This is a guest post from Bonnie, a 69-year-old PA student.
I did not ask or invite Bonnie to write this post; instead, she emailed it to me late at night and said what she wrote was on her heart and told me to do with it what I wanted, whether that was to post it in the student Facebook group or not. She even said it might belong in the trash!
Here’s Bonnie’s email. I read it first thing in the morning!
I read it, and I wrote back immediately to tell her WOW — Bonnie, this is WEBSITE material! And I asked her permission to publish it.
Thankfully, she said yes — and so I’m thrilled to share her amazing story with you here on the blog.
Paralegal Turned Proofreader
Less than a year ago, in what I now refer to as my Past Life (PL), I lived in a land far, far away in Georgia and worked as a paralegal for a large law firm in an office tower in downtown Atlanta.
I commuted 37 miles to and from this tower and, as all Atlantans do, faithfully listened to the traffic reports to get me to and fro. After 20 years of this lifestyle and being of the age where retirement plans are made, I decided to develop plans that involved a calmer, less complicated environment. After packing and creatively engineering all my belongings into a U-Haul, the dog, three cats and I, with the help of my oh-so-capable adult son, journeyed across the country to Central Oregon to establish my New Life.
In my New Life, I wanted to include something that would keep me engaged in some kind of mental activity.
I was ready for retirement, but I probably will never be ready to be unproductive. I don’t want to be one of those seniors caught staring out a laced-covered window watching others live their lives, nor could I see Netflix as part of my future.
During the most financially lucrative part of my working life, the recession came along. My hours and income were reduced and thus, so were my savings.
According to my plans, I also wanted to generate supplemental income to compensate for that period of time. Before I set out into my New Life, I knew I would be financially okay with the basics, but being someone who is always coming up with new ideas for “this, that, and the other thing,” I wanted to be able to include those random things in my New Life.
During my paralegal career, I often referred to myself as a “forensic paralegal.” I was usually given a few clues about something, then I unearthed and ferreted out the rest of the information I needed. Relying on these past skills, I started down my list of possibilities of what I want to do in my New Life that would meet the criteria I set out for myself: something engaging, mentally challenging, and that would generate income.
I explored some possibilities, but they got crossed off the list for one reason or another.
On a whim, I went to the Land of All Great Ideas I Never Would’ve Thought Of — Pinterest. This wasn’t my usual place to research this kind of thing, but hey, I’m retired, so why not? There aren’t any rules to living my New Life.
I found lots of ideas for working at home, which was a new item on my list of criteria — I had to be able to do it from home. I realized I was no longer interested in someone else’s time schedule.
Amongst all the at-home possibilities that I found on Pinterest, I came across Caitlin’s Proofread Anywhere. This is the Internet after all, so there was some skepticism I had to deal with.
So I searched and I Googled and I linked my way through as much as I could to learn as much as I could. After being convinced that Caitlin was a real person who could actually be contacted, my skepticism came down a couple notches.
But what about the “product”? I went through my list of criteria, my job skills, and my interests, and I came to the conclusion that the idea of proofreading for court reporters was a perfect fit for me as a lifelong paralegal.
“But what will I get for my invested time and money?” I asked myself. In my opinion, that’s always a little more difficult to determine in the virtual world.
I’m from the generation in which personal appearance, applications, and handshakes — very tangible things — were what got you deals and jobs. I looked at a few other possibilities that were offered online, but Caitlin’s website was the determining factor for me. It was her “personal appearance” that made me choose what she was offering over the others that I saw. Her website looked well thought out, professional, comprehensive (and this was in October 2015 — she’s since made some major improvements to the site and has made it even easier to navigate).
It gave me the impression that whoever could put this website together also very likely had the capability to put together excellent course material from which I could benefit. My skepticism was now at a level where I could put my money down and invest in this idea.
And so I did.
Like others who signed up and became “students,” I am now plodding through the practice transcripts (PTs) and feeling the frustration of not experiencing the perfection I would like to achieve. But despite the frustration, we all move on to the next PT, and each time we see that we did a little bit better.
In my Past Life, I’m sure I could fill a good-sized room with the hundreds of reams of paper that made up the documents I proofread. Yes, paper and handwritten edits by attorneys who knew no bounds to the number of words they could fit into the margin of a page and between single-spaced lines.
But those are all now my personal war stories of my Past Life, and my New Life is NOW: learning to proof the spoken word on an iPad. Though vastly different than proofing legal documents on paper, I very much like the difference so far.
At this stage of the “game,” what I am especially impressed with is the community of proofreaders in the PA Proofreaders group on Facebook.
I appreciate the encouragement, shared information, and insights the members give one another. They all do a great service to everyone by staying so professional in the virtual world.
If you’re a student, you probably won’t see much of me there, except when absolutely necessary for a specific piece of information. I’ve been, erm, blessed by being an introvert, and I’m someone who would rather just do it myself, thank you very much 🙂
I’m actually surprised and amazed I’m sharing all this with you. Although you may not see much of me in the PA group, please know I am reading your posts and value your information. Perhaps once I feel more capable, I’ll be able to return the help to others.
Getting Older (and Wiser!)
On my next birthday, I will be 70, and not having grown up with all the computer technology at which so many other PA students seem far more adept than me, I sometimes feel a little befuddled with the technology.
That’s when you might see me in the group.
I probably will be in need of some of your knowledge skills — I could tell some hilarious stories of how I entered the world of computers. In my Past Life, I had an entire IT department available to me, plus a help desk was available by phone where they could log on to my computer, fix any problems, and answer all my questions.
I really miss those people!
Kudos to Caitlin for taking action to bring her personal and professional visions to life, and thank you to all the eagle eyes among us — you keep the written chaos out there at bay.
Thank you for being part of PA, Bonnie!
The post above was written in February 2016. In January 2017, I reached out to Bonnie for an update on how she’s doing. Here’s her response — which I found both honest and encouraging!
You can still count me in at PA. I’m part of, and probably captain of, the “sloggin’ along team.” I am definitely not burning my way through the course. And this isn’t because of anything about the course. This is just how my life is going. Besides the normal things that life presents each of us, it turns out my retirement and moving are far more labor intensive for me than any other transitions I’ve gone through in my life.
I wanted to be finished with the course a long time ago, but then I started to realize that this part of my life just isn’t going to go like the rest of my life did. At my age and with my past work experience, I also know my learning style and what I expect from myself in completing a task/job. I learn by the “searing” process, which requires repetition and “working” the rules. By personality, I’m also the thorough and methodical type. This trait can be an asset, but it can also be a detriment. This is a trait that requires personal management so that I don’t get stuck in the quagmire I can create for myself.
I’ve also taken the time to complete BG/GP text and workbook and have also put into One Note the rules from various sources that I want to easily access while working on transcripts. You can just envision the time passing, dare I say whizzing, by now, can’t you. With now realizing just what’s on my plate and how I want to handle taking this course, I had to do some mental adjusting and self-assessing.
Although it’s taking me much longer to complete the course, I’ve come to terms with it all. I work on it nearly every day but not for the long stretches I would like to. As long as I feel I’m moving forward and not stagnant, I’m okay. Most of the personal things I need to accomplish are not permanent fixtures in my life — they will get taken care of and go away at some point in the not too distant future. There is light in my tunnel.
For those students that I see on Facebook having struggles with juggling their life and completing the course, I feel their pain. Experience has taught me to know thyself, pick your priorities, put your head down, and move forward. For me, I know what I want at the end, why I want it, and pretty much know my capabilities to get me there. Now, if anyone knows how to stop birthdays from happening, I would really like to get in contact with them.
So the “old lady” is still here and still enjoying, for the most part, the ride. I am about to start the last PT and am so looking forward to getting those all behind me. And then it’s on to tests and more stuff and more tests. Yep, Caitlin, you didn’t make it easy!