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Retirement Plan

Friday, August 25, 2006

I did something that made me feel really grown-up today . . . I filled out all the paperwork to roll over my pension from my previous job into the retirement plan at my new job. There were a few questions I didn’t quite understand until I compared the letter of explanation of my pension from old job with the questions on the form for the new job plan, but upon signing the forms, I had a very nice feeling of maturity and stability.

But filling them out made me start thinking a lot about the future, which I don’t like to do a lot because from where I sit now, still single at age 35 with no marital prospects on the horizon, living in a rental house, having just started what is basically an entry-level job on my chosen career path in the publishing industry, and with a decade or more of student loan payments about to begin, the future is a little bit scary and a good bit daunting. I prefer to think in shorter terms—jury duty next week, ACFW conference next month, trip to England next summer.

When I was 25, I could no more imagine what I would be doing at 35 than I could imagine being a cabbage farmer on the third moon of Jupiter. I did have a goal set that I would be finished with school and starting my “real” career by this time—which I accomplished. But that was just a “goal” for some amorphous, distant future. Now at 35, I cannot conceive of what I will be doing when I turn 45. I would like to be well advanced in my career, an editor at a larger publishing house than where I currently work, teaching creative writing as an adjunct, and traveling to writing conferences representing my house and teaching seminars. Of course, when I was 25 and had just started working at the newspaper, I had no idea I would still be working there until three weeks before I turned 35. How many places will I work in the next ten years? I like stability, but I also do have goals (dare I call them ambitions?) for where I want my career to go. Hopefully, I will be able to fulfill most of those goals here at Ideals/Guideposts. And who knows, with the expansion of several lines here, including the fiction line through Guideposts, in ten years, this may be the “larger” publishing house for which I’d like to be working. I hope so.

Although my career plans are a large part of my goal for the future, the major goal for me is being published. Up until five years ago, I never dreamed of submitting anything I wrote, even to contests. I didn’t want anyone reading my stuff. It was mine. Private. Personal. Of course, up until that point in time, much of what I’d written had been more writing therapy, so it was too emotional to share. Since my initial foray into letting people (my mom and grandmother for starters) read my writing, I’ve discovered that I love writing stories that other people like to read. I am energized by positive feedback. Whenever someone tells me that they really like my story and can’t wait to read more, it makes me want to keep writing, to keep improving my writing, so that I can continue pleasing them. Yes, I do know that I won’t always be able to please everyone, and I know not everyone will like my writing or stories.

But in addition to writing stories people like to read, I’ve started taking a more pragmatic view of it, especially now that I have a couple of paid freelance assignments under my belt. As I stare in the face of financial commitments that will stretch thin the salary I make, being published has the added advantage of advances and royalties. I am not someone who will write only if it’s going to be published. At least not right now. I write my novels because I love the characters and the stories. Of course, if I do end up selling the two series I’m currently working on, I may not have as much of an opportunity to write something just because I love it. I may have to write stories I’m not quite as interested in because of contractual obligations. But I hope I never lose my love of just writing stories.

As I think about my eventual retirement, I hope that by that time, be it thirty or forty or fifty years from now, not only will I have met and exceeded my goals, but will be able to continue to add to my “retirement savings” by continuing to set and meet goals—writing, teaching, editing—and be able to look back and know that I remained true to the goals I set with God’s guidance by not focusing so much on the future, but by focusing on what I can do each day to make my future happen.

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