Reinvention is both scary and wonderful: In some ways you get to be a whole new person, and see life from a very different vantage point. The trick is to accept that reinvention is possible—and that it is completely in your own hands. Change is not easy for any of us. We get in a groove, and coast. No question, it takes guts.
My first “invention” of myself, so to speak, was at age 43. I continued my education and got my Masters in Social Work. After graduation I was thrilled to quickly land a social work position at a hospital. I could not have been more grateful and excited because I actually landed a part time position, and getting part time work in the field, in Manhattan, is never easy. I could only work part time due to my chronic painful sensory neuritis.
However, at that same time my beloved poodle, Alba, was very ill with various illnesses, and in truth she was slowly dying. The stress of leaving her alone all day, except for a twice-a-day dog walker coming in, was making me anxious. While I loved the idea of helping clients with their health-related and other life struggles, my main focus as a hospital social worker was primarily to get patients into rehab facilities or set up visiting nurse services that would allow them to go home. It was a rewarding job but ultimately not the right fit for me. My dream had always been to provide therapy in a more clinical, ambulatory setting, and help those who suffer from chronic illnesses develop coping skills to better manage their difficult lives.
Given these conflicts, I made a difficult but necessary decision: I would give up the job and spend the last few months with my dog as her pet parent, caretaker and nurse, giving her medications eight different times a day. This felt right, especially since I had recently lost my mother, and just the year before my brother David had died. I could not lose my beloved dog without doing as much as I possibly could to comfort her and reduce her pain or discomfort.
The thought of not having a dog to love and take care of was not a possibility in my life. After Alba died I became a “doggie mommy” to another beautiful poodle whom I named Dea (Day-ah). My life was full in that respect. At the same time, I was struggling to find another of the few and far-between part time social work positions.
Okay, How Do I Reinvent Myself After 50?
Meantime, reflecting deeply on what I really wanted to do—at age 50—I asked myself that very question: How do I reinvent myself after 50?” I decided to re-invent myself by becoming a published author! Many people dream of writing a book or books—why would I think I had such abilities! The encouragement that made all the different came from an octogenarian named Grace. I had formed an intense bond with Grace after my brother died, and this gave me the courage to begin showing her my writing samples. Initially these were little snippets expanding on portions of excerpts from the diary that I had been writing in every day while I had been living in Rome, many years before. To my surprise and elation Grace loved my writing and urged me to keep going. She even pushed me to delve deeper, to find the essential truths so that my audience of future readers would identify with my struggles and triumphs and all else I was trying to convey. Grace’s belief that my story was widely relatable, and her confidence in me helped me continue writing. To help take the book I was working on to a higher level of publishability, I began to take memoir-writing classes. I had gotten the “writing bug” but knew full well that it is extremely difficult to be objective about your own writing—especially with a memoir. After the writing classes ended I met a brilliant editor with whom I continued to study and learn the craft. Eventually the developmental outlines were in place and I had a completed manuscript.
When my book, titled A Place Called Grace, was finished, published, and for sale on Amazon, many people—both friends and strangers—posted positive reviews. For me the most meaningful reviews were those that said they related so much to my story. They also said that my book gave them perspective on their own troubles and struggles, and the inspiration to also “reinvent” themselves. Those comments allowed me to recognize and celebrate what I had accomplished. I had set out to help others who felt they were stuck in their lives as I had been, benefit from my journey, and perhaps find the courage to take big steps to hopefully transform their own lives to be happier, healthier and more engaged in the world.
At the end of a most difficult decade, filled with some joys, but also with a great deal of loss and pain, physical and psychological— I am proud to say that I did succeed in reinventing myself after 50 bybecoming a real author who has completed, published and is actively promoting her first book.
The truth is that in life you have to keep reinventing yourself. To stay the same is to stand still, and to stand still is to atrophy. So if that same question haunts you: “How do I invent myself after 50,” keep this answer in mind: How can you not?