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  • [Making the Leap] Writing Through The Seasons, Part III: Midlife Writing Adventure
[Making the Leap] Writing Through The Seasons, Part III: Midlife Writing Adventure
Contributor
Written by
Julie Luek
July 2013
Contributor
Written by
Julie Luek
July 2013

In a four-post series, through the months of June and July, I will be exploring how we make the leap from different stages in our life. As women and writers, each chapter has its own unique joys and challenges. I have invited four different writers, from various stages in life, to be a part of this series. Join us as we explore the writing journey--the joys, enthusiasm, challenges, concerns, life-experiences, and growth that each season inevitably showers on us. 

This week I talk about my somewhat late response to the writing call. Finally, at almost 49, I'm following my heart.

I remember growing up, we’d beg my dad to haul out his Super 8mm film projector and show home movies. We kids thought it was hysterical—our haircuts and clothes, the cute toddler stages and awkward, bony-kneed adolescence. Meanwhile, my mom would sit quietly in her chair and weep. Of course, at the time we didn’t get why Mom was so sad.

Now I do.

Time goes so quickly.

You hear it so often, it becomes almost cliché. Unfortunately, the impact hits full force when you realize in your heart, “yes, time goes so quickly”. My son graduated from college a couple weeks ago; my daughter is heading into her senior year in high school. Next year when she graduates, I will turn 50—lots of milestones to celebrate.



This is the first time in my life I've been completely selfish.

I’ve written about it in this blog before, so I won’t belabor the story, but several years ago I made a huge leap from working full-time at a fairly successful career in higher education to earning next to nothing and starting over as a novice at this writing gig. It was a dream of mine, and as I stared down my last several years in my 40s and the all-too-looming prospect of an empty nest, I realized I didn’t want to put my dream on hold anymore. So I quit my job, cutting our income in half.

I have many friends in this same place in life struggling to find meaning and purpose in an empty house. I feel so thankful that writing has renewed my vision and goals and given me a sense of purpose. I am incredibly grateful that my husband is supporting me in this mostly moneyless pursuit. I love my quiet house during the weekdays and relish writing and submitting, and even rejections (somewhat less enthusiastically). I'm embracing aging—I feel healthy and am learning to let go of a lot of external expectations that used to rule me.

When I think, however, of the financial strain I’ve placed on us at a time when very soon, with our house paid off, we could be feeling more freedom, I feel guilty. This is the first time in my life, I have put my desires and dreams first. I’ve never just ignored all the “shoulds” so I can pursue what I want.

You only life this life once--at least attempt your dreams.

But the voice inside my heart-- the one I'm learning to pay attention to a bit more as family obligations fall away--says, you only live this life once—at least attempt your dreams, and now is the time to do it. I guess I don’t want to look back ten or fifteen years from now and wonder if I could have been successful at writing if I had just tried. I like the vision and place I’m at in life, and if that means shopping in thrift stores for clothing and sacrificing activities like cable TV, eating out and going to movies, that’s all right. Mostly though, I’m so glad I’m not facing the empty nest with all my identity eggs in the parenting basket or at a job I no longer find fulfilling.

Have you found your joy in aging? Where are you in life with the pursuit of your dreams? Is it finally time to put your ambitions into action? Are you approaching a season in your life where your hopes for writing can be actualized?

50? Bring it. 

Keep writing,

Julie

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Comments
  • Julie Luek

    Oh Karen, I think you are my hero. How wonderful that you identified your passions and found a way to work at them, even as you kept up with your responsibilities. Wow-- seriously you get my hero award and full admiration. That is exactly the kind of passion I am trying to act on now in my life. And what a life-lesson you have taught your children-- especially as women. Cheering you on!

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Jenny-- Yay us! Thank you for the encouragement that I'm not alone in this. Here's hoping the path is visible and the doors are open for us both. 

  • Karen Devaney

    Julie,

    I have always struggled to live my passions.  Raising my daughters alone on nursing jobs while going back for my B.F.A. in Theatre, juggling jobs while making sure the three of us ate together every night, doing plays, and finally writing and going back for my M.F.A. in Creative Writing--I finally have time to breathe.  Writing full time, teaching dance, and shopping at thrifts stores--I love it entirely freeing.  Both of my daughters realized the value of striving for dreams and they have followed suit.  

  • Julie Luek

    Pamela-- I would never trade being a mama for anything. Love it. I also had a long career that brought in money. I think, for me anyway, your assessment of the association of value being linked to an income or fame is so true! Our society doesn't value art in the same way (look at what gets cut first in the school systems). 

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Karen, it is amazing how easily we slip into feeling (or being perceived as) selfish for pursuing our dreams. I wonder if that's more common with women than men? I bet your perception that it's more common with women from a different generation (mine?) is accurate too. I love the concept of your book!

  • Pamela Olson

    I'm excited about becoming a mother before too long, inshallah. (Just got married at 33.) I think it will be a wonderful outlet for creativity and many other things... a huge series of challenges and a source of growth as well. It's something that seems so profound to me, yet society tends to act like it's not a "true" or "real" creative pursuit. After all, the outcome isn't money, fame, or physical objects but "merely" well-adjusted human beings!

    Art is deeply important, of course. I hope I'll be able to keep writing while I'm mothering. But I wish society wouldn't treat mothering as "less than." Just like anyone can put paint on canvas, anyone can have a child. But doing it well is a real art form! Or so it seems to me...

  • Pamela Olson

    Here's a nice little article about dealing with the "guilt" associated with following your dreams. In this case, the couple sold everything they owned to travel the world full-time:

    http://www.marriedwithluggage.com/2013/06/20/dealing-with-guilt

  • Karen Devaney

    My new novel Artista by the Sea is about this whole idea of women having to put their artistic talents on the back burners.  By artistic I am not merely referring to painting--especially in my case unless stick figures are considered profound!  The arts in all their form need women in all phases of life to be avid contributors that shake the mold. There needs to be a shift in societal bias claiming that a woman's worth can not lie in her passions--stop calling us selfish.  I am still finding remnants of this sort of attitude in my mother's voice as if writing is like pole dancing!

  • Julie Luek

    Hi Samantha, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I originally ran the series on my blog and it had such a great response I thought I'd share here. It's amazing how the different chapters in life influence are writing perspective-- I learned so much from reading the other writers' thoughts. 

  • Samantha Anastacia

    I think this is such a great inspirational post and what a great idea of the 4 stages!

     

  • Julie Luek

    Olga, my next and final post in this series is written by a published author who found her writing space after retirement! GO US!

  • Olga Godim

    It was the same for me, Julie. I came to writing when my kids grew up. BTW: my mother discovered art - she started painting - after my father died; she was already 70. I guess for women like us, who start up with writing or arts around 50, our family obligations kept us so busy and involved before, all our creativity was absorbed into it. Only after the family ties drop and loosen, art becomes ... maybe a substitute for them?