By Rachel Stein | rachels83@gmail.com

Gazing through her bay window at the bustling world, Marci heaved a sigh and sank into her black leather couch.

Maybe I’ll call my friend, Debbie. We’ve talked about having lunch together forever, and somehow there was never time. Marci’s heart lifted as she dialed the familiar number, only to plummet when Debbie’s answering machine came on. Glaring at the phone through narrowed eyes, Marci stifled the urge to throw it across the room.

Get a hold of yourself, girl! You can find meaning in this stage of life, too! Step out of your quagmire and take an objective view. What did you tell your friend Judy, also a recent retiree, when she called just the other day? Why is it always easier to give another advice?

Taking a deep breath, Marci closed her eyes and recalled the conversation.

Rachel Stein

Rachel Stein

“What have you always wanted to do but couldn’t because you were working full time?” she asked her downcast friend, determined to inject her with a healthy dose of hope and determination. “Do you have hobbies? Are there classes that interest you? What about volunteer work?”

“Hm,” Judy replied, her voice lifting a notch. “Those are all good ideas. But I don’t even know where to start.”

“Well,” Marci continued, anxious to help, “I just found out about an amazing program from Dr. Irma Starr, director of education for the Ben Marion Institute for Social Justice. She teaches a class at Emory University’s OLLI called ‘Women Aging in the 21st Century.’ The institute offers continuing education for adults 50 and over. There are classes on every subject imaginable, and both men and women participate, taking anywhere from four to 13 classes a week. In addition, Dr. Starr mentioned the Marcus Jewish Community Center in Dunwoody as another resource, which currently hosts a book club, discussion groups, and many classes and clubs composed of older adults, in addition to tennis, swimming and other activities.”

“Not bad,” Judy said, and Marci heard the smile and gratitude in her voice as their conversation wound to a close.

How satisfying to help someone resolve her issues, she mused, feeling a small bubble of satisfaction well up within her. Yet here she was days later, still staring at her walls in a haze of confusion and unproductivity. When she turned on her computer, an email grabbed her attention.

“I suggest Marci go to a coach and explore her full range of options now,” Esther Gendelman writes. “She may discover an entire new world waiting for her where she can contribute her life experience. It is understandable after so many years of purpose and passion, she feels the loss, and transitions are tough! Secondly, how is her overall health? This is a great opportunity to work on building in a new exercise routine, social opportunities, and of course pursuing personal growth. Maybe after she emerges healthy from this challenge, she will have tools to offer other retirees looking for new purpose — once a teacher, always a teacher. And finally, which is really No. 1, in a moment of quiet prayer, thank G-d for 50 incredible years of teaching and ask for guidance for this new season of life.”

Feeling new energy course through her veins, Marci reached for pen and paper and allowed her thoughts free rein as she enumerated some of her dreams and goals.

“I would love to volunteer, perhaps in a school setting, and help students who are struggling. Perhaps I can also serve as a teacher’s adviser — now that’s an idea! Including daily exercise in my regimen has always been something I’ve pushed aside, and prioritizing it sounds appealing, especially if it can help me lose those pounds that have crept on over the years. Maybe I can even find an exercise partner and accomplish fitness and socialization simultaneously. Regarding learning — Jewish history and Hebrew language are at the top of my list. And I’ve always wanted to write a guide for teachers using scenarios and lessons I’ve learned from my experiences; what’s stopping me now?”

Reaching for the phone, Marci dialed a familiar number, hope fluttering its gentle wings. “Hebrew Day School, may I help you?”

“Yes, this is Marci Bloom, and I was wondering when I could meet with you to explore some ideas I was thinking about …”