Can we re-create ourselves?

Midlife can be an age of new possibilities and opportunities. Many of my friends, male and female, embarked in new directions in their fifties or even sixties, pursuing long-suppressed dreams or exploring on an unexpected path. This came as a delightful surprise to me. Back in my twenties, I thought we were all making decisions for life.

For women, especially, midlife can be freeing. For mothers, it is usually a time when children leave the nest. Women who have left the workforce sometimes return to work full time in some area they once wished for – or find work they never imagined. Many of those who have spent decades in one field quit their jobs and find meaningful new endeavors. Now that we’re living longer, healthier lives, midlife can be a great time to go back to school, start a company, take up art or poetry, or devote your energy to a heartfelt cause.

Of the nine women I interviewed for Warm Cup of Wisdom, all switched directions at midlife. Two did so reluctantly, because of divorce, but found new passions to guide them in the second half of life. Most of the others took deliberate actions and created a new self-identity after the age of fifty. Several went back into classrooms to get master’s degrees. One founded her own consulting company, after realizing she didn’t want to be a partner in someone else’s firm. One began working for a local sculptor and then decided to collect stories about him for a book. Another became the director of a growing preschool – and led it for eighteen years. Another took up acting – and even now, in her eighties, appears on local TV commercials.

I admire their midlife gumption – and consider it a sign of wisdom. That’s one reason I found them to be good role models. I spent my fifties making the switch from journalism to book writing – a dream I had cherished since childhood.

“I think that the fifties are a remarkable decade,” one of them told me. “Maybe because the kids are off to college or gone, and you’ve decided what your strengths are. You have this period where you are still very vital, sought after, respected. I’ve watched many of my friends blossom and comes into their own in their fifties.”

What’s your story – from your life or that of someone you admire?  What’s the advantage of finding a new direction at midlife?

About dorijonesyang

As a former journalist in Hong Kong, I love writing books that bridge the gap of understanding between China and America. My new book, When the Red Gates Opened: A Memoir of China's Reawakening, will be published in September 2020.
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1 Response to Can we re-create ourselves?

  1. After losing a substantial amount of money in 2008, my husband and I had to scramble to find work. We were both lucky and found jobs that we enjoy. But it wasn’t easy. I became a substitute teacher at the age of 49, and spent five years doing long-term sub jobs and short-term teaching contracts. At age 50, you’re much more aware of your shortcomings, and you know when you’re not getting useful, actionable feedback. But even on days I felt only disappointment and doubt, I remained cheerful, professional, and willing to learn. I ask everyone I meet to recommend good books on education and reading, and I read every book two and three times. I work hard at bringing my knowledge up to date. I don’t have the energy of a 22-year-old, but I have job experience, wisdom, and sense of humor of a 54-year-old. I’ve recently begun my first full year contract and am hopeful this job is “the one.”


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