Pulse Issue No. 4 – March 2, 2012
What do you want to be when you grow up? Given the list of legendary names that had their finest hour after the age of 50, it seems it’s never too late to ask.
Churchill, Cezanne, Darwin, Einstein, Gandhi, Mandela, Matisse and Grandma Moses are only a few examples of those who did their best work in what would be mistakenly called their ‘retirement years.’
Soon there will be many more like them. As AARP found in a recent poll, 70 percent of those nearing retirement age have no intention of clocking out, but instead will keeping working to pursue their goals.
And here’s what we found. A sampling of several not-so-famous but compelling examples of people at mid-life and beyond doing just that.
The tennis star and her remarkable swing. In the early ‘80s, Andrea Jaeger was the No. 2 tennis player in the world – a teenager up against the likes of Chris Evert, Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. After a shoulder injury forced her to put down the racket in 1987, she went from professional athlete to philanthropist and launched the Little Star Foundation to aid ill, abused or at-risk children. But in 2006, she made her most impressive move yet – she became an Anglican Dominican nun. “No regrets,” she said about her inspired career path. “God wanted me to do something else.”
The ride of their lives. Andrea and Barry Coleman, 55 and 56, created Riders for Health after a visit to Africa revealed that health care vehicles were sitting idle with no hope of being serviced. Involved in the British Grand Prix, the UK couple set up an organization that rides on the concept of health care delivery by motorcycle – getting health care providers out to remote villages and getting villagers to hospital.”The reality is there are rural communities living 20, 30 miles from the nearest health centre or clinic,” Andrea explains. Today, the program has expanded to include entire transport systems in the Gambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Tanzania and Lesotho. And, that, Andrea says, “is what gets me up in the morning.”
A model example. Maye Musk is a registered dietician and anti-aging expert. She’s also been working for the past 46 years as a professional model. Last fall, the 64-year-old grandmother of three was featured on the cover of New York magazine – nude.
The law never rests. Herbert Teitelbaum, Norman Siegel, Saralee Evans and Emily Jane Goodman have recently opened a new practice in Manhattan. What’s so interesting about two lawyers and two judges setting up shop? They range in age from 68 to 71. “Why should I retire? I’m at the peak of my game,” Siegel asks. “Besides,” Goodman adds, “golf is so boring.”
The writer who made the deadline. “I was always writing a novel that never got published,” Harry Bernstein said. Inspired by having a short story published in a magazine at 17, and encouraged by a famous editor to write a novel, he spent decades tapping at the keys and wrote about 40 novels – all were rejected. In the meantime, he worked in Hollywood, reading screenplays, and then edited a construction trade magazine. Then he retired. Then his beloved wife Rose passed away. Then he went back to the typewriter. And in 2007, at the age of 96, his novel The Invisible Wall was not only accepted, it was acclaimed by reviewers. He wrote another, and received a Guggenheim Foundation grant to write his third. “God knows what other potentials lurk in other people, if we could only keep them alive well into their 90s.”
We debated which note to leave you on this week. Bruce Springsteen’s new album Wrecking Ball is being pre-released one song at a time for a 24-hour period. Today’s cut is “We Are Alive.” Given the 62-year-old is still ‘The Boss,’ it seemed like a good choice (the link to his new song is below). Less rocking but maybe more relevant to this week’s Pulse is this recently released video featuring Sting, 60, and composer Michel Legrand, who turned 80 last week, performing the theme song from the appropriately titled 1969 film The Happy Ending.
The choice is yours. We’re big proponents of dancing to your own tune.
Next week’s Pulse: Who’s getting it.
For readers of RIPE: Rich, Rewarding Work After 50, each issue of Pulse will offer additional ideas. We’ll share what’s working for others and help you find your way.
“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot
Isn’t it wonderful to be thinking this way? To realize that we have decades before us in which to discover something new or to rekindle passion for the path we’re already on?
Falling out of love with our work – developing the “50-year itch” – is commonplace. Even those of us who got dream jobs and were hugely successful can hit the wall. In the liner notes for a CD she compiled for Starbucks, Joni Mitchell wrote, “By the end of the 20th century, it seemed to me that the muse had gone out of music, and all that was left was the ‘ic.’ Nothing sounded genuine or original. I quit the business.” She went on to say that she volunteered for the Starbucks project to remember what she had once loved about music.
How did she reconnect with her passion? By remembering the songs that had moved her deeply when she was a child.
When we were young, our idea of what we “wanted to be” was often inspired by the professionals who appeared in our lives – teachers, fire fighters, lifeguards. Naturally, this competed with our parents’ wishes for us (“My daughter, the physicist!”). Beneath it all, there was also a quiet whisper from some deeper part of us that knew what we really, really wanted to be. What we were born to do.
If you’re like many people, you don’t have a ready answer to the question posed by this week’s Pulse. You don’t really know what you’re going to do with the rest of your life. If that’s true for you, childhood memories can offer important clues.
What do you remember of your early life? How would you describe yourself as a child? What did you love to do? When did you lose track of time and not hear your mother when she called out, “Dinner!”? What did you put aside in order to be a grownup and long to pick up again? What have you forgotten?
This week, take a little time to reconnect with the child who still lives inside of you. And to dream again about what you might become.
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Julia Moulden and Trisse Loxley have been writing and editing for the media and corporate sectors for a combined 50 years. Today, they’re reconnecting with their generation and helping their clients engage with Boomers, too.
Copyright 2012 Julia Moulden and Trisse Loxley. All rights reserved.