Love to hear these inspiring stories!
Ann, your story is inspirational to me and resonates with me because my encore career also involves teaching. Here is the encore story that I submitted for the contest. (reply by Fran Solomon)
After working for 25 years as a government agency environmental scientist, I am now having a wonderful time bringing my work experience and knowledge to the classroom educating current and future environmental scientists and environmentally aware global citizens. My encore career was unexpectedly launched in 2004 when I had an opportunity to teach environmental science at a university in China and discovered that I love teaching. After returning home, I sought other teaching opportunities while continuing employment with a local government agency. The contrast was striking; I felt energized on my teaching days, but stale on my agency days. In 2007, at the age of 62, I resigned from my agency job to focus on teaching. The results have been positive and exciting. I teach courses and give seminars for university students, environmental and health care professionals, and the general public about impacts of pollutants, especially toxic chemicals, on human health and the aquatic environment. I have launched a teaching business called Environmental Teaching International (www.enviroteach.com). Although I am based in Washington State, teaching assignments also take me to Alaska, Canada, and Japan. Additionally, I devote volunteer time to projects for the Washington Toxics Coalition, an environmental nonprofit organization. My encore career is in sync with my core value of making a difference for future generations and combines several of my favorite activities: synthesizing and sharing information, writing, mentoring, and doing new learning myself. I look forward to continuing this rewarding and creative work for many years.
Hi, I'm Anni Webster. We live our lives facing forward, rarely looking back. However we all encounter transitions where we pause to assess the landscape behind - to see patterns and meaning in past experiences. How many Encore careers can one have in a lifetime? As I turn 60, I’m up to four, one per decade, and still counting. I've written about my multiple careers and plans for another encore in the attached doc 'Multiple Encores. You’ll find me at AuthenticWebs.com.
Encore: Twice Blessed
I left behind twenty-nine quiet years as an English Professor—and college football virgin—for a first marriage at age 53, moved from the wilds of West Virginia to Florida, and became a Learning Specialist for Florida State University’s Athletic Department, The FSU of Bobby Bowden’s National Champion Seminole teams. Instead of grading 750+ papers a semester (watch football?) and reading famous authors, I worked with outstanding but stressed-out football and basketball players—in the glare of Alum Lee Corso’s College GameDay* telecasts—and shared my husband’s whirlwind life of a fundraiser for FSU. As Mentor of the Men’s Basketball Team, I travelled with the players, holding study hall and keeping them up to speed on all assignments. I learned fans and donors love to eat—almost as much as athletes.
Five years later, after four National Football Championship Bowl Games, including the 1999 win over Virginia Tech, and a trip to Alaska with the Men’s Basketball team, we moved to Virginia to work for Virginia Tech! I was Assistant Director of the Honors Program; my husband raised funds for the Hokies—more events, more football, and more food! Tech’s academic Uberstars, hotly pursuing Marshall and Rhodes Scholarships, thought nothing of having three majors and carrying 35+hours a semester. Elite athletes and scholars keep a lady busy.
After moving to Charleston, SC, I decided to follow my heart again and write. Now in Northern Kentucky, I wonder how I ever stayed put for 29 years.
*ESPN’s official spelling
Ginny Shephard, 2011
Here's my encore story. I've submitted it to encore.org and look forward to hearing from others.
I’m way past mid-life, (unless I’m going to live to be 140 years old), but I have an encore career. I started my work life as a professional dancer, left that to have children, and to get a “day job” that paid better. While my three children were small, I attended college, and eventually got the three degrees required for my academic social work career. I’ve always found ways to keep dancing; as a member of a dance company performing in churches and synagogues, as a movement therapist for mental health patients, even ballroom dancing with my cooperative, “encore” husband.
Retirement came before I wished it when my adult daughter’s breast cancer treatments failed. I became her caregiver as she pursued heroic efforts to obtain a longer life. After her death, and remembering her younger brother’s battle with AIDS, I learned to write a creative non-fiction mother’s memoir.
As a young woman, I sought out wise elder women role models and imagined someday I’d be one of them. I pictured knowing stuff that would be helpful to younger people, and offering it to them. The reality? One must become a savvy user of 21st century technologies to offer gifts to the world these days, so that’s been my focus for the past year.
But my encore career involves play. I teach an improvisational system, InterPlay, based in dance and direct a performance troupe of other “encorers.” We play to address noble purposes in our community and to stay forever young.
It’s 5:45am. I stand, barefoot, in my walk-in closet, light on, door shut tight, not wanting to wake my husband, trying to get dressed. I have nothing to wear… or so it seems. None of my clothes work anymore.
This has been going on for the past three weeks, ever since I began teaching. I try on outfit after outfit. One thing goes on, just as quickly comes off and goes right into the give-away pile. Like layers of an onion, there’s almost nothing left and still I give more away. I can’t seem to strike the right note with the clothes I own.
And I own lots of clothes. Plenty of corporate suits and blouses. Beautiful stuff. Paid a fortune for them when I was earning a fortune. Lots of dressy outfits, too, for the endless weddings, christenings and confirmations of my husband’s large Italian family and for the galas we attended when my youngest was at the Italian school. Jeans and heavy cargo pants for sculpture in my studio. Shorts and gauzy skirts for hot, summer days. But very little that seems to me to be ‘teacher clothes’.
I feel like a snake who's shed its skin before the new one’s had a chance to grow. Feeling raw, exposed, vulnerable, I stand there deliberating as the minutes tick by. My old clothes shout, “Choose me! Pick me!” and I grab at anything, knowing that what I'm putting on are not ‘teacher clothes’ but with a need to put on something so I can leave the house and go… to my new job, where the children are waiting and shouting and excited, and care only that I’m Ms. Miller, the Art Teacher, and could care less about what I’m wearing today.
I am afraid of my sewing machine. There, I’ve said it. It wouldn’t matter except my fear derails me as I zip along toward reinvention. In my dream identity, I am a rogue clothing designer, offering slices of delicious escape to women weary of conforming.
It’s farfetched when you consider that I have zero background in fashion. In the last decade I had settled into writing about abstract concepts—leadership, mentorship, gender equity. Every job was a step off a cliff. I’d had no practice as a reporter, speechwriter, desktop publisher or ballroom dance instructor before becoming one. Fear never derailed me.
My secret weapon against this new fear? A pair of rose-tinted glasses. Without them, how else could I stitch away at a frock to free it from its frumpy beginnings? How could I justify creating "art" that won't feed hungry children? How could I have passion about teaching people to uncoil inner springs?
I would be irrelevant to myself without my rose-tinted lenses. With them, I can bear the garden's barrenness in winter, the shrunken pocketbook in lean times, the thickened waist in midlife.
I can choose what to explore, never mind if the point isn't apparent, if the checks aren't in the mail, if the blog comments are withheld. I can stop constantly seeking the counsel of others, and see in myself all the expertise I need for the task I've chosen for myself. And in this, I am no longer irrelevant, no longer fearful.