I’m an only child whose early years are deceptive, meaning that I was fortunate enough to have a horse throughout most of my youth. Although my parents didn’t have money, the perception by many was that I must come from prosperity because I had a horse. There were times that I resented the many chores I had to do to maintain my hobby, which my parents insisted were part of the privilege of owning a nice horse. But I loved caring for my horse, barn animals, and other pets — that wasn’t “work” at all for me; instead, it was sheer enjoyment.
As I grew into adulthood, I came to appreciate the work ethic my parents instilled in me. I worked my way through college and won a scholarship for academic excellence in my sophomore year. While a fair number of my classmates were treating college like a 4-year paid party, I didn’t. I worked a few part-time jobs to pay my bills, studied hard, and graduated with honors ready to embrace a professional career.
Fast-forward to today — I’m 56 years old and have been a professional resume writer for the past 17+ years. I live in Massachusetts with my husband, who is my best friend. We were friends first, and it grew into one of the most magical relationships I’ve ever had!
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40 (or 50)?
On the cusp of 40, I had a revelation…that I needed to change my life. I was miserable in my well-paying job; the long commute, a micromanaging boss, and a job that I really didn’t like had begun to impact my physical health. This cycle of continuously being recruited into higher paying jobs to leverage skills I didn’t even like using and for increasingly more money, had to end. My husband told me repeatedly I’d be happier working for myself.
The solution — turn to my lifelong passion for writing. Since I was a young child, I loved to write; everything from stories to clever messages in homemade cards to poetry and later, as an adult, resumes. I knew being a poet wasn’t going to pay the bills, so I explored resume writing. I had always written resumes that landed me interviews. My job seeking peers and former executives experienced comparable results! Nearly two decades later, and I’m still happily writing!
When do you feel you are most powerful?
I feel the most powerful when I’m writing and get caught up in a project. Sometimes I finish a difficult resume and reflect on my work with a sense of pride that I transformed someone’s career story from lackluster into a blockbuster, and that I’ve helped a client achieve a better role that ideally brings him/her greater happiness. I also feel rewarded when I create a wonderful meal that is shared with friends or family, or I make someone smile or laugh — even a stranger.
What are the top three most important things to you right now?
First is career/life balance. For me, it doesn’t matter if it’s 50/50 all the time or 80/20 or whatever. It’s ensuring that I’m not parked in front of a computer all the time and that I make time for my family (including our five-year old Westie), friends, exercise, and recreation.
The second most important thing is that I try to do the right things for my aging parents. I say “try” because I don’t believe there’s an instruction manual on managing the myriad conditions facing our aging parents and how we, in middle-age, deal with them. One parent is local, here in Massachusetts and the other is in Alaska, so that complicates things. It is bittersweet watching them age. My Dad was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Alzheimer’s and that has been challenging (he’s the parent who lives in Alaska) and he has multiple other serious health conditions. Fortunately, his wife dotes on him, so I know he’s safe.
The third thing is being present all the time and I work hard at this one. My monkey mind wants to whirl at warp speed, and I must stop myself, take a deep breath and focus on what’s here and now. When I do stop and engage myself in the current moment, it opens a whole new world of appreciation and respect for all that I’m fortunate enough to have in my life.
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
I don’t know that I always do, but…being present as mentioned above is the biggest piece, and the most challenging! Regular exercise, eating healthy, and connecting with others are also important pieces.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
I realize that life truly is evolutionary and as we get older our world shrinks. I see that with both of my parents. I don’t feel my age although I don’t know what 56 should feel like. I plan to continue to grow professionally and personally until my last day here.
So, I’ve got a full agenda: I’ll continue to engage in things I love doing and to learn skills and hobbies such as revisiting learning to read music and play my guitar, sketching and drawing, blogging and who knows what else! Maybe learn a new foreign language… or hike the Appalachian trail…
I also plan to do more volunteer work. I’ve done a fair amount of charitable fundraising and volunteer work in the past for homeless, children with terminal diseases and other causes I feel strongly about. For me, the feeling you experience when you help others in need is priceless.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
Follow your heart and instincts. I don’t believe it’s ever too late to reinvent yourself or create a life that truly makes you feel happy and fulfilled. Surround yourself with people that you love to be around, find work and/or activities that make your heart sing and never stop learning and growing!
How can people connect with you and your work?
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on LinkedIn.