I learned a new term this week—encore career.It's the current buzz word for retired adults who begin a career or plunge into a new passion.Some do this in addition to pursuing hobbies like golf or bridge or taking classes to keep their minds sharp. Others eschew the traditional retirement activities to enjoy a different career.The term was popularized by Marc Freedman who is now CEO of Encore.org, an organization he founded to spread his message.
I realized I have an encore career. Last week I agreed to a new job and a new volunteering opportunity and turned down two jobs. In addition I will still enjoy my two other part-time teaching positions. I still love promoting Jewish Luck and soon I'll launch a new website (www.tastingtorah.com) --thanks to our peerless webmasters at LiteSites-- that will feature Ta'am Torah, Tasting Torah.
Thursday night when I listened to Hillary Clinton speak about her career in public service and thought about her education at Wellesley* and Yale Law, I realized she's a 68 year-old doing what so many of my friends are doing.She has an encore career, too, although it's the highest profile job one could seek.Like my friends, she's amassed life lessons and skills.She's had successes and failures. She's demonstrated courage in the face of blistering attacks by the press and political foes.
Some of us were stymied by discriminatory practices when we entered the job market in the 1970s and we hit glass ceilings.Some of us pushed ahead and achieved beyond our professional aspirations.Most of my women friends found a way to make a difference in life in an unobtrusive way. Like me many were teachers, some worked in medical fields, some were attorneys, some worked in the arts.In addition to providing income, work added meaning to our lives. We had our frustrations as well—mostly with supervisors, bureaucracies, and the twenty-four hour time limit on the day.
As I survey many of my 65+ year-old women friends, I sense an excitement about the opportunities that present themselves.All the life lessons, the disappointments and the joys, the skills we learned in thrall to our profession can be deployed however we choose. There is a sort of alchemy that turns dross turns into gold. Passion for new challenges energizes us. Among my women friends are human rights activists, poets, executives at non-profits, life coaches, writers, and even a dressage judge.
A few days after Hillary Clinton's nomination I began to think about how hard it is to be the "first woman."She surely faced obstacles in law school in the 1970s but it's nothing like the public screeching aimed at her from the time she became first lady and decided not to just bake cookies. I remembered that I had a chance to be a "first woman" as well when I was part of Yale's first class of 250 freshman women.At first it seemed like great fun—there were photographers interviewing us and we felt like celebrities on campus. Although most of my female classmates made it to graduation, I couldn't endure being a "first."I didn't have the fortitude to withstand the withering attacks from professors who felt Yale was no place for a woman, the harassing computer notes from a fellow student, the disdain from some of the Yale men, and even the lack of women's bathrooms in the classroom buildings. I learned a new word at Yale, too—misogyny. Although I could manage the academics and I did find male students and professors who were supportive, I left Yale after the first year for a place where I felt I could really belong and not be a "first"—Hebrew University.
So to Hillary from many of us age mates—You go, girl! Stand strong and proud like you did on Thursday night .Ignore the shrillness and silliness of attack politics. All the disappointments and failures are as important to your encore performance as your past successes.Yours is the ultimate encore career.
*Note from Leslie: I suggested that now that a Wellesley alumnus is running, it might be a good time to mention our three generations of Wellesley alums - our Mom, Renee Katz Levine (Class of '50), Leslie Levine Adler (Class of '77), and Meryll's daughter (Class of '02). Non Ministrari sed Ministrare! Meryll also found this motto, which I never learned, and translates as "Not be be served, but to serve." I could interpret this as a totally anti-feminist idea of serving at a Shabbat kiddush or high tea, but I trust that the founders meant serving in a much broader way such as changing our communities and being President of the United States.