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I love journalism and believe in it deeply. But it also saved me from doing the things I didn’t want to do, and it stopped me having to think about what I was, if not a journalist. Journalism gave me joy, and purpose, and it makes a difference in the world. But it also filled my time.
Now, time looms. Some days, the tired ones, I imagine I will use that time to rest, to reflect. Time will be a hammock, and I will allow my very spine to sink into its kind support. Other days, I look at the plans my husband and I had to travel in retirement, now eliminated by COVID-19, and time feels like a loose, drawstring bag.
What if I reach inside, and there is nothing? And then I die?
Here’s what work does for me. It gives structure and rhythm to the day. When my fingers fly over the keyboard, I am myself, alight; it is a physical and vibrant sensation. Being curious, asking questions, fires my brain, and I love the sense of possibility it brings.
So why not stay, you might ask, keep working? I am only 61. It’s partly because COVID-19 has taken away all the fun stories in the arts and culture community, and I don’t know when they will return. My back and legs and hips ache from sitting too long in my chair, for too many years. All my friends in the business have left.
These days, what I enjoy, what gives me comfort and joy and sustenance, is spending time with my husband. This morning, we looked out the front window and watched a spray of gossamer bugs, their frisky movement illuminated by the sunlight. I liked that.
It is, quite simply, time to leave the newspaper.
There is it again, that word. Time. I hesitated to write this column because I don’t have an answer for the hard questions, and journalists like answers. Who am I, what will I do? Closing my eyes, I smell the newspaper, and my stomach hurts.
But also, there is another feeling rising in my body when I think of leaving. It begins above that cramp in my belly, somewhere deep beneath my sternum. It swells upward, like the beginning of tears, but different.
I take a breath. I am buoyant.