Saturday, August 15, 2020

Titles and Identity

There are some jobs that cause one to not only have a title, but also form an identity. I had one for the past twenty-three years- principal, though quite honestly, I thought of myself as more of an educator than a principal. Throughout those twenty-three years, those I worked with called me Principal Lewis, or Boss, or Boss Man, while others called me Joe or Mister Lewis. I actually liked Boss and Boss Man, because there was a playfulness in them. Principal Lewis seemed too formal and I didn’t think I wore that title well. I’ve always been Joe, and it wasn’t until I started teaching when I received the Mister Lewis, though most of the kids called me Coach. I liked those days. I miss them.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been, well, nothing. Joe, I guess. Mister Lewis, I suppose. But honestly, not much of anything.

My interactions with adults are minimal. The grocery store clerk, who might ask, “Did you find everything okay?” or “Do you have your ‘fill in the blank’ card?” I might spot someone I know for a quick hello or small chit chat, but other than that, I talk only to my wife and my kids.

As for students, well, hardly any. There are two that text back and forth with me. They seem to see me as “Friend” and I’m okay with that. When I was a counselor, while I was professional, most kids, I think, saw me as a friend. At least, I think they did. It’s nice that at least these two students feel comfortable enough with me to let me know how they are doing.

And I’m still in touch with many former students. Facebook has been a great help with that. It’s fun to watch their own families grow, and I enjoy them sharing this and that with me beyond their posts on social media.

The hardest part of retirement for me is the lack of identity. While I still see myself as an educator, I am not educating directly anymore, unless you consider my weekly posts educating. I’m certainly no longer Principal or Boss or Boss Man. Right now, I’m just, well, Joe.

I think I’m okay with that. However, I think my worth as a person has taken a hit.

I remember when my father got ill, only to get more ill. He lost the ability to communicate. While I was in college, he would try to write a letter to me and the first words were legible, while the rest resembled a scribbled waterfall. Best way I can describe it. Eventually, he lost the ability to talk. You could still see him struggling with trying to get words out, but they were stuck. They took some sort of detour and ended up lost.

Eventually, he was placed in a nursing home. Probably the best place for him. My brother Jack and his wife, and my sister Betty and her husband, tried to care for him. Other brothers and sisters did too. It became too much. I don’t begrudge them at all. Honestly, not at all. They tried. So probably, a nursing home was the best place for him. A painful decision by the family.

But I think more so for my dad. He was alone. Yes, he received visitors. But daily, minute by minute, hour by hour, he was alone.

My mom ended up in a nursing home, too. She couldn’t get around like she once could. One day as I recall, Meals On Wheels found her in the hallway on the floor. She had been there for at least twenty-four hours. There was speculation that the time was longer. You see, she had fallen and broke her hip. The speculation was that she dragged herself to try to get to a phone.

The day we brought her home from the hospital, my brother Jack and I were sitting at the kitchen table with her. Jack was going through bills to pay and I was going through mail. Mom burst into tears and told us that she didn’t want to be alone anymore, that she was frightened. That was tough to hear. My mom was so vulnerable. Jack and my sister Judy made plans and found a nice nursing home where Judy used to work. They took care of her and mom loved it, her new home.

I guess it is all in perspective.

Some folks embrace retirement, while others resist it. Kind of like a nursing home experience.

For me, I’m not used to sitting around. I walk most every day just to keep in shape. I read and I write, two of my favorite things to do. Throw in a movie or two, and I’m pretty much good to go. However, there is only so much walking, reading, writing and movie watching one can do.

So, I’m looking for part-time work. I’m choosy, picky. I like working with kids and families, and I will in some capacity. When I find the right one, I’ll know it. It will be nice to bring in some extra income.

Titles and Identity.

I think the trick is that one’s identity isn’t, or perhaps, shouldn’t be tied to one’s title. I suppose it can be, but is it fulfilling? Meaningful? I prefer being “Dad” and “Husband” and “Friend.” I like being the playful “Boss Man” or as one of my former students calls me, “Slimeball” because I refer to her (and to her brother) as “Weirdo.” Nice they can do that with me. It makes me smile. All in fun.

But a Title is just that, a Title. I think Identity is what you, yourself, make it, and not what others lay on you. You, and I, need to be comfortable with whom we are, not so much what we are, though that is important too. Because what we are changes. Who we are might change, but it is more solid- as it should be. So, I’m wrestling a bit right now and eventually, I’ll figure it out. I usually do. It’s just taking some time to do so. But I’ll get there. We all do. My turn now. Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I received a brand new 5 Star Review from Diane Donovan of Donovan’s Literary Services, who is also a Senior Reviewer for The Midwest Book Review and Editor of the California Bookwatch. She wrote:

“Joseph Lewis does an excellent job of crafting and entwining the politics and process of confronting reservation violence and the efforts of a group of boys to find answers about their conflicted lives and disparate backgrounds. He paints a realistic, involving portrait of reservation life and the FBI's involvement in shootouts and confrontations that threaten to take not only lives, but ways of life . . . To call Betrayed a thriller alone would be to do it a disservice. It’s a social inspection of Navajo reservation culture and life, and its probe of the roots of love and connection are wonderfully woven into a story of adversity and the struggle to survive on many levels. These elements make Betrayed particularly recommended for readers who look for psychological depth and complexity from a story of violence and evolution.”

I am both pleased and humbled by that. Betrayed is available for preorder at  Use promo code: PREORDER2020 to receive a 15% discount. Betrayed is a contemporary psychological thriller and an exploration of the heart and of a blended family of adopted kids, their relationships to each other and their parents woven into a tight thriller/mystery.

Connect with me on Social Media:
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor

Spiral Into Darkness:
Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent and methodical. He has a list and has murdered eight on it so far. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, have no idea they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement.

Caught in a Web:
A PenCraft Literary Award Winner!
The bodies of high school and middle school kids are found dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. The drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors and the Milwaukee Metro area is controlled by MS-13, a violent gang originating from El Salvador. Ricardo Fuentes is sent from Chicago to Waukesha to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay, who had killed his cousin the previous summer.

Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills anyone else, especially George or members of his family. The three detectives discover the ring has its roots in a high school among the students and staff.

Book One of the Lives Trilogy, Stolen Lives:
Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they’ll end up like all the others- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. And the possibility exists that one of his team members might be involved.                                

Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
Six men escaped and are out for revenge. The boys, recently freed from captivity, are in danger and so are their families, but they don’t know it. The FBI has no clues, no leads, and nothing to go on and because of that, cannot protect them.                                   

Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
A 14-year-old boy knows the end is coming. What he doesn’t know is when, where, or by whom. Without that knowledge, neither he nor the FBI can protect him or his family.                                                   

The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they don’t know one another, the lives of FBI Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread that Pete Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their lives are in jeopardy as each search for a way out.   

Picture of my father, John Raymond Lewis, Sr. courtesy of Unknown.


  1. Somehow I missed that you retired! Congrats on the retirement. I'm sure you will find something fulfilling to fill your time soon. The hardest part is knowing what you want. Then once you do, you just have to go get it.

  2. Thanks, Ben. That's about all one can do.


Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe