Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Year - New Life by Alison Henderson

This month, I’m thrilled (and terrified) to announce the biggest change in my life in the past eighteen years.  At the end of December, I left  the job I’ve held for sixteen-and-a-half years and the world of insurance that’s been my professional home since 1976.  I hadn’t planned to retire for several years, but that’s life.  Things change and we have to adjust our plans accordingly.

The writing appeared on the wall six months ago.  My company underwent a reorganization that involved dismantling my job, removing every duty I found rewarding and piling on a mountain of tasks that sucked any pleasure out of going to work.  In the first four months I lost twenty pounds, at least a third of my hair, and hundreds of hours of sleep.  

I could (and possibly should) have left immediately, but I’m stubborn and wanted to leave in my own time and on my own terms.  I needed time to think about my future.  I’m a planner by nature, and I knew I’d feel better about my decision if I had a plan.  I also needed time to heal.  I can’t explain it, and most of my family doesn’t understand, but I wanted to conquer my anger before leaving.  I wanted to start my new life enthusiastic and energized, not damaged and drained.

Many (most?) writers would look on this situation as a gift—the opportunity to write full time.  But I’m not that kind of writer.  My creative well isn’t deep enough to write all day, every day.  I need more variety and time to allow it to refill.  I did some research and stumbled across the concept of the “portfolio career”, a career made up of several part-time jobs, and knew I’d found my answer. My next career would be as a slasher (as in job/job/job).

Because I wanted my new life to revolve around writing and books, the pieces fell into place naturally.  I definitely plan to continue my own writing.  I’ve never been able to give that up for long even in the face of distractions or rejections.  But I also want to try my hand at a couple of new endeavors.

Many writers would think I’m crazy, but I love editing.  That’s the way my brain is wired.  Errors in printed material make me crazy; my fingers itch to correct them.  I’ve worked with two professional editors on my three published books, and I’ve edited several pieces for other writers.  I love the process and know how hard it can be to edit your own work.  In this day when so many authors are turning to indie publishing, I’d love to help them produce a professional product they can be proud of.

I’m also intrigued and inspired by the process of cover design.  I majored in art history in college, so I’ve been trained to evaluate and critique visual images, but I can’t even draw a convincing stick figure.  Fortunately, modern software eliminates that problem, allowing even the graphically challenged to create gorgeous book cover designs.  I’m learning the ins and outs of Photoshop and loving the results.  After decades of developing a high level of expertise in one area, it’s so much fun to learn something new!  

And if that weren’t enough, I’ve also launched a new blog entitled The Second Half at where I’ll be chronicling my journey and encouraging other displaced “fiftysomethings” to reach out, explore, and discover creative new lives.

Wish me luck!


Margo Hoornstra said...


A similar situation happened to me ten years ago. Like you, I suffered for awhile then decided to accept my gift. And it's been great! Onward!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Great post, Alison. Thanks for sharing.

Jannine Gallant said...

Does NOT sound like a fun weight loss program! Wow, I wish you the best. And you aren't alone in your quirks. I, too, have those itchy editing fingers. I think a lot of writers do. Hmm, another potential cover designer on the horizon. Good news for those of us considering an indie venture.

Alison Henderson said...

Hi, Margo. Even after only one week, I think I'm going to end up agreeing with you about this turning out to be a wonderful gift if I handle it right.

Alison Henderson said...

Brenda, you're my inspiration for charging into into a new life with humor and energy. I've really enjoyed your updates on life at Tortuga Flats Farm.

Alison Henderson said...

Jannine, I'd love to collaborate on some projects this year. My services will be very reasonable to friends (i.e. free).

rozdennyfox said...

Alison, Your work situation seems to be more the norm today, sad to say. But it's great you recognize that you have many talents and that while you closed a door, you will open another. Good luck on all of your endeavors, including writing.

Mary Strand said...

Good luck, Alison! Sounds like this will be a good move for you!

Alison Henderson said...

Roz, you're right about the work situation. That's why I started the new blog hoping to connect with others in the same boat.

Alison Henderson said...

Thanks, Mary. I'm actually pretty stoked about it.

Nan Dixon said...

Good luck, Allison!

I've experienced a few upheavals in my prior life in the business world. I am so happy they happened and now I can write full time. (I do miss the people.)

Good luck on your new journey.

Christine DePetrillo said...

Good luck, Alison! Onto a brave new world!

Unknown said...

Brave and courageous! You're gonna do great!

Barbara Edwards said...

Congratulations on turning lemons to lemonade.

J L said...

When I was laid off in 2003, I decided to rethink what I might do with my time. Like you, I couldn't spend all my time writing, so I spent part of the "free" time job hunting, part of it writing, and part of it investigating other options.

As it turned out, I found a great job in 6 months (where I am today), but I think that lay-off helped prepare me for retirement, whenever that may be. I'm sure I'll do something like you're doing except I'll probably not focus so much on the writing side since I'll probably still be writing as much as I am now (3 or 4 books a year).

But I can see myself working at a casino, or volunteering for a humane group, or doing newsletters for charities or ... I'm keeping a list of what I may want to do when that time comes.

I completely understand your need to leave the old life on a positive note in order to start the new life correctly. Sounds like you're on the right path. Good luck and when your new business ventures are up & going, keep us posted!