06/08/2011 03:35 pm ET | Updated Aug 08, 2011

Who Am I Two Years After Retirement?

When I retired, something I had never really planned on doing, I was asked over and over again by friends and family, "What are you going to do now?" I really didn't know. I had worked hard most of my adult life. I had dreams, and I also had responsibilities that I took very seriously. I worked very hard to find a balance between the two. I was able to never confuse the dreams with real life, and somehow I ended up quite happy. I had built a career as a really good secretary (or, as we now call ourselves, executive assistants) to a prominent person in the movie industry, and then to another prominent person in the media side of investment banking. I never got rich, but I never cared about that. I had learned early in my life that money could destroy people as easily as it could bring joy. I had friends, and I was able to travel, buy the things I cared to have and be kind to my children and glorious grandchildren, and most of all, I've been so lucky to have stayed healthy. There are people I miss who are long gone from my life, but that's to be expected. What more could I want? I hadn't a clue.

A year passed before I could acknowledge to myself that I was depressed. I was
ashamed to admit it to anyone. I was so used to pretending that I was strong and could handle most things that came my way. I hid the frightened part of me for so long that I didn't even know it was there. I knew I had to move my butt, do something. I had to live, for goodness sake!

I had worked off and on writing a novel and finally finished it. As most first-time writers learn, getting your book published is not very easy. Finding an agent is almost impossible. One agent who loved my book encouraged me to self-publish because he simply could not afford to take on new clients. I followed his advice, and my novel "Both Sides of the Coin" was published. It was exciting to see the finished product. Most of my friends purchased copies. Alas, I am simply not very aggressive when it comes to tooting my own horn. Nevertheless, considering how little I personally have done to publicize it, my book has done nicely. I also realized that this is not the time for me to be writing another book. Writing is a lonely life, and right now that's not a healthy choice for me.

Of course I could have done volunteer work for a charity. But what charity? I have to truly believe in whatever cause I might volunteer to work for. The one organization I felt that way about, and to whom I offered my office skills, unfortunately only wanted me if I could raise money, and that's not my strong point. I'm simply not good at asking for things.

I suddenly realized that I wanted to enjoy this chapter of life. I had spent so many years being serious. Now it was time to have fun. I noticed that many television commercials, particularly for pharmaceutical companies, feature women of my age. I decided that I would take a class in acting for television commercials. I did, and I enjoyed it tremendously. When I completed the course, I was approached by an agent who signed me. I was amazed at my luck. So far, I've only gone out on two auditions, but it's a beginning. This past week I landed a gig as an extra in a movie. I played a guest at a wedding. It felt so great to get dressed up and spend time with other people. A lot of the people I met were like myself. They had also worked most of their lives and are now just looking to enjoy themselves.

Today, I am at home playing my other favorite part. I'm Donna Reed. Sounds silly? Not at all! Sometimes this is my favorite kind of day. I love cleaning the house, exploring my closet, finding things I thought I'd lost and, as I've just done, chopping vegetables in my kitchen and preparing one of Bobby Flay's great recipes.

We all are so many different people. It's a wonderful feeling to almost know who I am.