Two years ago, I walked away from my newspaper career because I wanted to live a simpler life.
I was 62, I didn’t know how we would get health insurance, and I was unsure about giving up an identity I’d had for 44 years. I had a bucket list, but didn’t know what it would be like to not have a job. Would I still feel a sense of purpose?
Well, I have no regrets about moving on. In my first year of retirement, I wrote some opinion columns, and looked into starting a news web site, but settled instead on this blog. It’s been a happy marriage of communication and simple living.
Now that I’ve had some time to reflect on my years as a newspaper editor and writer, I’ve realized that there were some aspects of my former career that ran counter to the direction I wanted my life to go. Here are five difficult issues I had to deal with:
1) Cynicism. I was getting more scornfully distrustful of people’s motives, and though some people gave me good reason to feel that way, I didn’t like that quality in myself.
2) Stress. In addition to meeting deadlines, there was pressure to make every fact and quotation accurate. If I made one error or bad decision, that’s all I’d hear about.
3) Privacy. I would often call or approach people I didn’t know, ask them questions and make their answers public. As for myself, I could rarely go out without being defined by my professional role.
4) Depth. I had to become an instant expert when writing about issues. For stories about people, I had to establish instant intimacy and then move on to the next one. It felt like one-night stands.
5) Decline. It was sad to see newspapers steadily lose their impact in the face of reductions in staffing and readership and the explosion of other ways people could get information.
Working on a newspaper was the antithesis of the simple life, having to always be “on,” not knowing what each day would bring, dealing with complaints from partisans, and having to expend adrenalin to meet 10 p.m. deadlines. Every day I’m retired, fewer and fewer people I meet recognize my name, and that’s fine with me.