Pausing at 50
Image credit: BiscottiDesigns on Etsy
As a 50-year-old, unemployed teacher and a woman in transition, I am following Maria Shriver’s advice about the The Power of the Pause. Her message speaks to me.
I am tired of beating myself up about being unemployed, about gaining weight since my parents’ death two summers ago, and about not being comfortable in my own skin –- still –- at 50 years old!
It has been a bumpy, uneasy period of reflection for me, but a beneficial one. This “power of the pause” has helped me reach some conclusions on my emotional journey. Firstly, I have changed.
For better or worse, I have changed for me, for the “me” that I want to be. I am different than I was when I married. I am different from when I became a mother. I feel less inclined to be a “pleaser,” both for family and friends.
I do not have to attend every family function. I do not have to lead all of my kids’ extra-curricular activities. Sadly, I realize not everyone is going to like me. Friends have come and gone, but luckily, true friends have remained.
Most of all, it is okay to say “no.” As for my professional journey, I have a recurring dream where I show up for a college final exam and have no idea what the correct answers are. I do not know what direction to take from here.
I suspect I should throw the old Rule Book away and start anew. The old rules do not apply anymore. Yet, I am trying to stay positive and acknowledge the beauty in my life. I do have a tremendous amount of beauty there. I do count my blessings daily.
However, society is an unforgiving girlfriend. She is so “label” conscious. “He” is a lawyer; “she” is a banker. So what am I? Thirteen years ago, I had one profession as a video producer and left it to become a stay-at-home mom.
Then, I decided to change careers and become a teacher. I returned to school part-time and achieved this goal. For one year, I taught inner-city children who carried a lot of emotional baggage. It was a difficult year for me.
My mother died the first day on the job. I persevered. I prayed to God and to my Mom for strength. I earned the students’ respect, which was the biggest hurdle and the key to unlocking the door to their learning.
My morning class won the “Best Attitude Achieving Class” in the whole school. Then, I received my pink slip! Without tenure, I was laid-off.
Now, I am trying to regroup and change career tracks again. I grapple with this daily: if I am no longer a teacher, then what am I now?
Thankfully, I am still a Mom and all three of my children need me for their nurturing and their love. I am still a wife in love with my husband. Yet, after retraining and retooling myself for the past decade, what am I from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.?
I need to be something else, both for financial and self-fulfilling reasons. I just do not know what my inner voice is telling me to do. I have lost some of my confidence and the “fearlessness” of my youth and I am trying to recapture this.
Maria Shriver also talks about “going into the open field” of life. While eating takeout Chinese food recently, my fortune read: “Whatever you want to do, do it. There are only so many tomorrows.” It was a revelation and it got me taking action.
This is how I have “gone into the open field” of my tomorrows: I went to a movie all by myself. I traveled with my daughter by train into NYC for a “girls’ day out.” I did it to be with her and I did it so I would not lose the skill of how to travel by train.
I tried boxing at the gym. My teeth chattered and my head hurt the first few punches, but I learned what a jab, an uppercut and a right hook are.
I have also reconnected with my writing roots. I read The Hunger Games’ series with my family and then we all saw the movie together. This was a fun family activity for all of us.
I am also thanking people more often for helping me. Simple acts of kindness come at us so frequently throughout the day; it is amazing how grateful and aware I have become of these kind gestures.
During my “power of the pause,” I developed some personal goals: I will be thankful for the beauty in my life. I will cherish the bonds of my family and true friends. I will find a new job and I hope it will be a career. I will let grudges go because that gives me peace.
I think I hear the whispers of my inner voice. She is saying, “Keep trying new things; keep going into the open field –- even at 50 and beyond. Don’t ever stop.”
Please wish me luck. And, thank you!
Carolyn Ronayne is an unemployed teacher from New Jersey, a Mom of three, a wife and a fledging freelance writer. She hopes to keep going into the open field until the day she dies.