One Patient's Positive Perspectives

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Stress & lupus are unfriendly companions

With lupus, it is clear that health issues could shorten the years that I can continue working in the demanding legal profession.  There is no question that handling stress is part of my job description as the legal manager of government law department!  However, stress and lupus are not friendly companions, so reducing my career stress is part of my longer-term, second quasi-retirement work strategy.

The idea of retiring sends many skittering thoughts across my mind, more and more often, as I face the adventures of my second half-century.  I turned 56 recently, so I cannot claim anymore that I am in my early fifties.  Not by a long shot!

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Challenged by voice on the radio

The thought of stopping work completely is hard to imagine, and I plan to keep working, somehow.  Perhaps, a new kind of work with less stress would be a more wholesome alternative to idleness.  This week while driving home from work, I heard a college commercial about going back in time to ask yourself what your twelve-year-old self wanted to do with your life.  The voice emitting from my car stereo challenged me to think creatively about an enjoyable quasi-retirement career.

So, some days I mull over possibly teaching music, perhaps part-time as a choir director in a private school, or by taking on a few private voice and piano students.  This sounds like the dream job my twelve-year-old self might have approved of.  When I was young, I played the violin in my school orchestra, long before lupus arthritis in my hands made me put my violin down.  My dream job at twelve was to see myself playing in the Oakland or San Francisco Symphony.

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12 year old self dreaming…

I envisioned enjoying spending long hours of rehearsals, playing classical music among a host of other instrumentalists with violin bows moving together in perfect synchrony.  I never really dreamed about doing anything else.  I thought about other things, but only about playing in the symphony did I sigh wistfully time and time again, wishing and hoping that would be my lifetime occupation.

My parents had season tickets at the Oakland Symphony in the East Bay in Northern California.  Occasionally, I would get to go along, and I vividly remember evenings I was able to enjoy the great Itzhak Perlman play his violin when he was in his prime.

San Francisco (old) War Memorial Opera House

San Francisco (old)
War Memorial Opera House

I have always loved music, and had the privilege of attending many performances in Oakland, and even more across the bay in San Francisco.  Symphony and opera performances at the old War Memorial Opera House on Van Buren Street brought me such joy!  As music students, we could purchase special reduced-price seats on the end of the ground floor orchestra section, reserved where we could see the flamboyant conductor, Seiji Ozawa, “up close.” I loved to watch his expressiveness and visual interactions from my favorite spot at the end of the first row on the concert hall floor.  I was forever changed by this rich set of musical experiences.

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BART subway under the bay

As a music student at the university, my friends and I would head for the opera house in a group, riding on the B.A.R.T. subway trains through “the tube” submerged under the San Francisco Bay and then through the Embarcadero, Montgomery and Powell Street stations buried beneath the heart of the City.  Disembarking at the Civic Center station, we emerged to cross the plaza, walking past city hall in the chilly evening air, to arrive for 8:00 o’clock evening performances at the opera house.

I had the privilege of serving occasionally in high school and college as an usher several times during Opera performances, and fondly remember Beverly Sills in her performance of Thais.  I recently found a recording online of one of her 1976 performances, just a few months before I graduated from high school. Beverly Sills in Thais, San Francisco 1976

Music Teacher Ads

A job like this, but not yet…

When I entered college, I really anticipated becoming a high school choir director.  Now, part of my planning for a future retirement includes reducing debt, lowering monthly living expenses and determining the costs and insurance coverage for my lupus treatment.  The other part is contemplating an arrangement where I can work at something that I love, like music, with hopefully at least half the stress of my current career.

Recently, a local charter school organization here was recruiting music teachers for two new campuses opening in the fall of 2015, and it made me stop and assess my retirement timeline.  However, I am not quite ready, but will be looking for just that sort of opportunity when the time is right.

I have worked ever since I started my first summer job when I was sixteen, first as a cashier in a neighborhood hardware and variety dime store.  My duties included stocking shelves with a variety of products such as porcelain vases, bath towels, kitchen appliances, drills, nails, TV vacuum tubes, board games, toys, train sets and women’s clothing. Most of my time was spent at the cash register and nearby candy, counter, jewelry counters and gift wrapping station.

Open a book about Lupus

Worked in libraries to law…

Over the years, I worked in the libraries at both universities that I attended, got married, was a public relations representative for a major fast food company, gave birth to our daughter, spent a couple of years as a church secretary and then gave birth to our son.  My husband was finishing college while was working at home for a neighborhood tailor, while my husband grew increasingly ill with life-threatening asthma.  During these early few years, my husband was repeatedly hospitalized, as his asthma continually worsened.  For about three years he was completely unable to work and disabled.

As a result, starting in the mid 1980s, my work outside the home became a must.  Today, I look back at nearly thirty years working in legal offices.  First, starting as a paralegal trainee in a private law firm, I grew professionally in three more firms over the next half-dozen years.  Then, twenty-three years ago, I went to work for a government law department, promoting up through non-lawyer supervisor and management positions to my present role as the third member of the management team, along side two senior attorneys.

Lupus and the budget crunch

Posturing finances for
quasi-retirement

I have loved my career to this point, and I am sure that after I retire, there will be a great deal about it that I will miss, dearly.  However, with my health and lupus reminding me that I am not getting any younger, I have spent much time recently in prayer and serious consideration over the next steps in my career.  My husband and I talk more and more often about it, and we are actively posturing our finances for an inevitable change in my occupation.

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