We live in a world where everything is in flux -- jobs, families, life stages. People have joked for years that 50 is the new 30, but in these times, there's some truth to that, whether we want there to be or not.
I never thought I'd be reinventing my life when I hit my 40s. I was 41 and firmly entrenched in my second career as an attorney (my first was as a journalist) when my husband and I adopted our daughter. As things often happen in the shadow of the nation's capital, shortly after I became a mother, my job situation changed, and the fabulous climbing-the-ladder-of-success job I thought was going to be mine after maternity leave suddenly belonged to someone with a different political philosophy.
I thought I would return home with our new baby, take off a few weeks, hire a nanny and return to my 60-hour work week to help support our family. That's not quite how it worked out.
Enter life shift number three. With a great job gone, and one I had no interest in being offered instead, and a new baby at home, I felt the universe tapping me on the shoulder, saying, in essence, "Maybe now is the time to reflect and figure out how you really want to live the rest of your life?"
I'd been on the path that had been expected of me. I spent a decade as a reporter, but as I got older, thought it was time to get more "serious." Maybe if I had a professional degree, I could advance my opportunities, so I gave law school a whirl. I did pretty well, landed one of those plum jobs in a big law firm, and started the junior associate grind. And when I looked up, almost 15 years had gone by of studying the law or working in a job related to the law. I was good at it -- but it did nothing for my soul.
I had long thought about going back to writing, but even in the "good" days, being a writer didn't really pay the bills. But when I found myself in a place where I had some time to reflect, in between diaper changes and feedings, I knew I just could not go back to the law. I had to figure out something else so that I woudn't end up on the porch of nursing home someday, sitting a the rocker wondering why the hell I hadn't tried to do something that had purpose and meaning to me.
And that's how I found myself looking reinvention in the face yet again.
According to Marc Freedman's new book, The Big Shift: Navigating the Stage Beyond Midlife, I am far from alone as I find myself firmly in mid-life and in the middle of my current reinvention as a writer, author and political pundit.
In The Big Shift, Freedman explores the idea that in our 21st century life, the idea of being settled into the last act of our working lives isn't a realistic one for most of us, and that as we are living longer -- and remaining more healthy and active -- we should be reflecting on what our next stage will be and embrace that, calling the years from midlife our "encore years."
So this week, She Writes, in partnership with Encore Careers, asks you to respond to a special writing prompt inspired by The Big Shift:
Tell us YOUR encore story.
Did you reinvent yourself in midlife? Have you had an "encore" career, as a writer or in some other form? What is your story of rebirth? Tell us your story in 250 words or less, and submit it to Encore.org for a chance to win a free copy of The Big Shift, in addition to seeing your submission featured here and at Encore.org. I will be reading your entries, along with She Writes Founder KAMY WICOFF, who asked me to be part of this because I know a thing or two about midlife, reinvention, and writing, too.
Joanne's book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizin... will be published in June by Bright Sky Press.
Image by Joanne Bamberger, all rights reserved.