BETTER THAN I THOUGHT: This new career may not be a disaster after all

June-July 2016 Boomer magazine



It’s been one issue – or all of two months – since I left BOOMER to embark upon a third career.

I’m still alive.

So that’s a plus. This career as a full-time author is a little less structured, shall we say, than being either a newspaper columnist or a magazine editor. There are no bosses and no clock punching. … Well, there was never clock punching. Now there are few strict deadlines. Either I do the work or I don’t.

If I don’t, I starve.

Thus far, I haven’t missed any meals. (Probably a mixed blessing, that.) The sky hasn’t fallen. The sun hasn’t failed to come up a single day. After a little struggling to get my pace, I think I’ve found it.

I’ll get back to that in a moment. But let me talk first about this space.

Lori Ross, this magazine’s founder, and Annie Tobey, my successor, asked me to continue writing a column for BOOMER. Frankly, I wasn’t sure. After being editor for eight years, I thought it was time to move on completely. Then, too, this magazine already has plenty of columnists – a publisher and editor at the front and three engaging writers at the back. Did it really need another?


At least that’s what I think now, after mulling it over. Maybe. Here’s why: Many of our readers are now where I am. That is, they’re able to leave their work lives behind and jump into something they more want to do. Maybe I can help them.

I. Do. Not. Mean. Retirement.

It used to be that you reached a certain age – 60 or 65 maybe or certainly by 70 – and you retired. But to do what?

Die slowly?

Seriously, to do what? Play more golf, maybe. Do more gardening. More traveling. Probably sleep in a lot. Grow a beard.

Forget to shower.

There comes a time when we all will have failing health. Our bodies or our minds will say that’s it. But until then …

Do we really want to take life off?

Increasingly, baby boomers – who are mostly in our 50s and 60s – are saying no. No, thank you. They may be leaving their jobs “early” – if they can afford to or can figure a way to. But they’re not checking out. They’re going on to something they find of value, whether another job, volunteer work or that hobby they always wanted to turn into something more.

It’s no retirement.

It’s a second act.

I’m barely into my own second act but it’s been a whirlwind. I’ve put a toe back into writing and researching. Writing is scheduled from about 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. – or whenever I hit 2,000 words. That’s the goal. Or at least 1,500. That’s the minimum. (Sure, many of those words could have been typed by chimps. That’s why rewriting was invented.) I’m shooting for a book a year.

I’ve taken a couple working trips to the North Carolina coast as well. And I’ve given quite a few speeches to groups interested in hearing about my latest book. (And, fortunately, in BUYING it.)

Along the way, I should admit, I’ve spent hours cleaning up my “office.” It wasn’t the research books and papers that were the problem in the spare bedroom – or even the cases upon cases of my own books. It was that someone had turned the place into a junk room over the past few years, tossing in everything that didn’t fit elsewhere.

I suspect it may have been me.

While getting back into this writing and speaking thing, I’ve found other opportunities may be opening up. Several book subjects have appeared. And I’m communicating with someone in North Carolina about setting up a (very) smalltime publishing venture, for writers we know and even some out-of-print titles. This early, there’s no certainty it will happen. But it’s exciting even considering it.

As I said earlier, I’m far from alone in figuring there’s life beyond the 9-to-5. Many people are moving on to their own second acts.

So I intend to use this space to write about them. This won’t just be about me. (I’M bored with me. Why wouldn’t you be?) Maybe I’ll meet them for coffee somewhere and pick their brains – and get them to pay for the coffee – and then share their approaches with you.

Then maybe one day you’ll be here.


Ray McAllister, former Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist and former BOOMER editor, is the author of six books, four of them award winners on the North Carolina coast. His latest book is The Forum Files: The Stories Behind The Richmond Forum. For information:



Know of a great “2nd Actor” I should interview? Email

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2 Responses to BETTER THAN I THOUGHT: This new career may not be a disaster after all

  1. Jeff Kellam says:

    Ray, Your words are, as we used to say in the 60s, “right on.” Regarding retirement, that is. It is a second act. (My Dad actually had a full theatrical performance: 4 acts. IBM, opening a neighborhood movie house in north Raleigh, back to IBM when movies didn’t pan out, and finally to running a print shop. He set the bar pretty high for me.)

    My own retirement started with a blog looking back at my radio years, but moved into something more active than just writing (heh heh…honest, I’m smiling!). I took up working with video for the Presbybop Jazz Quartet, and I also host a TV/radio program for the local council of churches. My “second act” still leaves lots of time for grandkids, travel, and concerts.

    I strongly feel that I was “called” into retirement as surely as I was called into ministry (rock-y and roll-y as it was). And I’m fine, thanks.

    • Ray says:

      Hi, Jeff. Just now seeing this (after going through, literally, 438 spam responses to find a half-dozen legit ones).
      Great to hear from you. Yours and your dad’s stories are great ones. Mind if I contact you for a Boomer column?

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