelings of things and brings context to issues for all kinds of people. My most constant encouragement to her is to write the book – any book. I bet many would read, but the numbers don’t matter. Each individual who read would be changed for the reading.

    I want to believe that the process of her living this experience in her life – this common transition most will go through – converts our outdated book learning from decades ago into a muse for her future.

    I just wish I could figure out more to do to help make this a less painful experience. I am thankful to you for your comments to her – the empathy. I think you know how meaningful it is to her.


  18. I hope you woke up feeling better this morning, Vicki. Here’s a funny that’s somewhat related to your profession to lighten things up…


    A husband and wife were at a party chatting with some friends when the subject of marriage counseling came up. “Oh, we’ll never need that. My husband and I have a great relationship,” the wife explained. “He was a communications major in college and I majored in theater arts. He communicates extremely well and I just act like I’m listening.”

  19. Wow, what a wonderful comment from Rich.

  20. Your sweet husband has me in tears, Vicki. You are so talented and blessed. I admire you more than I could ever say. You’ll find your niche again soon but in the meantime go jump on that husband of yours and feel better.

    And the Africa idea is grand as well. Do them both.

  21. I understand the feeling of being at loose ends. After 12 years of being (mostly) a SAHM, I’m really itching to get out there, but I still have kids, and a number of other circumstances that severely limit my options. I find it really easy to slip into apathy and do a lot of Nothing. What I really, really admire about you, Vicki, is – those gardens! The house-spiffing, the courtyard, the photos, the writing, the… the everything you do with all this “free” time you have. I wish I had half your energy.

  22. What a beautiful courtyard. Good job, Miss Vicki.

    If you weren’t feeling a little out of sorts after the year you’ve had and the constant zipping about, you probably would not be human.
    (I’m feeling really inadequate giving a pep talk to an experienced professional) … especially after your husbands heartfelt message which tops all the above comments, even tho they are very kind and heartfelt too.

    (Grasping at straws … trying to think of something uplifting …)


    It’s raining on your coontie seeds down at the bungalow.

    There, don’t you feel better now?

    I should get one of those shingle thingies and hang it.


  23. Methinks our Vicki has been baking lots of soft, warm, molasses cookies for FG recently.

  24. Let’s see, I’m calculating. How old is my Mom now?

    Anyway, in her late 50s, after my mom died, she stpped being President of an NGO, got her resume tidied up, and got an endowed chair at a small college. Yes, she felt old when she was interviewing for jobs. And yes, there were lots of jobs she was turned down for, perhaps for age discrimination. But, she got a good job, and they are damn lucky to have her and know it.

    I’m almost 40 and really truly I’ve been a student just about all my life. Yes, I’ve worked many jobs, but mostly while still a student. You are way ahead ahead me.

  25. I tried to post this yesterday, but it wouldn’t let me! As someone affilated with several non profits, please, please please volunteer. We need someone with your experience and dedication, wisdom and insight to help us make our little corner of the world better. We will take you for however many months you are willing to give and will feel blessed and grateful for it.

  26. Your patio garden is very Chicago meets Italy.
    Chicago dates Italy. Chicago and Italy decide to be just friends. Years later Chicago and Italy move in next to each other and share one car because who can afford the insurance anymore? It runs on biodiesel.

    Here’s your volunteer opportunity of the day:

  27. Sorry, I’m late, Vicki. Since 2002, I’ve been questioning my worth in the workforce. With the two moves, I had to venture out there, feeling incredibly talented but overlooked in return. Now I’m working full-time in an unsatisfying job. I guess it’s better than nothing…I’ve been contemplating a huge decision lately. Quit and go part-time. I’m done with this office crap. I want to pot plants in a nursery somewhere.

    What you are feeling is just so true!

    After looking at that courtyard restoration you did, I think you should contract yourself out to help people like me who can’t make decisions in decorating. You’d have fun and makes lots of money, honey.

  28. The courtyard is spectacular – I bet reading & knitting there, with the sun filtering in will be very restorative.
    As for your resume (from she who crabs about her job weekly) I would feel blessed if someone with your experience & credentials walked through my clinics door (not that I work in a clinic – I’m actually sending someone to said clinic…I’m sure you understand). As a person arranging care – finding a trustworthy, experienced, warm, professional is something I can’t put into words…..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s