I Used to Be Somebody: (Un)Retirement Lessons Learned

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Richard Turner Interview: From Courtroom to Darkroom

Diana Landau | October 05, 2020

Carl interviewed Richard Turner, an active 82 year-old with over 20 years of adventurous (un)retirement in the Tiki Bar studio last week. Richard lives in Sacramento but has a national reputation. His life has taken many twists—from prominent positions in state government to managing a large law firm to taking a dramatic U-turn to professional photographer and poet.


In his early 30s, Richard was already a Deputy District Attorney when he was given the opportunity to work for Ronald Reagan, then California’s governor. Richard says that even if you don’t agree with Reagan’s policies, he was always a gentleman. He worked closely with Reagan and the team understood that the goal was the White House. Richard also stepped up to become Governor’s representative on the scene during the 1969 People’s Park riots.


He then left his plumb job on the Governor’s legal team to become a trial lawyer and start his own practice. Specializing in state governmental issues, Richard grew his firm to 15 lawyers and 40 employees. His life was about work, kids, and their schedules mortgages, graduations—we all know the drill. He felt all the long hours in his work life were taking a toll. “I started to feel that five decades rushed by, like overnight,” and he began to wonder about the world outside his own. As a trial lawyer, his life was characterized by conflict. He wanted more.


At 60, spur of the moment, Richard told his wife he was going back East and would be back in a month. He had no plan, no agenda. He stopped in Idaho, Montana and British Columbia, taking photos with a brand new camera. One morning, before he bucked hay on a cattle ranch, he was sitting on a log as the mist rose from the Bitterroot River. An inner voice whispered, “Richard, you swagger around a courtroom all day arguing with people. There are a lot of other things happening in the world. Wake up before the miracles pass you by.” Richard says his sleep in the woods that night was delightful.


So Richard went from courtroom to darkroom, winding up his client responsibilities at the law firm and embarking on a new career as professional nature photographer and poet—two things he hadn’t done before but took enormous pleasure in—even though his friends and family thought he was crazy. It took some work to wrap things up in his old life, but he says the decision was easy.


Fast forward to now: Richard has sold thousands of copies of his book, “I Can’t Always See My Path, but I Keep on Walking”, a collaboration of his photography and poetry. He has more books in the works and has sold 54,000 of his beautiful, handmade cards featuring his photos. (Do the math.)


Here are some key insights on (un)retirement from the interview:


  • Richard: “Do whatever it takes to enjoy your life.”


  • Carl: “Don’t wait for tomorrow to do the things on your bucket list. People always wait for retirement, whenever that is. Do it now.”


  • Richard: “We get caught up in the troubles of life—the world, politics, family, etc. Life is short. Make an effort to enjoy it and be fulfilled.”


Richard summed up his (un)retirement in just three words: “I feel good!” He went on to say that what has become important to him now is to do something for humanity. He’s certainly found that in sharing his writing and photography with the world.


For the full interview, listen to I Used to be Somebody, Episode #4 with Richard Turner. For listening details go to our website!

To learn more about Richard’s work check out his website to learn more about what he's up to now.


Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the I Used to Be Somebody weekly blog.

Tags:    blog   interview   podcast   Richard Turner   unretirement   poetry   photography