Life Reimagined at Fifty

 Midlife Reinvention

“There is no passion to be found playing small–in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” –Nelson Mandela, Revolutionary, Politician, President of South Africa

A few years back, I was watching a Tyler Perry interview where he talked about his struggles prior to the extraordinary success he has since achieved.  One thing that stood out was the advice that his mother once gave him. “You need to get a good job with some benefits!”  How many of you have been told the same thing by your parents?  Well, let me tell you my story!

As a child I was a voracious reader. Getting my first library card gave me the same thrill as when I first got my driver’s license as a young adult. My favorite books were the Pippi Longstocking series. Her adventures lit up my young imagination and gave me ideas and dreams of an adventurous life that I one day wanted to live.

Like most kids, I was always changing my mind about what I wanted to be when I grew up. One day it would be a school teacher, the next day a “movie star.”  For a short period of time I wanted to be “Spiderwoman” since I loved the Spiderman comic books that my older brother collected.  My future occupation changed constantly. All of the possibilities made me feel optimistic and excited.  Although my parents thought some of my plans were cute, they advised me to be “realistic” and select a reasonable occupation.  They would say, “It’s okay to have dreams but you also have to pay your bills. For that you need to get a “good job with benefits'”…..just like Tyler Perry’s mother told him.

My parents grew up in the south under the Jim Crow laws.  They moved “up north” during the 1950s where job opportunities and a chance to build a better life were more possible for them.   They worked hard, lived within their means and provided a comfortable life for me and my brother.

I still remember the exact advise that my parents gave me. They broke down, step-by-step, what I should do to build my own life:

  • Go to school and get good grades so that you can get a “good” job when you grow up
  • Get a”good job with benefits” and go to work everyday
  • Save your money so that you can provide for yourself, put a roof over your head and buy a car.
  • Buy a home and pay your mortgage.
  • Spend the next 40 years or so going to work, raising your family, paying your bills, going on a few vacations, etc.
  • Retire from job with a good pension and/or 401k plan and enjoy your freedom.

It didn’t sound as exciting as my grand plans but, of course, I thought that my parents knew best.  It was a structured life plan that seemed simple enough.

I started following the roadmap that my parents outlined.  After graduating from high school and attending secretarial school, I got my first full-time office job at age 18. A succession of other  “good jobs with benefits” followed over the years.  With each job I earned some experience that I was able to use as a stepping stone to the next job.  Some were your basic office jobs; others were unconventional. I even ran my own event planning business for a short time which helped me to secure a job with a sports entertainment league that allowed me to travel the world.  In between all of that, there were a couple of job layoffs that I was able to bounce back from.

Overall, I’ve done pretty well, so far.  However, throughout my life, I always had that nagging feeling that I was just going through the motions….that there was so much more that I could be doing.  Although, having a “good job with benefits” is cool, I’ve always found myself asking, “Is this pretty much it?” and feeling unfulfilled.

These days I am still an avid reader.  I particularly love biographies, especially those detailing how someone builds a most extraordinary life out of virtually nothing.  I like learning about what makes an individual like that “tick” and how they got through their adversity.  The best stories are those about a person attaining success, losing everything, then regaining it all and more.  I’m always one to cheer for the person that no one believes in but who strongly believes in him/herself and their dreams. Reading these types of books give me that same feeling I had as a little girl reading all of those books from the library.

“You can get what you want or you can just get old.”Billy Joel, Singer-Songwriter

As my 50th birthday approached, I began to reflect often on how I’ve lived my life.  There have been some high times and some low ones.  I’ve learned some hard lessons, dusted myself off and kept it moving.

Now that I’m on the other side of the half-century mark,  I think more about how I want to live my life from here on out.  Instead of seeing myself slowing down, it’s the exact opposite.  I feel like I’m beginning anew and see so many of my peers doing the same!  Instead of counting the days to retirement, many of us middle-agers are reimagining our lives and creating new paths!

Whether you are 20-years old or 50+, like me, you don’t necessarily have to have it all figured out!  What’s important is that you keep moving forward!! 

If you don’t know what you want in life (at any age), I have a suggestion.  Start out by thinking about and pinpointing the things that you DON’T want!

  • Do you want to live paycheck-to-paycheck?
  • Do you want to spend years at a job that you don’t like just because its pays well?
  • Do you want to live in an apartment all of your life or do you want town your own property?
  • Do you want to hang around people who are negative and don’t support you?
  • Do you want to travel?
  • Do you want to create your own job working for yourself?
  • Do you love creating – writing, singing, painting, decorating, doing hair and makeup, etc.?

It’s not about “the doing things the right or wrong way” or “what everyone else is doing!”  It’s about what works for you and your life!

Life is to be LIVED.  For me, just going through the motions of life is scary.  Having something to strive for and to look forward to is much more fun!

These days, I have a great list of goals that I think about and work on daily even if it’s only for 15 minutes (this blog being one of them!).  Some of my goals are small and others are quite lofty.  Each day I do something that gets me one step closer to those goals.  Will there be hiccups on the way?  I’m sure that there will be..that’s all a part of the process.

The greatest thing about this new journey is that I’m moving through it with DECADES of life lessons and experience!  I think that it will be quite a ride and I look forward to sharing  my new experiences with you!

Thank you for visiting me today!

Warm regards,

Cheryl

 

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