For local author Suzanne Spector, it’s never too late for new challenges

Octogenarian Suzanne Spector isn’t afraid of change – or starting over.

In her first memoir, “Naked at the Bar: Independence and Intimacy in the Second Half of Life,” the local author talks about her family, her career and her personal challenges. The book is slated for release on Tuesday, August 9, and is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other websites.

“At 43, in the middle of my life, I left my marriage, my family life in the suburbs and my career in education,” Spector said. “In therapy for three years, I stripped down the cultural expectations and prescriptions for women of my generation and learned to listen to my own inner voice. This voice guided me, one step at a time, to try new things – to live fully in the present instead of worrying or dreaming about the future. This way of being added up to a wonderful and interesting second half of life.

Spector was the founder and director of the Center for Open Education in New Jersey and became director of the Center for Studies of the Person in La Jolla, which says it aims “to maintain/build/create an environment where each of us can be heard, where we can fully be ourselves, where we accept and embrace each other as we are.

Spector began writing in the late 70s and considers this to be his third career. She won the 2019 San Diego Memoir Showcase writing contest. His entry, “Dancing Hearts Emoji,” was published in the award-winning anthology “Shaking the Tree: Brazen. Short. Memoir. Vol. 3.”

She answered questions from San Diego Union-Tribune:

Q: Why did you want to write this memoir?

A: I decided to write these memoirs when the young women in my writing group reacted to my stories with surprise, even shock. Their reaction to my burning romance at 80 illuminated the rampant misconceptions about aging that exist today. So many people dread growing old and think that aging is a downward slide. For me it has been an upward staircase with a fulfilling new activity every few years.

Q: What is your favorite decade of your life?

A: I’m tempted to say that my 50s were my favorite decade because it was filled with unexpected international work, games and friendships. But every decade has been great because I kept doing new things.

Q: How has your divorce affected you and your three daughters?

A: My divorce freed me to join the next generation of women riding the feminist wave. Breaking up the family was not easy, but most importantly, I felt I was a role model for my daughters, as a woman living my truth.

Q: Talk about your professional careers.

A: I had planned to be a stay-at-home mom, but transitioned into a career in education, starting as a parent volunteer at a Montessori preschool. This led to the coordination of the American Montessori teacher training program. I created an open-class post-Montessori kindergarten and elementary school and later added a teacher training program and then a high school. When I ran out of new challenges, I retired.

Three years later, I moved to California. I felt a “calling” to the Center for Person Studies, the humanistic psychology organization in La Jolla. I joined the faculty and started working internationally and was elected director of the CSP. I got my doctorate. in psychology and has worked with clients individually and in groups.

In September 1991, I brought a CSP team to the Soviet Union. There were Russian professionals who were burning to facilitate free speech just as the Iron Curtain came down. I consider this the pinnacle of my career as a person-centered psychologist.

Q: How has therapy helped you?

A: Since my deep dive into therapy to find myself, I have been on a reflective journey of psychological and spiritual growth. This path has enriched my life and provided me with a foundation on how to live my best life.

Q: What did you learn about yourself from taking several art classes at Liberty Station in Point Loma?

A: In my 60s, I retired from psychology and started taking classes. I learned that I had no talent, but I had fun and my products adorn my house.

In the early 70’s I discovered art as an expressive spiritual practice. Intuitive painting led to soul collage and artistic journaling, which eventually sparked the desire to write. I took my first writing class when I was 77. My first writing coach pushed me into classes at Writers Ink at Liberty Station. My memoirs reflect how I lived life, one step at a time, while remaining open to new possibilities. His/Her message: It’s never too late.

Q: What is your current passion?

A: My eyesight and energy lasted just long enough. I’m excited to prepare for my book launch and future book club and other events. As for the sequel, who knows?

— La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report.

Lola R. McClure