Saturday, January 2, 2010

Terrific WaPo Farewell Column by Ellen Goodman

After 46 years as a journalist (34 years of them writing OpEds for the Washington Post Writers Group), columnist Ellen Goodman is retiring; and she writes a terrific farewell column in yesterday's Washington Post.

Pondering what will be her response to the inevitable "what will you do now?" queries, she considers "coopt[ing] Susan Stamberg's one-word answer when she left her anchor post at NPR: 'Less.'" She is "more tempted to say, simply, 'We'll see.' After 46 years of deadlines," she concludes, "it is time to take in some oxygen, to breathe and consider."

Ms. Goodman recalls a column from three decades earlier, when she had written of another's retirement:

"'There's a trick to the Graceful Exit. It begins with the vision to recognize when a job, a life stage, a relationship is over -- and to let go. It means leaving what's over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives.'

"'It involves a sense of future, a belief that every exit line is an entry, that we are moving on rather than out.'

"It was an odd experience to hear, let alone heed, my younger self.

"'The trick of retiring well may be the trick of living well,' I wrote back then. 'It's hard to recognize that life isn't a holding action, but a process. It's hard to learn that we don't leave the best parts of ourselves behind, back in the dugout or the office. We own what we learned back there. The experiences and the growth are grafted onto our lives. And when we exit, we can take ourselves along -- quite gracefully.'"

So what are Ms. Goodman's final concluding words in this final concluding column?

"[My younger self] knew then what I know much more intimately now," she observes. "So, with her blessing, I will let myself go. And go for it."

Well-done, Ellen Goodman, and godspeed.