The Midlife Pursuit: What's My Passion?
Aside from stalking old boyfriends, I've learned a lot about myself through the quizzes on Facebook. For instance, the “Friends”character I’m most like is Monica because according to the quiz, “I’m a little uptight but a great friend.” Not surprising, I am a peach pie, not because I live in Georgia but “I’m cute, quirky and a bit of a smart ass.”
But one of the most interesting things I’ve learned is that the emotion that guides me is hope because “for you, things can always improve and thrive.” That was a bit of a surprise, but as I begin this next chapter in my life, I would like to believe that hope will guide my journey.
Last year I turned 50, and I can honestly say that I don’t feel any older, at least on the inside. On the outside, well, that’s a different story. Looking in the mirror I see a few extra lines, and I can no longer wear turtlenecks because it accentuates the jowls that my mother has so lovingly passed down to me. But while time and gravity are catching up with me, the big 5-0 has forced me to take a better look at myself. Not the physical me (though I’m considering having my hairdresser add blonde highlights to the magic potion that turns my hair from grey to brown every six weeks). Nope, I’m talking about finally finding my passion in life.
I thought journalism was my passion when I went to college. I liked to write, but after taking two classes, I realized that it just wasn’t for me. The discovery of a new path—public relations—followed soon after, and this time it stuck. With my freshly minted degree and a pair of sneakers to wear with my suit (a fashion "don’t," but you try walking up and down Manhattan in heels), I became a career girl and landed my first job.
After that, things sort of just happened. I did all the proper things you do to get ahead, and I guess over my 30-year career I’ve become somewhat successful; at least it pays the bills. But after the initial excitement of each new job wore off, I eventually found myself longing for something different. Something more.
I always knew that I would get married and have kids, so I thought that was the missing piece to my puzzle. I told myself that it wouldn’t be my career that would fulfill me; my passion would be my family. And at 31, I hit the jackpot. I actually found my “boy from New York City” in Georgia. He’s a wonderful husband (okay, so he snores and forgets to put down the toilet seat), and we were blessed with a terrific son (who is now 15 and knows everything).
But despite the happiness and meaning they bring to my life, the puzzle still wasn’t solved, and it wasn’t from lack of trying. I even tried therapy for a little while, but I was looking for instant gratification. I wanted answers, someone to tell me what to do. Apparently that’s not how therapy works.
So, I turned to the Internet and explored things on my own, plugging different search terms into Google—“life after 50,” “finding my passion,” “midlife transitions”—and found plenty of advice, especially for and from women. Much of it focused on women who have nice little nest eggs to fall back on or a network of people in high places. Like Anne Sweeney, the head of Disney, who at 56 with an estimated net worth of $30 million, announced that she was leaving her high-powered job to become a director. While I applaud her for her “bold” move, I think if I had $30 million to fall back on, I might be willing to take a “risk,” too.
Rather than inspiring me, these stories made finding my passion seem like an impossible goal. And that’s when I had my Aha! moment. It was an article that I read online in More and the essence was clear, reinvention doesn’t have to be something that “upends your marriage or your career,” it just needs to be significant to you. And whatever form that change takes, whether it’s exploring a hobby or losing weight, “a well-chosen pursuit has a potentially huge emotional return.”
This message probably wouldn’t have resonated with the 20-something-year-old me. But as I approach my 51st birthday, I think it’s exactly what I needed to put me on the right path. I’m not sure that I will ever find the one thing in my life that defines who I am, but at least now the journey doesn’t seem so daunting. I guess that Facebook quiz was right after all, because as I look ahead to the next phase of my life, I finally have hope.