What will you do with the rest of your life? Rest? Or reinvent yourself? Statistics show that people in the work force today will have several careers over their lifetimes. The retirement this month of two schoolteacher friends of mine — and my husband’s second retirement — has me thinking about how long and vital lifetimes are today. If you can afford to retire and spend the rest of your life traveling and exploring, that may be enough for you (or me!) It’s a big, fascinating world. But many of us feel a restlessness not for necessarily for new places, but an itch born of the search for meaning, maybe from our upbringing in the sixties. We are seekers, happy but not entirely satisfied with the bringing up of children and the making of a nest egg. We still hope there might be more. And maybe in so-called retirement we’ll have the time to find it, or chase it at least. As a writer I struggle to find a balance between writing about things and people that matter, and actually going out into the world to help make it a better place. Sometimes I feel disappointed in myself that I don’t try harder, give more to the world, find a cause that matters deeply and give it my all. But I am protective of my time and energy. Writers can be a bit obsessive. We tend to latch onto our projects and ride them out to ‘the end.’ What if I love this new charity work so much I forget how to write? (I don’t want to ever forget the joy I get from writing.) If we weren’t so compulsive we’d probably never finish a novel, let alone a batch of them (or whatever you call your ‘writing career.’) But many writers do good works outside of writing: community action work, political work, charities, volunteering. Many have day jobs, some of which do social justice work or at least don’t pollute the environment or scam the poor. For these writers retirement will open up time that was precious before and now is, well, not infinite but a whole lot bigger. It’s important as a writer to rejoice in your potential but also understand your limitations. If you want a writing career — or really anything creative and intense — you may have to give up something in your life. That women’s movement slogan has proven false: you really can’t have it all. You have to pick what you’re good at, what gives you the most joy, what provides a sense of purpose in your life. Retirement, whatever that means in this crazy new world we live in, can give you a chance for reflection, for decompression from the stresses of working long hours, and a second act that is every bit as exciting and possibly a lot more meaningful than your first one. Who knows, maybe you’ll have a third and fourth act. I can’t wait to read about it. —— Lise McClendon’s new suspense novel is The Girl in the Empty Dress, the sequel to Blackbird Fly.