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Posts Tagged ‘retired professionals’


Sheet music to "Give My Regards"

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Lately I’ve started writing much more than years past (have you noticed this blog?) It feels like the right creative outlet especially as I explore this new period in my life, Act Three.

Creative expression has always been a driving force for me. When I was a kid I dreamed of singing and dancing on Broadway – heck, I’ll say it, I wanted to be a star.  My mother schlepped me to auditions all the time, each with the same heartbreaking result – CHORUS! Evidently my voice sounded great to me and had I been the casting director I’d have won the lead hands down.  But – c’est la vie.  As each heartbreak gave way to the next bout of courage and the next resounding NO THANKS I finally figured it out.  My future wasn’t going to be on stage.  Time to move on … and then I discovered… back stage!

Voila!  Back stage became the perfect fit — stage manager, show producer – change to radio producer, on to TV producer, then into management, and on to departmental leadership.  Once I set my new sights I started hearing yes yes yes yes, which is a lot more fun than a childhood filled with no’s.

A passion was ignited and my drive was born.  I couldn’t get enough of work – it’s all I wanted and the only thing I did.  Weekdays consisted of a minimum of 12 hour days and weekends were spent perusing magazines, newspapers, books or watching TV – all in search of the next great idea for a show or a promotion or a special or a series.  And I never got tired of it until … I did.   More than 30 years later.

Shockingly my drive has let me go.  It no longer consumes my waking hours, nor does it deprive me of sleep.  I’m blissfully free of its grasp.  And I don’t miss nor mourn it.  I’m enjoying the sense of freedom from the need to keep pushing.

Equally surprising is that my interest in making a creative contribution hasn’t waned.  In fact it’s starting to blossom again.  But it’s not associated with need to do.  It’s more like inspired to do.

Is it possible that I’ve actually kissed my drive goodbye?  I guess time will tell.

How about you?  What drives you?

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So far, my 50s are the best decade yet.  For a long time I’d been in denial of getting older.  Age 50 seemed light years away with plenty of living and achieving to accomplish before reaching that dreaded decade of my parents. My mother always told me that one day I’d get there and the only way I’d know would be to look in the mirror.  In other words, I’d feel exactly the same inside, just the outside would change with the years.  And you know what?  She was right on both counts.  Now that I’m facing the waning years of my 50s I still feel like 30 something, only happier and more at peace.  Recognize this age-old adage by George Bernard Shaw?

Anglo-Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw

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“Youth is wasted on the young.”        Now that I understand what it means, I couldn’t agree more!

When I was a kid, 50s was considered old age.  And old people didn’t care about experimenting with life anymore.  Their kids were grown, they’d become grandparents and life was spent in front of the TV or on the proverbial front porch swing.

That’s not even close to today’s reality.  What is true is that traditional advertisers don’t think we count anymore after age 54.  The sweet spot for TV advertisers is the demo 25 – 54.  After that they think we don’t buy as much and when we do we gravitate toward the same habitual brands.  Like kids do, they think we no longer experiment with life and products.  Well, in truth, many of those media buyers are kids themselves – of course those are their prevailing viewpoints!

What IS reality is a renewed vibrance for life.  And that includes experimentation of all kinds:  hair, clothes, weight, adventure, relationships, jobs, hobbies, houses – you name it, we’re open to it.  In most cases the kids are grown and have moved on with their own lives; we women are now free to rediscover ourselves.  In my case there were no kids, just a life consuming career that involved moving around the country and growing in new jobs.

Now with no job that demands my attention, each day offers new discoveries.  The stress has been lifted creating more room for free thinking and exploration.  I’m happier, calmer, feel more love and offer it more generously.  And the surprise is my new-found attitude that what people think about me doesn’t matter like it did during the first bout with my 30s.  I’m now healthier and more physically fit, read whatever I want and become ensconced in activities that appeal to me.  And I still feel sexy.  Plus I’m wiser and smarter than I was 20 years ago.  You know — “if I knew then what I know now…” kind of thing.

Most other women in their 50s feel the same way!  Many of us have disposable income regardless  of  what those young media buyers think.  And the smart advertisers are figuring it out.  Why there are now websites dedicated to boomers and they’re filled with ads.  Imagine that.  We’re actually avid internet users!

I love my 50s and embrace the peeking onset of the next decade.  Who knows – by then I may want to live in a green and purple house or maybe add some purple to my hair!  Love that color!

How do you feel about this so-called middle period of life?  Do share!

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Contribution to society always meant paycheck to me.  I fell into a profession that had the power to influence people:  their activities and their impressions.  And that always felt like my noble calling.  The shows I created and produced touched people’s lives, not always in a good way (I’m not proud to admit), but usually so.  We had the privilege of being public advocates for current affairs, offering up ideas for consideration and inspiration, creating community activities and entertaining people in their spare time.  I loved playing to a mass audience; it felt like an important public service and provided me years of meaningful work and an increasingly healthy livelihood.

Then I stopped working.  No more public platform to exercise my creative juices and throw hours and hours into devising concepts.  Every morning offered a blank canvas with a glaringly empty “to-do” list.  Nobody relied on me, no deadlines existed, no emergencies reared their heads, no more constantly ringing phone…  Now what?

Now… began to mean living each day its own way and reflecting on the kinds of things that offered me meaning, joy, independence, and stimulation.  So far, today is a life that includes playing with my pets, some travel, reading, yoga, meditation, exercise, yard work, cooking, friends, writing and volunteering.

Volunteering?  I never offered my services for free during my “job” years.  First, where would the time come from?  The few hours of weekend I had to myself were devoted to errands and stuff like laundry and bill paying.  Volunteering was what homemakers did.  (Sorry if that offends anyone, no offense intended – just some truth telling.)  It didn’t feel big to me or influential or important.  And then I saw some listings in the local paper that started to resonate.

Tennessee’s largest horse rescue was holding an open house, a chance to visit their rehabilitated horses now available for adoption.  I’ve always loved horses, use to ride them and have even yearned for my own.  When I went for a visit I was overwhelmed with admiration for the volunteers’ selfless devotion to helping such magnificent creatures.  I’d only experienced healthy, loved horses that were well taken care of.  I had no idea that people starved their animals or left them to die on mountains.  So now I’m among those who nurse these horses back to health.  It’s hard to articulate how these animals make me feel and how their recoveries, both physically and emotionally, offer such satisfaction and meaning.  They need us.  For them, it’s a question of life or death.  What’s more important than that?  And the fact that this organization can’t subsist without our unpaid help makes my contribution all that more necessary.  It’s a feeling I never had when I got my paychecks.

Passion for me has always included animals.  I find their vulnerability encourages the same from me.  There are no facades when communicating with animals, only genuine interaction that teases my heart wide open.  Authentic relationships are the only kinds that matter to me.  Anything else is a waste of time and energy in this short life span we’re offered.

It’s that kind of genuine relationship that also attracted me to hospice work.  If there’s ever a time when a human being needs an attentive presence, it’s during one’s countdown to the end of life.  And so I’m also, now, a hospice companion volunteer.  My patients meet me when they’ve chosen to stop medical intervention for their diseases and, instead, to face death with palliative care.  Hospice is a gift to the human species; their nurses and aides are among the most compassionate people I’ve ever met.  I consider them heroes.  My role is as the patient’s friend, an empathetic ear with no familial baggage or preconceived assumptions.  We talk … we cry… we tell stories…  I listen.

With an elderly woman whose passion for reading was pre-empted by deteriorating eyes, I read aloud.  With an intellectually disabled man, my age – we assembled children’s puzzles, I read him picture books and offered encouragement for the days when he’d “be better;” he didn’t understand the extent of his disease.  With a senior gentleman who would not live to mentor his young grandson into manhood, I listened to his sorrow that went unexpressed with his family.  Does that sound like time meaningfully spent?  I find it incredibly humbling and an un-paralleled learning experience.

Volunteering is a mundane phrase for a mammoth job.  It’s influential, inspiring, meaningful and vital.  And the fact that I don’t get paid makes it that much richer.

What offers meaning to your life?  And how have impressions about satisfying that charge changed over the years?  I’d love to hear about it.

And if Tennessee’s horse rescue intrigues you, please visit their website at horsehaventn.org.    And you can see their video story on You Tube athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-DLMKETHFY

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My life is a story in progress.  That may be an obvious commentary to some  but it’s a revelation to me because I used to think I had it all figured out.  First I’d do my level best to leave home for college and get the mandatory degree so I could secure what I really wanted, a job to begin building my career.   Then I’d land a series of dream jobs, all of them contributing to the bank account that would make me financially independent.  And because I’d be in love with working, I’d continue that lifestyle until I dropped dead one day.  Done.  Finished.  The story of my life:  she strived, she worked, she achieved, she contributed, she died.  I never considered that some day I’d be in my fifties looking for different kinds of experiences besides going to work everyday.  That I’d be asking the question, “who am I without a fancy job?” Well – hello.  I’m here.

I’ve been living my life backwards from most women I know:  not really interested in marriage, children, friends, or a personal life separate from a professional one.  My jobs were so stimulating; a life in broadcasting (and later cable) meant working 10 – 12 hour days (at least) and most weekends and holidays. Creating shows from thin air required a lot of creative energy and the commensurate time to pull them off – day after day, project after project, city after city, year after year.  I traveled around the country, met hundreds of fascinating people, handfuls of celebrities and worked on projects that contributed to a lifetime of memories.  No question, I fell madly in love with an industry that fed my soul and beefed up my wallet.  I am a very fortunate woman and a highly satisfied professional achiever.  By all my definitions, I made it.  I accomplished my agenda.  And, though not in the plans, I got married and have kids, only ours are furry, four-legged ones who fill my heart every bit as much as human children, with much less expense and potential problems.

One day, much to my surprise (and pretty much everyone who knows the professional me) I decided to stop working.  There are a number of reasons why – things like fatigue, frustration and disappointment top the list.  But there was also something more.  Churning down in my gut somewhere was the understanding that there’s more to experience in this magnificent, finite life I have.  Different paths to explore and different methods of exploration.  Maybe that’s what our 50’s are about.  Maybe it’s a “female professional thing,” maybe it’s a mid-life thing.  But it’s a real thing – to be sure.  At least, for me.  My new life is a journey without a road map; it unfolds each day.  Sometimes it offers adventure and insights; other days it’s deliciously mundane.  But right now it’s where I want to be.  I’m enjoying friends, family, travel, a real personal life, books unrelated to my jobs and a continuing learning experience.  Most women did that early on – I saved it for Act three.  My Actthree.net blog is dedicated to musings from that journey.  Mine and, hopefully, yours.

Are you living a life of journey right now?  Tell me about it.  I’m particularly interested in hearing from fellow boomer women.  But, if you’re not yet among us, but have also decided to carve out the non-traditional life – join the fun.  Let’s all enjoy the journey together.  Please email your stories to me at joyceactthree@gmail.com.  I’ll assume I can share them on Actthree.net, and, maybe, compiled into a book farther along my journey.

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