My name is Stacey Bernstein. I am 52 years old and live in Toronto. In 2016 I made what most people might think was the least sensible decision of my life and I never looked back. My marriage ended, my mother was dying, my brother-in-law dropped dead of a heart attack, and I was in a soulless job approaching my 11th year as a freelance promotions producer for a TV network. I was grief-stricken, frustrated and painfully aware that life is short and a quiet voice inside me told me I deserve to be happy. So on the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend of that year, I handed in my resignation. Shaky, exhilarated but filled with gratitude, I made sure to exit the building with my right foot leading the way. In retrospect, it was not the greatest mix of emotions or circumstances laying the foundation for a successful launch towards starting a new chapter in my life but sometimes life is messy and it often takes dramatic impetus for ‘me’ to make game-changing moves.
Most of my life I worked in some capacity as a broadcasting professional. In 2010, my former husband, Russell, who also happens to be my best friend, asked me at the time, “If you could do anything, what would you want to do now?” To which I replied without missing a beat, “Write, produce and perform a solo stage show that I tour.” His response: “Well I don’t see anyone standing in your way.” And so I embarked on a pilgrimage to rescue my creative spirit.
I wrote and workshopped my material relentlessly. This campaign led me to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2011 where I performed the first incarnation of my solo show, ‘Everything I Never Knew I Wanted’ and then was chosen through a lottery system, to perform at the 2012 Toronto Fringe and Edmonton International Fringe festivals. This was a game-changing period that catapulted me into a full fledge drive towards creating an artistic life. I returned to my freelance job at the end of 2011 but was moonlighting as a performer taking acting, improv and voice classes. I got headshots taken, was working on my website and not unlike the promotional campaigns I produced in my career, the only difference this time was that I gathered my toolbox of skills and insight to promote what I considered my most important branding project ever, ME. I sent my promotional campaign to over 50 talent agents. I secured representation in September 2016. Since then I have appeared in commercials, made for TV movies, crime re-enactment series and I was cast as a supporting lead in ‘Between Waves’ an Indie award winning film that I shot in the Azores off the coast of Portugal in 2019. It is currently traveling the film festival circuit and to date, has garnered attention in the categories of best film, best director and Box Office Top 10.
Do I feel settled? No. But what I can tell you is that I love what I do. I am strong, resilient and enterprising, which in the grand scheme of things are not bad treasures to mine from the upheaval that has led to redesigning and reimagining my life.
What would you say has been the biggest shift in your life since turning 40?
The biggest shift I’ve noticed between the ages of 40 and 50 is that I don’t feel I have to justify my existence. I used to feel I had to qualify my productivity especially after leaving a 9 to 5 job. Sometimes that feeling creeps in but overall, I feel like I am following my own internal compass regardless of outside opinion. I also feel younger than I did when I was actually younger. My twenties and thirties were strained by having to generate game plans and as I have gotten older, while I recognize that it is important and fun to sow seeds of intent, it is just as important to be available for the spontaneous opportunities and joy that are thrown in our path. Being in flow makes us more available for a fuller life experience.
When do you feel you are most powerful?
I am most powerful when I am creating my own projects and collaborating with others. I come alive when I am co-creating. I feel like a creative conduit who can see magic and potential and I feel nourished and excited when I can draw out the strengths and mastery in others. As a way to promote myself and other artists in between gigs, I have started writing and producing sketches. It has been a great vehicle to express myself, tell stories in under 3-minutes and collaborate. It’s also a wonderful way to spread our wings in roles we may not have otherwise previously been considered, which we can promote to prospective engagers.
What are the top 3 most important things to you right now?
- Perfect health (mentally, physically, spiritually—and thankfully, I can say I have all 3)
- Freedom (This to me is just as important as perfect health but without good health there is no freedom.)
- To be able to build an abundant career as a storyteller and performing artist—not just from a financial perspective but to be in a position of being able to choose projects that are meaningful, captivating and resonate with me.
How do you make sure your actions are aligned with what’s most important to you?
I let my body guide me. More than ever I can feel in my body what feels congruent and true for me. It’s starts with breathing. If I am in a state of indecision, I will sit in a quiet place where I won’t be interrupted and do what I call, the Truth or Lie exercise. It starts by sitting in a quiet space with my eyes closed. I deeply inhale and exhale and let’s say it was acting over which I am undecided. If I say to myself, “I love acting” this breathing exercise will feel fluid within my body because it is true. It aligns with me. However, if in contrast I say, “I hate acting” and do the same breathing work, invariably the breath will feel restrained in my body and it is palpable because I am not being truthful with myself. It’s an interesting exercise for anyone to do. You can first try it with things like foods you like or dislike just to provide neutral subject matter and then move on to more sensitive areas of consideration. The body doesn’t lie and it is the simplest of exercises. Plus, it is great to exercise one’s internal compass.
What seeds are you planting today for the future?
Every day I ask, “How do I best serve?” Sometimes the answers are evident and sometimes they aren’t.
Fundamentally, I see myself as a collaborator and connector. It is my hope that I have adequately planted and continue to plant seeds for future collaboration— creatively, socially, spiritually, and philanthropically and that I am able to make myself fully available for the best human experience I can as I venture on this physical plane.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in redesigning midlife?
- Look in the mirror and say: “I am worth every ounce of abundant happiness I can imagine.”
- Don’t look back! There is nothing you should have done because if you did it then, you wouldn’t be ready now!
- It is seldom that many years focused on a particular line of work has nothing to do with what one will do next. Case in point, all the skills I needed in my broadcasting career put me in place of strength when it has come to my acting career. I understand the moving parts. In other words, the added insight and life experience gives you a robust edge.
- Omit ‘should’ from your vocabulary.
- There is an improvisation term, to ‘Yes and…’ In other words, when you invite change you might be thrown lots of interesting ideas and opportunities, some of which you may have never considered. Say yes to offers of interest as you never know who you could meet or what you could experience.
- Nothing is ever the last opportunity. If you ignored what you think was an opportunity back when but didn’t act on it, like a tumble weed, it hasn’t gone anywhere. The urge, like the wind, is just gathering more momentum and that baby is still rolling around waiting to be lassoed by you.
- Ask for what you need. Don’t be too proud. People love to help. There is no such thing as a self-made person and if they claim they are, they’re lying. It takes a community to achieve anything great. Seek out builders of like-minded people who can help you in your metamorphosis, be it a life coach, mentor, instructor, others whose work you admire for information interviews. Support systems are integral for keeping our spirits buoyed and keeping us on track.
- Widen your world and invite new friends and contacts of all ages. Different perspectives are key to expansion.
- Make sure to incorporate fun into your life. It is integral to your spirit and that break from what you deem productive time, is often what you needed to come up with better ideas.
- I know first hand what it is like to be paid well for something I don’t like doing. That’s the golden handcuff curse. But I will tell you that you will regret more what you don’t do then safely sitting on the sidelines doing what no longer satisfies you. Adventures can be scary but they’re fun. Plus, you’ll have great stories to share!
How can people connect with you and your work?
You can reach me on the following platforms and I’d love to hear from you!