By Eleanor Jaffee
How do you know when to throw in the towel? When is “enough” really “enough”? What are the signs that tell you, “You know, honey/mister, this job/project/course is taking too much out of you”?
On the other hand…a good challenge is hard to discard. A well-honed skill or series of skills may be a treasured part of your repertoire, and if you give that up, then what?
Most of us experienced this internal dialogue when we retired from our paying careers: teacher, engineer, physician, or business person. These occupations were relentlessly full-time—week, month, and year in and out. As a bridging activity after retirement, and perhaps forever after, until the inevitable end of the road, some of us become SGLs who create, plan, revise, and then lead courses for our fellow BOLLI members. I recommend this undertaking, but it can be a real challenge!
I have created and led about ten courses, always building on old knowledge and experience but adding new challenges and new learning along the way. It’s much like adding new wings or extensions to an existing building. In this way, I have taught four different courses about immigration to the U.S., three different courses about aspects of aging, and one course on the history of marriage (co-led) through fiction. And most recently, this one just past: “Resistance and Resilience in Politics and In Life.”
This year, I literally outdid myself. So riled up was I, so upset about our current political morass and its potential for real harm to our country and beyond, that I created a course about politics and the necessity for resilience and resistance in these perilous times. I was satisfied with my goals (although they were perhaps too far-reaching), but keeping up with the daily political changes, mis-steps, crises, and mind-blowing emergencies in daily news coverage was a huge challenge. Between scandalous, heartbreaking and frightening “breaking news,” “fake news,” and tweets, I was constantly updating and revising plans for each class. How much could I include and still make sense of it all? How much of what was going on in Washington and around our country (and the world) could we discuss in one class? My brain was on overload as I read and clipped newspaper and magazine articles and tried to stuff new information into my brain.
If I am giving the impression that I was on overload, that is true. I forgot some important things like hearing aid batteries one day, and on another day, I actually left all my teaching materials at home. Two successive week called for two nervous and hurried trips home to get essential materials that had been forgotten. And then, I rose to the occasion, and the class went well.
The class and I concluded our studies, mutually pleased with our learning and camaraderie. I hope I met my goal of encouraging more informed political activism whether in the form of marches, contacting elected officials, making crucial phone calls, writing letters to the editor, or supporting worthwhile organizations. Our participation is crucial if we are to turn this mess around!
I look forward to a good rest. But during a much needed swim this morning (where I do some of my best and most creative thinking), I swam into a new possibility for a course, one I know something about. “Swan Songs” — Creativity and Resourcefulness in Seniors! Now, let’s see. Where did I leave my towel?
As I grow older, I am more interested in the conditions, changes, services, culture, and even politics affecting me, my husband of 53 years, my friends — and my 104 year old mother. What does it mean to be growing older in today’s society?