I’m currently in Chicago (soon to be in Toronto). I’ll be 47 years old (this year in June). One thing that has remained consistent in my life is poetry. My writing means everything to me, it’s really pushed me through some transformative times in my life, it’s evolved me. I do it outside of my “paid work,” and it has definitely enhanced my ability to be even more creative as a copywriter. I’ve received some recognition for my poetry over the years (I’m currently nominated for an Arts Council Award).
I’ve noticed how much my poetry has evolved. In my 40s, I’ve really begun to confront myself honestly. The last two books I’ve written were deeply personal. The first was about my experience as the daughter of refugees/displaced people and epigenetic trauma, which deals with cyclical abuses within families. The second is about poetically examining patriarchy and ethnic identities—(I’m Lithuanian)—as well as how to respond to violence within oppressive systems.
This year I’ve been engaging with a new artform: cinepoetry, which is allowing me to “recreate” my work. With a longtime friend and fantastic collaborator, I directed five cinepoems (based on my book), and last year, they placed internationally in five film festivals.
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40?
The biggest shift I’ve experienced in my 40s is caring less and less (and less!) what others think.
When do you feel you are most powerful?
When I am collaborating on creative projects with like-minds: I love the interchange and working toward a common goal. Creating something meaningful, especially something which leverages the word and visuals, and is meant to have longevity or shed some societal commentary energizes me.
What are the top three most important things to you right now?
- Moving onto the next phase of my life knowing I am where I want to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
- My chosen family (my husband, my friends, and co-conspirators!).
- Reinforcing my independence and strength (and believing it!).
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
Taking a step back, always, before I act or speak: I’m more careful with my words, and while I’ve always tried to be compassionate (in my late 30s and beyond), I want to give more. I want to listen more.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
By making strong connections with other women who are experiencing the next stage in life.
By contributing to others. I also work part-time for a refugee resettlement organization currently, and I’m a college essay editor, helping students improve their writing.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
Shed illusions and get real with yourself. There is a Buddhist saying: “To compare is to misunderstand.” Once you realize that everyone else is struggling too—on many levels, and in many different ways—you begin to realize that you’re not alone. Everyone is dealing with their own challenges.