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and their foundation is getting ready to present its 2nd annual comedy music gala. In the
time it has taken to write this dissertation, Kate Farrell, reality television producer, and Carol
Beck, videographer, have both written novels. Kasumi, through her Guggenheim
fellowship, is working on finishing a feature-length experimental film Shockwaves
(http://www.shockwavesthemovie.com/). Laura Paglin, a documentary filmmaker, is
working on a documentary about the women who survived but went into the house of
the recently convicted Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell. Sheryl White, a commercial
copywriter who expressed the desire to retire, is always busy with clients when I call to
check in. All of these freelancers are “living what’s next.”
A New Conversation About Being Smarter, Bolder, and Older
In the past, we have examined segregation as a black or white issue and now it is a
conversation that is exploring the many shades of grey. The freelancers described in this
project possess great talent and generosity of spirit. The insidious undercurrent of ageism
is one that makes them almost apologetic about still working and not preparing for
retirement. Yet, these project participants quietly celebrate their age as the bypass the
creative markers of where people think they should be at a certain time and just move
forward. As a nontraditional doctoral student, do I turn back and say I should have
accomplished this task at an earlier date? Hell no, like these freelancers, I reach my
milestones and recognize that my nontraditional career trajectory is right on time. As a
culture, this kind of intellectual natural resource is too precious to waste especially when
invention is considered the economic savior in today’s economy.
The social construction of aging is enjoying a makeover as scientists, neurologists,
psychologists, and sociologists explore work/life balance, creativity, and even the concept
of retirement. These conversations are slowly changing a culture that extols the virtues of
youth and negates the positive aspects of aging or assigns narrower values to where we
should be at certain periods of our life. If we continue to devalue aging, then we are also
negating the importance of lived experience and the lessons learned. If we give a
generous allowance to kids’ mishaps by saying they are “young and dumb,” then why can’t
we recognize the wealth of experience vested in being “smarter, bolder and older?”
What we can learn from these freelancers is that an improvisational life does not necessarily
need or welcome retirement but requires relational connectivity, bridging the generational
divide, time for rejuvenation, and a little appreciation along the way in order to sufficiently
fuel the spirit so people are able to be personally and professionally be generative no
matter what age marker they’ve reached. There is no doubt that future creative work
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