Search & Replace S03E25: Calvin Schwartz

From the constraints of a career that never felt right to the liberating pursuit of his true passions, Calvin Schwartz shares how listening to your inner voice can help you find the courage to reinvent yourself. Schwartz shares his transition from an unfulfilling career in pharmacy to finding fulfillment in writing and communication, culminating in an unexpected foray into journalism and teaching. His story is a powerful beacon for anyone who is yearning for change but is hesitant to take the leap. Gain invaluable insights on the importance of self-discovery, reinvention, and practical advice on balancing life transitions on this episode of Search and Replace. 

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[00:00:00] Announcer: Support for the following podcast is provided by the user experience specialists at Johns and Taylor. More information follows this episode.  

[00:00:09] Joe Taylor, Jr: What if you feel a pull to make a huge change in your life, but you wait 10 years just to make sure it’s right.  

[00:00:17] I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. This is Search and Replace. 

[00:00:27] Sometimes, you get a feeling in your gut and you just know you’ve got to follow it right away. If you’re Calvin Schwartz, hearing what his gut was saying and following through took a little longer.  

[00:00:41] Calvin Schwartz: I became a pharmacist and everything in my world said, don’t be a pharmacist because I don’t like science and I don’t like math and I hate physics. And I’m not a big fan of chemistry. I loved history. But I had a very powerful overbearing mother and because all my relatives were pharmacists they said, become a pharmacist. So I became a pharmacist.  

[00:01:02] There were things inside me that conflicted with that career choice. So I did it for 12 years. I endured it because it wasn’t for me. 

[00:01:12] And then one day I just woke up and I told my poor wife, I said, I can’t do this anymore. But she said, it’s your profession. Well, what are you going to do? I said, I don’t know. Cause I was just trained for pharmacy. So I sat home for six months watching soap operas and Rockford Files. And we just got married, bought our house. So it was really no way to start a marriage or sit and watch soap operas while she’s teaching in New York. 

[00:01:37] Joe Taylor, Jr: Six months on the couch was about the limit for Calvin’s wife and many of his close friends.  

[00:01:44] Calvin Schwartz: Somebody close to me said, Calvin, you gotta do something to save your marriage, you gotta do something, let me get you a job selling eyeglass. Of all things, I said, I’m not a salesman, but it was a matter of survival and it was a little spark, just a little communicative spark. Gee, I like talking to people.  

[00:02:04] And eventually I ended up working for the biggest eyewear company in the world called Luxotica Group and they own LenseCrafters and Pearl and Ray Ban. And I, kind of, started with them almost from day one.  

[00:02:15] So I spent 25 years there, and I loved it, took 50 courses, and I was trained, and there was still that thing inside of me, restlessness, and that something that wanted to come out. And not that I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing, because I earned a nice living, and happy, and, but there was, I couldn’t explain it. 

[00:02:36] Joe Taylor, Jr: And that’s when Calvin retired from the eyewear business, but he still needed an outlet for all that restless energy.  

[00:02:43] Calvin Schwartz: Now I explain it because, eventually, Inside came out and it allowed me to write my first novel, Vichy Water. So when I wrote that and self-published, it was therapy for me, and it helped get some of these emotions, these feelings out. 

[00:02:58] But it was the process of getting what’s inside you out. If I wrote this book, this novel, I said to myself, I guess I can do more writing things now. So I, out of the clear blue randomness of the universe, I decided to become a journalist, which I knew nothing about. And while I knew about journalism, you got to answer the questions who, what, where, when, and why. 

[00:03:20] So I became a journalist here in central Jersey and I got writing for a couple of magazines and I liked it. And all of a sudden I had a cable TV talk show and I was producing and co-hosting. And in our peak, you know, we’re bringing in some national-type guests. And so I was doing that. And then they got involved in my alma mater. And there was no game plan.  

[00:03:37] Joe Taylor, Jr: Even with no specific game plan, Calvin started feeling the pull of something guiding his decisions about how to spend his time.  

[00:03:46] Calvin Schwartz: This, these were all expressions of what’s inside, where I should go. And you always have notions of things you want to do. You know, you want to make the world a better place, or you want to give back. You know, you think about legacy.  

[00:03:58] I wanted to get back to my alma mater. So I got involved with Rutgers. I started mentoring at my peak before the pandemic I was mentoring 14 students a semester, full time, back and forth to the diner, you know, like three times a week. And I loved it, I loved it. And I made a difference you can’t affect change It’s all part of if you believe in giving back and doing, caring. So here I am at 74 becoming a teacher, I was a lecturer.  

[00:04:25] When most people are retiring, sitting on a front porch, drinking prune juice on the rocks, in a rocking chair, and here I am beginning a teaching career. I started journalism writing for a couple of magazines, I covered film, independent film, and got involved with the Garden State Film Festival. And then I got involved with homelessness, and hunger, because of care.  

[00:04:44] I started my own podcast three years ago, because it was COVID and I couldn’t do my normal journalism. So, you know, the universal and I get some really interesting people and, and it’s a give back.  

[00:04:55] It’s a wonderful fulfillment. It’s beyond whatever I’ve ever dreamt of myself, cause I’m supposed to be sitting in that rocking chair. But it is a tremendous fulfillment and everything surprises me. 

[00:05:09] I wasn’t put on this earth to be a writer. I wasn’t trained to be a writer. I wrote that first book. It was a vehicle for change in my life.  

[00:05:20] Joe Taylor, Jr: Calvin’s got some advice if you’re thinking about changing something in your life.  

[00:05:24] Calvin Schwartz: Do things gradually. You know, you still have to hold on to your career, your work. Experiment, throw things on a wall. Use your time, do less TikTok and do more searching and do more exploring and experimenting.  

[00:05:40] The message is plan, live your life. And I, it’s funny, I want to be a poster boy for AARP. The reinvention part of my life, you know, you can be in your sixties and seventies and beyond and keep reinventing yourself because you can.  

[00:05:59] You’re going to have seventeen jobs and five careers in your life. It’s just statistics. You got to go with your inner self. You’ve got to find that happiness thing, and there are no rules. Be open, you gotta be brave, and you gotta be strong, and you have to believe in yourself, these are all those buzzwords and expressions, but you know, it works. I mean it worked for me, and I’m just a regular guy. 

[00:06:27] Joe Taylor, Jr: That’s regular guy and accomplished writer, Calvin Schwartz. We’ve got links to Calvin’s projects in our show notes and on our website at  

[00:06:37] Search and Replace was produced by Nicole Hubbard with support from Connie Evans, Amelia Lohmann, April Smith, and Podcast Taxi executive producer, Lori Taylor. 

[00:06:55] Our theme music was composed by Alex ReFire.  

[00:06:58] I’m Joe Taylor, Jr. 

[00:07:05] Announcer: This has been a Podcast Taxi radio production.  

[00:07:09] Support for Search and Replace is provided by Johns and Taylor, user experience specialists serving media and technology companies that want their websites to work. Learn more about how top performing businesses eliminate barriers between customers and their goals at

Joe Taylor Jr. has produced stories about media, technology, entertainment, and personal finance for over 25 years. His work has been featured on NPR, CNBC, Financial Times Television, and ABC News. After launching one of public radio's first successful digital platforms, Joe helped dozens of client companies launch or migrate their online content libraries. Today, Joe serves as a user experience consultant for a variety of Fortune 500 and Inc. 5000 businesses. Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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