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  Monday January 26th, 2015    

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Duty to self (09/19/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns
Our lives are cluttered with tasks to be fulfilled, bogged down with good intentions that needle our conscientious natures, and find us preoccupied with lists and stacks of busy work. Deep-seated dreams are sometimes buried so long in dormancy that the flame of their igniting is barely a flicker.

Does the English language have a word for “a strong desire to pull the plugs and darken the glaring screens but unable to quit a job because of all the stuff the family demands but adult would rather have more opportunities to spend quality time with family for which lots of cash is needed not to mention an advance in wages to realize a long lost dream to design a hot air balloon and go off to Lala Land for the duration of any vacation or sick time a frazzled human may have left?” Phew! What was the question?

When retirement is finally a reality, it can be a let down. Now that we’re around longer, society attempts to find something that restless and disillusioned senior citizens can occupy their time with, so that we stay out of trouble.

An article in the October AARP magazine, entitled “Unleash Your Inner Genius!” by Jamie Katz, takes an inside peek into the lives of older Americans who have found purpose by immersing themselves in new endeavors they discovered they could excel at.

Gay Hanna, head of the National Center of Creative Aging reports, “We never lose the potential to learn new things as we grow older.”

The article also quoted David Shenk, author of “The Genius in All of Us.” He made the point that, “Genes impact our lives, but our lives also impact our genes – the brain changes shape according to the experiences it has.” “Most of us don’t understand that our true inner potential is quite extraordinary. Not just age 20 or 40 but well into our elder years. The main reason people stagnate is that they limit themselves through their mind-set or habits. Or they simply set their sights too low.” Get your head out of the clouds! On the flipside of “when you wish upon a star,” I think sometimes we could be more content with dreams on a less dramatic scale. Grandiose goals and expectations, that come with more cons than pros, can cause distress and frustration for the aging individual.

Fresh out of high school, from good ole’ LHS, in 1963, I longed to become a famous, published poet. I lamented over those thick volumes of 18th and 19th century poetry that no one else cared to check out of the school library. I was moody to the extent of melancholy, as I pined over rhyme and rhythm.

My parents couldn’t afford a college tuition. I blamed that on my lack of good fortune in the world of muse. Wrong! I chose to party instead of working my way through higher education. Being a writer doesn’t just happen.

Publishers aren’t going to seek out the novice. One has to submit and submit, to various publications, as well as graciously accept rejection slips, and learn from each experience how to improve your creativity. I can’t say that an academic degree will make a talented writer out of anyone.

However, in the arena of the thankfully published, it is a matter of credibility. Success can be nudged by who you know, with the backing of a published writer or educator, and adhering to the norms established by academia for any given era. I used to resent that, but I understand now. Learn the proper rules and formats first – then deviate from there. Also, what better exposure, advice, and expert critique of one’s work can a promising writer receive than through affiliation with a university?

I no longer feel naked with no college degree to grace my library wall. Becoming a poet was a pipe dream. My column is my passion. I’m at home here.

Thanks for tuning in!

Janet Burns can be reached in Lala Land @ patandjanburns@embarqmail.com  


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