Are You Really Ready for a Midlife Reinvention?

I’ve been having a series of conversations with my husband lately and maybe you’ve been thinking similar thoughts. We’ve been talking about how our role as parents seems to be basically done and wondering what exactly that means for us. Is it too late for us to pursue the dreams we’ve put on hold during the quarter century we devoted to raising children? What are those dreams anyway? What would it take to pursue them? Do we really have what it takes to reinvent our lives if that’s what we choose to do?

It’s so easy to romanticize the thought of a midlife reinvention, isn’t it? Your sister’s friend’s cousin quit her job and sold her all her belongings and now she travels the world with everything she owns in a single carry-on. She doesn’t even have to check a bag!

But the stories we hear about other people rarely show the deliberation you really need in order to follow your dreams. We don’t hear about the time it can take just to get to the starting point of a midlife transition or the  unanticipated frustrations once you start down the path.

If you’re considering a big midlife transition, you need to hear the stories of people who hear about more than just the end of the story. You need to hear about the beginning and the challenges in the middle. That’s why I found this article, Advice from a Serial Life Reinventor, to be so instructive.

Even though the woman profiled, Nilofer Merchant, began her reinvention journey (to live in Paris for a year) in a position considerably more privileged than many people, she still faced multiple challenges making her dream come true. Her husband spent a full year convincing his employer to let him keep his job and still move overseas. She had to give up several opportunities. One of their main motivations for the move was to give their son a more well-rounded world view and he didn’t want to go. It took them five years to plan the move; much longer than most people give themselves to make a huge life change.

And even when they had finally made the change and were living in their new city, life wasn’t completely smooth. My favorite story:

For instance, one day I went looking for index cards and five hours later I came back — without index cards — and lay on the couch and said, “I want to go home.” So first it’s thinking “What are index cards called?” and figuring that out. Then it’s going store-by-store through the neighborhood asking, in my terrible French, if they have this thing. And they don’t. At home, it’s just “Oh, I need index cards.” Go on Amazon. Click. And it’s there the next morning. In France, Amazon doesn’t quite work that way… stuff arrives when it wants to arrive. So after this five-hour hunt, I’m sprawled on the couch, defeated.

There are good lessons here as we start thinking about our next phase of life:

  • Expect things will take longer and be harder than you planned. That’s ok.
  • Some days, the index cards will win. That’s ok, too.

By the way, according to Google Translate, the french word for index cards is fiches. The more you know.

 

5 Comments

  1. Susan
    June 14, 2016 / 2:28 pm

    Oh my goodness, I definitely relate! Spent decades raising the kids, they’re both off to college (youngest is a rising junior in college, eldest in grad school), and while I love my job, it’s not full-time and I feel there’s something…more! Am I too old to start over? What does that look like? What do I want? After so many decades of being on the back burner, this freedom is almost too much!

    • Katy
      June 14, 2016 / 2:36 pm

      I know what you mean Susan! After years of thinking of everyone but yourself, you have to train yourself to think about you again. We can start brainstorming together!

  2. June 23, 2016 / 6:13 pm

    Katy! You have been so good about retweeting my blog posts, I finally had to look at your site. I thought I was following you (NOW I am)! I must say, I really love your blog! I suppose reinvention is for anyone, I guess I have (being able to retire from the full time job), now teaching as a lecturer at a university. I also see that we both married (me remarried) in 2013, so I totally identify with the midlife newlywed, and yes, I wore a white lace dress, knee length! Rock on girl!

    • Katy
      June 23, 2016 / 6:18 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Terri! I love your blog as well – always nice to hear from people who have transitioned in midlife – and fellow newlyweds!

  3. November 9, 2016 / 2:40 am

    Hi Katy, apologies for not being a brilliant regular visitor! I do love your blog but am in the midst of my own later life reinvention (if you can call it that when life kind of reinvents things for us!) I am ahead of you, as I may have said before, with adult children in their 30s. And despite being very happily married, I am now facing ‘going home’ to the house where I grew up, to look after my parents. Well I guess that isn’t technically reinvention – more like regression! This last year has been crazy as they reached 88 and 90 and suddenly seemed to need so much more help. With yet another parental health issue needing hospital intervention, my sister and I are busy making space in their house for us to take turns in caring for them . ‘Going home’ has massive psychological implications and I dread to think how much more difficult it would be if I had not returned to the UK to live after living abroad for 10 years. Sometimes, life reinvention is thrust upon us! I love that story about the index cards by the way. France can be a very frustrating place in many ways!

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