Cindy Masko doesn't tiptoe around the fact she has found a home in her second career as an office support specialist for the U. of I.'s dance department.
"It's been amazing working with a group of such talented and creative people," she said. "It's exciting to watch the whole process."
Masko has been in her position since 2008 after starting in an extra help job with University Housing.
Three years before that she had retired after working 25 years for the postal service and quickly found the retired life was not for her.
"I thought I was going to get to do all of these things, but I was bored," she said. "I felt like I was out of the loop and decided I'd like to do something else."
That led her to pick back up her pursuit of a bachelor's degree through the joint general education program of Parkland College and Eastern Illinois University. (She dropped out of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale when she was younger.)
"I always thought I would get back to it, but life events always seemed to get in the way," she said.
Becoming a full-time student again to earn her degree was not easy.
"I was really scared when I first started going back to college," she said. "It had been a long time since I had written a paper or taken a test."
But she soon found her fears were unwarranted and she was doing well in her classes. She said it was exhilarating after all those years, to simply learn for the sake of improvement.
She said she especially enjoyed taking a history class that focused on the era that she had grown up in.
"It was really interesting to look back at some of things I had lived through," she said. "It really made me look at things differently."
Masko said she ended up in the dance department by accident - meaning there was an office opening and she applied.
It's been a perfect fit.
She is the keeper of the calendars for the department and its leader, is in charge of organizing meetings and recitals, assists students with registration problems and produces a weekly newsletter. She said she enjoys being around the staff members and the students who come into the department office.
"At first I thought it was more work than I had wanted to sign up for," she said. "I never considered myself very organized, but the job kind of expects that. It didn't take long to realize I liked what I was doing and this is really a great place to work. I love being here and I feel like I've found a home."
She said her greatest skills are that she likes to interact with people and has learned to be patient when things don't go perfectly.
The job also has expanded Masko's cultural horizons as she gets to see many of the dance events that occur on campus.
"I've always liked dance but didn't know much about it, especially modern dance," she said. "Some of the things I haven't understood, but you learn to enjoy the expression."
She said she likes staying for the "talkbacks" held after dance events to learn even more about the art form.
"I just keep watching and listening and learning things along the way," she said.
Masko, born and raised in the region, has been married for 31 years. She and her husband, Frank, met while they worked at the post office. They now raise bird dogs together in rural Fisher.
She said navigating a workplace romance was not easy.
"We worked together, became good friends and eventually began dating," she said. "We had to keep it secret for a long time."
Masko and her husband recently lost their 29-year-old daughter following her long battle with cystic fibrosis. The couple is still adapting to life without her.
"She was the most important thing in our lives," Masko said.
To relax, Masko likes to crochet and knit and makes scarves, hats and afghans. She also likes to read, especially mysteries written by James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly and Gillian Flynn.