About a year ago, I put the announcement on my Web page: “Peg has retired from doing school visits.” My hope was to have fewer requests so that I didn’t have to say no so often. It’s difficult to decline invitations that I would enjoy accepting.
I do get fewer requests now, but I also get a lot of inquiries that begin, “I know you don’t do school visits any longer, but….” followed by the reason why that particular school should be the exception to the rule. Kids often point out that I would not have to talk to the whole school – I could come only to their classroom.
I quit doing school talks because of my problems with post-polio syndrome. When I get too tired, it strains my already weak muscles and causes further damage. Muscles weakened by polio are not like normal muscles. For most people, the way to increase muscle strength is to exercise, to use those muscles more. It’s the opposite for me. The more I tire my muscles, the more strength they lose, permanently. I recently had a thorough evaluation at a post-polio clinic. The main advice the doctors gave me is that I MUST cut back on my activities if I hope to continue to walk.
I will continue to accept awards in person, when possible, and to speak at major conferences. My last school visit will be in May, in conjunction with a fund raiser for the Humane Society (Pete the Cat’s alma mater.) It’s a good school to end with because the librarian invited me to my first young author day, many years ago. We have come full circle.
Most people my age, even those with excellent health, have already retired. Physically, I should retire but mentally, emotionally, I am not ready. Saying no to school visits is not true retirement for me. I never set out to have a career as a public speaker; my job is writing.
Writing is not a typical profession; it is a way of life. I spent many years laboring unheralded, years when I would have been thrilled to be asked to speak anywhere. Now, when my books are popular and my presence in demand, why would I want to quit?
Writing a book is challenging and exhilarating. I enjoy the process as well as the results. I have retired from doing school visits, but I am not retiring as a writer.