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It’s important to embrace each stage of your life


Recently, my granddaughter asked me to write a letter for her “Pieces of My Heart” scrapbook for her freshman theology class. In the letter, I included why she was important to me, her strengths and my hopes for her future. I tried not to be didactic, but did include insights from over 70 years of living. I reflected on that letter as I wrote this final column as I plan for my retirement in January.

There is something fitting about retiring in January. January is named after Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. He was also known as the two-faced god because of an ability to see the past and the future at the same time. This is my task now – looking back over 40 years as a librarian and contemplating next steps.

I took my first job as business librarian at the Burroughs Corporation in Detroit, when technology was just entering the world of librarianship. From there, my career took many directions including school, academic and public libraries, as well as consulting. I loved it all, but working at Bayfield’s Pine River Library over the last six years has been a career capstone.

I would never have had the opportunity for such a long and satisfying career without support – my father, who helped to finance my education; my colleagues; my many bosses; and my family, who tolerated my long hours and dedication to an occupation where I felt I made a difference in people’s lives every day. In fact, I have followed the maxim that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.

Everyone has advice about how to approach retirement. For me, it’s more like a change in focus – and I love change. It’s a time to explore new pathways and be more spontaneous. As Ellen Goodman, retired journalist from the Seattle Times, said, “It (retirement) involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving on rather than out.” She continues, “The trick of retiring well may be the trick of living well. It’s hard to recognize that life isn’t a holding action, but a process ... we don’t leave the best parts of ourselves behind. The experiences and the growth are grafted onto our lives.”

Embracing each stage of life is important. You do this by being both curious and courageous. “Be Curious” has always been my favorite byline. It’s what leads us to seek better ways of doing things, greater understanding of others and accomplishing more. I have loved my career, and I’m curious about my future! With courage, we are more apt to believe in our dreams and goals and live out our personal strategic plans.

I leave the Pine River Library in very capable hands with the prospect of a great new leader. Final interviews of the candidates were held Friday.

Shelley Walchak is director of Pine River Library.