This week, I started an MSW program, and it will take me a little more than two years to complete the degree. The program has a strong focus on social justice, so it was not surprising to be asked in my class on policy to write about how we see ourselves as agents of change. Here is what I wrote:
Over the past few years, I have thought a good deal about what it means to be an older, twice-divorced woman in a culture that reveres youth, beauty, and coupling, and it has taken considerable effort for me to come to terms with the fact that I am in the autumn of my life. In fact, until a few years ago I believed, as many did and do, that at 67, my current age, I would be let out to pasture (with an occasional trot to Florida). I have had several careers over the course of my life, but for the past 20 years I have been an educator and, as an adjunct, have taught classroom-based and online courses in writing, research, literature, and more at community colleges and universities on the west and east coasts. I have known for some time, though, that I have just about reached the end of my enthusiasm for teaching. I also have thought that I had no more careers left in me. It turns out I do. Having worked for the past two years in mental health, I have come to see that I am as curious and as energetic as I always have been; moreover, in my work with first-episode psychosis clients I have been seen (and have seen myself) as a valued member of a coordinated care team, where I am easily 25 to 30 years older than the majority of the clinicians with whom I work. My age seems a benefit in this setting because I can bring a certain maturity and experience, and, although I have never been made to feel that I am too old or that I don’t belong, I do think my presence has had an impact on the way others view older workers. I also think my 36-year-old daughter will have in me a model for what a “senior” can do and be. Most important, I have changed my own views about who I am and can be, and, by my doggedness, I hope to help others see that life only ends when it ends.