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Martha Wood
47, Austin, TX

What do you do for work?
That’s a great question. I’ve often wished that I was the kind of person who had an easy answer to that, as in, “Well, I’m a paramedic or I’m a teacher.”  But I am not that person.

I’ve done many, many things. In my 20s I waited tables, cashiered, sold computers and then worked at a bank for several years. I eventually went back to school to finish my degree in journalism and worked as a newspaper reporter, which I loved but the pay was god awful. I tried out the ad industry briefly. Hated it. After I became a mom, I started blogging and then did social media consulting and freelance blogging. I had several really wonderful clients, but frankly, I hated being self-employed. It was too much pressure. Also, I decided that health insurance would be nice.

So I went back into the workforce once my daughter was in elementary school. At the moment I work for the federal government. That’s as much as I can tell you or I’d have to kill you! Just kidding. It’s a job. I don’t hate it. But I don’t love it. Like many women, I find that after my 20s and my parenting years, I have put a lot of things on hold. I don’t know if I’ll stay on my current career path or change courses. Knowing me, I’ll change courses a few more times in my life. Since I’ve made a number of varying turns career-wise and I’m getting older, I do worry about ageism. The thought of starting over seems like a bad idea, but knowing me, I’ll do it anyway. I’m hoping that my final decades will finally bring me some more meaningful work.

For play?
Reading. Every night, I leave my books at work for my books at home. I also like walking around cities — my own and others.

What do I do for play? These days, “me time” seems pretty important. I’m a bit of an introvert, although, many people would be surprised to hear that because I’m pretty chatty. Having been a reporter helps with that. I ask a lot of questions. I consider myself an extroverted introvert. I like to schedule time alone as much as possible because with a 10-year-old, it’s been a decade since I’ve had enough time to myself. I also don’t consider being alone, not having plans. I don’t feel guilty at all if someone asks me to do something and I tell them I have plans when all I have planned is being at home by myself. Solitude really helps me reset.

What do I do with my time alone? I like to go for walks, meditate and read books. I still try to be social, so I schedule drinks and the occasional date. I enjoy eating out. Living in Austin, Texas, eating out can be a bit of a competitive sport. I like to try new restaurants and foods. I’ve definitely become more of a foodie these days. I also enjoy learning about wine. And of course, drinking it.

What are you passionate about?
My passions are feminism and working on being an anti-racist and an ally to people of color. Feminism is something that has come naturally to me. I was super angry about the way I was treated for most of my childhood and teenage years, but I never understood why. I grew up in small-town Texas. For seven years I lived in a tiny town where we had three churches, but only one school for elementary through high school. Then we moved to a somewhat bigger town where we had the second-most churches per capita in the entire country. Luckily for me, my parents are liberals and very outspoken. So, it didn’t take me long to figure out all the sexist bullshit that was being shoved down my throat.

As for being an anti-racist/ally, I lived in Detroit for several years. It was a complete culture shock for me, becoming immersed in a city that was the complete opposite in many ways of where I grew up. In my neighborhood, I was one of two white people on my block.  Of course, the main difference, other than the city size, was the race differences. As a child, I lived in a town where there were exactly two black families in our town. In the other, larger city, there were black people, but the town was very segregated.

Moving to Detroit, with my now-ex-husband taught me things I never would have even thought to ask or learn about if I had never moved. I went to Wayne State in downtown Detroit and was immersed in a rich and varied culture of diversity. I had African American, Indian, Muslim, Hispanic, African and Canadian friends and they all taught me many, many valuable lessons.

Regrets?
Regrets, I’ve got a fewwwww. I’ve been divorced. I have dropped out of school. I’ve gotten myself knocked up and become a single mom. I’ve quit jobs and moved across the world. And I truly do not regret a single one of those things. As the cliche goes, the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do. That’s definitely true for me. I only regret not pushing myself to stay in journalism. Otherwise, nada. Nope. Regrets are mostly a waste of time. Every bad choice I made, in the long run, brought me to where I am today and I like it just fine.

Can you describe your fantasy version of your older self?
I have two different versions of my fantasy older self. One version is an emulation of Helen Thomas, getting back into journalism and spending the next 30 years of my life writing about something I’m passionate about — but not politics. Even though I love politics, I don’t envision myself writing about it. It seems way too stressful. But I envision myself working in some capacity until my death. I don’t like the idea of retiring completely.

The other fantasy version of my older self is something like Frankie, the character played by Lily Tomlin on Grace and Frankie, the Netflix show about two older women who have to reinvent their lives when their husbands announce that they are gay and in love after 40 years of marriage. I love Frankie because she does whatever the hell she wants. She eats junk food, smokes weed, fucks, steals cigarettes and becomes an entrepreneur in her 70s. She doesn’t see herself as an old woman, she just continues to live as she always has.

In reality, I envision myself as a meshed version of the two. I don’t think I’ll ever stop working, but the older I get, the more I embrace my inner hippie. So, we’ll see. Sometimes I fantasize about moving back to West Texas where I grew up. That part of the country is incredibly conservative. I am super liberal. So I like the idea of going back there and possibly starting up a small, liberal newspaper so I can give some liberal/feminist guidance to the women and girls there who may be more like me than they realize.

What’s your biggest fear?
I don’t think I have a “biggest fear.” I have lots of little fears. I sometimes worry that I might grow old and end up becoming one of those weird shut-ins who never bathes and shuffles around the house in a robe and smelly slippers. I also worry about dying in a swift and sudden car crash. There’s always lots of glass flying and terrible trauma. But those are the anxiety-riddled fantasies that play out in my head when I’m overwhelmed and stressed. Otherwise, I don’t think I really have one. I’m pragmatic. I definitely have the attitude of hope for the best, but expect the worst. As I get older that seems to be changing. I look forward to my old age. Based on my history, I don’t think it will turn out nearly as bad as I can possibly imagine, so I think it’ll be pretty good. I look back at my life and wonder at how well things turned out for me. I mean, I’m not rich or exceptionally beautiful, but I made it out of my alcohol/drug/sex phase of my young adulthood relatively unscathed. I have made it through a divorce. I’ve become a single mom. And yet, through all of it, I have managed to float pretty effortlessly into good things. I have a decent, stable job. I have a nice home. My child is thriving and we have a good relationship and I have great friends. I am pretty happy. So, I don’t see that changing.

What’s your guilty pleasure?
Netflix and wine (talk about cliche! ha!). Sometimes I eat my daughter’s Pirate’s Booty with red wine. Okay, I really buy it for myself. I definitely eat more of it than she does. I love terrible reality shows like Hoarders, Real Housewives and the shows about plural marriage (it fascinates me so much!). I watch good TV, too. My most recent favorites are Maniac and Wanderlust.  And one of my guiltiest pleasures is advice columns. My favorites are Dear Prudie and Savage Love. I can’t get enough. I think it’s because I am a total voyeur. I like to call it curiosity. My ex says I’m just nosy. He doesn’t get me.

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The Woolfer Newsletter Team
Stephanie Staal and Nina Collins have worked together and adored each other since 1994 when they were both babies in the world of book publishing. Stephanie is a lawyer, journalist, & author of READING WOMEN, and Nina is the founder of "What Would Virginia Woolf Do?"