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New Hustles, New Muscles

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

I had acquired the credentials I needed to become a high school English teacher and then an administrator. Each year I worked to implement a new Comprehensive Educational plan and before I knew it thirty-two years had gone by. I looked back over the years with satisfaction.

Muscles for the hustle: Arthur Ashe monument at Corona Park, NYC (Photographer, MJM).

I had served with distinction in one venue but that journey had concluded. My children had finished college and had gone on to starting their own families. I still have twenty-four healthy hours in my day with a drive to continue learning, producing, and sharing. That's when I realized there was one area of interest I had never fully explored.

For years, I kept a journal, sometimes I wrote poems, sometimes I wrote notes from sermons, sometimes I just wrote about my thoughts. I came across Nanowrimo, an online digital community which challenged me to write a novel of 50,000 words in one month. I had no idea if I could do it or what I would write about. Nonetheless, I accepted the challenge. Ever since, writing in retirement, has been my passion.

Although I may qualify for AARP membership and retirement, I still had the desire, as AARPs founder, Ethel Percy Andrus, put it, “to continue planning and striving hopefully, to keep working at something worthwhile.” Writing was my "worthwhile" something.

Trekking through new territory, East Rock Park, Conn. (Photographer, MJM).

Writing inspired me to change lanes after retirement and to pivot into something just as meaningful.

One day, I walked into a Barnes and Noble store on Eighty-Sixth Street near Lexington Avenue

in Manhattan (now closed), and had this overwhelming feeling that what I was embarking on

was impossible. What difference would I make? I knew which types of stories seemed to get the most traction. Where did I want to fit in?

Should I try . . . could my book... grace these shelves? (Photographer, MJM).

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie came out that year. I loved the book, but could my writing rise to that level? I loved Malcolm Gladwell’s The Outliers. His 10,000-hours-to-mastery rule has been debated ever since. These writers were giants in the field. Not that I wanted to slay them. I really didn’t even want to stand beside them. Their greatness made me wonder. Could I?

Should I even try?

Waters of self- doubt or reflections of purpose?

Remember how only twelve representatives went to inspect the promised land? Ten saw giants capable of destroying them. They said they felt like grasshoppers. Caleb and Joshua saw the same so-called giants, but said “If the Lord is pleased with us, he will bring us into the land and deliver it to us” (Numbers 14:8 CEB). The ten who couldn’t see the vision could not inherit the

provision. Then there was Peter. Jesus told him to “Come.” In order to get there, Peter had to

walk on water. Well, he was doing okay until he started looking around and realized the wind

picked up. Fear came upon him. At that point, he started to sink.

I was sinking, too––before I even put one foot in the water. But God kept getting me up each morning, and I kept finding that physical, mental and spiritual space to write. You’ve been writing poems for years and church plays too. For at least ten Writing Challenge entries , Faithwriter’s, another online community, indicated there was something there. When Nanowrimo issued their challenged you reached 20,000 words. Those reminders pushed me onward until I had enough material for three books.

Shifting into writing taught me something about changing lanes. I only had to remember how I approached my first calling and access some of the same muscles: planning and persistence.

A little maneuvering is needed to shift lanes.

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