When I talk about retirement, I talk about how blessed I feel. I say this for two reasons.
First, although we are not wealthy, my husband and I had the means to retire from our longtime careers. I worked for over 30 years at San Jose State University. I had four kids. My husband worked in high tech in Silicon Valley. I know that many people around the world, and even in the United States, are not so fortunate to have the luxury to stop working and still live a comfortable existence.
But, the second reason I feel so blessed is that I have a passion which consumes me and makes me feel lucky that I have the time to pursue it: this is writing.
Recently, I was having coffee with Sid Goldstein at Pony Espresso in Santa Ynez. Sid, from Solvang, is recently retired and a really easy guy to chat with. But in the course of learning about each other’s lives, he said something really surprising.
To the superficial observer, Sid looks like a man who has it all together. After obtaining a degree in Civil Engineering, Sid worked for Santa Barbara County in planning. He discovered that what he enjoyed and was good at was helping people navigate the process of getting building permits. A problem solver, it gave him pleasure to help people through this puzzling maze.
So, he embarked on a career in the private sector doing just that — seeing folks through the process of completing projects. Although Sid liked his work, he says it wasn’t his passion.
There is even more to Sid that would make people think he’s got it all together.
He’s had a long and happy marriage to his wife Karen. Coincidentally, Sid and his brother are married to two sisters. So, not only has he had a long compatible marriage, his brother and his wife’s sister live nearby. Two sisters. Two brothers. Nice, an agreeable family support system. He’s also got three grown kids and a few precious grandkids.
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All good, right? Besides a long career and loving family, Sid also has hobbies and is an active volunteer. He’s a member of the Santa Ynez Cottage Hospital Board as well as playing in the Santa Ynez Valley Wind Ensemble. (I’ve heard this group in concert — it’s great to hear local people making music together. I recommend attending their Fall concert on Nov. 10.)
So, what on earth is missing from Sid Goldstein’s life? He says he wishes he had a passion.
Passion? He has a loving family, many activities, even plenty of accomplishments. But Sid says he’s always wished for that certain something you can’t live without. He likes many things, but still feels there is something he hasn’t yet found.
In fact, he says that part of his definition of a passion is that this something finds you; you don’t find it. It’s that certain thing that means you don’t ever look at a clock or check your phone. You are so involved, so completely engaged, that there is no such thing as time.
To Sid’s great credit, even though he is past 70, he thinks that something is still out there. Don’t get me wrong, you’d never look at this man and say he’s dissatisfied. But, he’s still waiting, with eyes wide open, for that passion to find him.
I admire his zest for life, his belief in that passion. I think it is part of what makes Sid seem youthful. Life’s not over; he’s not resting on his laurels. He’s looking forward, not back.
After our talk, in which several hours flew by (and I drank way too much coffee), I left almost ashamed of my good fortune. From the time I was in college, I knew my passion was writing — preferably stories.
My practical parents considered that frivolous and insisted I get a stable career. Nursing or teaching — those were the typical jobs a girl of my generation got. I acquiesced, acquiring degrees, even advanced degrees, in health professions.
I enjoyed my career in mental health and then teaching at a University. But do I miss it? Not even for an instant. Instead, I am blessed. I am retired and get to do what I really love: write.
Besides journalism, I have a novel being released in November. And, when that novel has run its course in the world, I get to work on another. In fact, until either my mind or my typing fingers give out, I get to do this thing that gives me such joy.
Sid, I hope you find yours. In the meantime, I know you’re enjoying the quest. I’d love to hear from readers about their own passion: whether they’ve already got it or are still searching.
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Elayne Klasson, PhD in psychology, is a writer and recent transplant to the Valley. She was formerly on the faculty at San Jose State University. Her new novel, Love is a Rebellious Bird, will be published this November.
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