Friday, June 27, 2008

My Declining Years

When I retired from teaching my friend D. said, 'Remember, Sheila, these are your declining years. Just decline to do anything you don't want to.' I laughed.

I also observed how closely D. followed her own edicts. Fancy refusing to accompany your spouse on a vist to see his relatives in America, I thought last year. Tough-minded, my friend D.

Just recently I've been doing the same myself, although not with regard to trips to America - chance would be a fine thing. No, as soon as I sense that anything brings more aggravation than it's worth I give it the heave-ho.

Take these films reviews I've been writing for a certain NY-based website. OK, I thought at first there might be money in it eventually, and I suppose the younger writers are filling up their CVs so it makes it worthwhile for them. What I was getting was free previews for foreign films in exchange for what was often a minimum of five hours researching directors, actors, etc and writing the review. Well, that's OK, too, because my finances are limited and I really like films.

When the site editor starting talking about posting direct to site instead of sending reviews as attachments it was a different matter. Did I want to start learning all the complicated protocols and jargon before putting it into practice? No. It would like publishing your own book after you'd written the novel. Well, on a smaller scale, of course. So I've resigned as contributor.

An organisation asked recently me to be an Online tutor for a China course. Flattered, and tempted because it would dovetail with my existing research interests, I agreed. The usual terms - no fee, but never mind, it would be motivational and interesting for me.

Then the frustration started. Information was slow to arrive. Questions were answered partially after some delay. An Internet search instigated on my own account ruffled feathers: I was made to feel guilty for accessing course information which should have been offered in the first place but which was immediately removed from the web.

Time went by, and I needed to look at the course reading list to prepare for an Autumn start. Had I been forgotten about? An oblique reminder brought vague promises and eventually the name of some-one else who might be able to help.

Once, I would have persisted, pussy-footed around and been grateful for any crumbs of help that came my way. Being paid to put up with it made a difference, I suppose. Now, I think of D. and just decline. I've emailed to say they need some-one within the organisation who knows the ''protocol and personnel' better than I do and I'll be sure to be in touch should I reconsider.

All this declining is very liberating. I wish I'd thought of it before.

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