Retha – 68
"I had a rough beginning in life. My early childhood & family were not perfect or socially acceptable. I didn’t feel like I deserved a lot. As a result, I’ve felt shame and made some bad choices, but I’ve overcome things, too. I’ve overcome trials and I try to learn from my mistakes. I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve earned every wrinkle I have.
At 17, I got a $500 scholarship to go to secretarial school. I started working as a secretary and in 1989 I started nursing school. During that time, I got divorced. I’ve always worked two jobs. I worked 32-40 hours a week while I was in nursing school. I had a 3 point to a 4 point the whole time, but in the end, I didn’t pass and had to go another direction. I took care of my mom and two veterans to have some income, worked as a preschool teacher, and got into mental health as a paraprofessional. I really enjoyed that job. In 2017 I got my second divorce and had carotid artery surgery. After my surgery I went back to working small group therapy. Now I’m still working part-time subbing. I was asked to take on a teacher’s role for a few months and now I’m back to subbing again.
I have 2 daughters, 8 grandchildren, and 3 great grandchildren. I’m the only one of my siblings with a college degree. I’m proud of my ability to make people laugh and the love I have for others. I’ve learned to enjoy my place in life, whatever it is, and believe in myself. God has blessed me in my life & I wouldn’t be where I am today without Him. I’m still around & independent. I didn’t ever turn to drugs, or drinking, or totally lose my self-esteem. The hurts have not completely squelched my ability to love. For my 60th birthday I got a tattoo that says, 'Love', 'Faith', 'Peace', and 'Joy'. My motto is God gave me a squatty body, but a big heart to love everybody."
Retha is part of our 50/Fifty project highlighting women over 50 and how they have changed and transformed as they've matured. See more stories and portraits each week here on the blog, on our social media posts, or at Gallery Walk on the first Friday night of each month in our studio at 801 Central Avenue, Suite 30, from 5 pm - 8 pm.