As she approached her half-century mark, Margaret (not her real name) seemed to have it all. She and her long-term boyfriend shared an apartment in the city, and looked forward to spending more time in their country home as soon as their blended-family nest emptied.
Margaret’s oldest child was doing well at a top-tier university, and her daughter would soon head to an Ivy League college. Margaret enjoyed work at a company she had spent more than 25 years with.
And then, just after her 50th birthday, everything changed.
Long-festering issues rose to the surface between Margaret and her significant other, and after months, she decided it was time to end the union.
At the same time, her company experienced a period of upheaval and layoffs, and Margaret realized she no longer felt sufficient loyalty or fulfillment in her position. She sought out and soon landed a new, challenging job with a different firm.
Perhaps most striking, once Margaret’s kids departed for school that fall, she, too, left the nest. She moved into a smaller apartment in a different neighborhood where, for the first time in her life, she began living alone. So, at 50, Margaret found herself with a new job, a new home, a new life as an empty nester and soon, quite happily, a new boyfriend. She recently bought a new car, as well.
For many women, these drastic changes would have seemed overwhelming, at best. However, Margaret sailed along, embracing the gusts that propelled her forward. “Maybe each of these big, mid-life changes was easier to manage emotionally because I didn’t have time to dread just one of them or to feel sorry for myself,” she recalls.
Margaret just kept putting one stylish shoe in front of the other.
The good news is that following an extremely tumultuous 50th year, Margaret is now as happy as ever, and feels optimistic about the infinite possibilities that lie ahead.
Perhaps most important, she has given herself permission to step back and contemplate where she wants to go in life, how she needs to attain her goals, who she wants to spend time with and what makes her content.
“I suddenly faced a whole new life and had to reconstruct what my day, my week, my future looked like,” Margaret says. “I made the decision to wake up every day looking at it all as a new adventure. And that’s what this past year became for me. I am laughing a lot, I feel fortunate and I’m learning and growing.”
I’ve known Margaret for decades, and watched as she experienced major life events including losing her father and brother, marrying, moving to the suburbs – and later divorcing and returning to the city, raising two stellar kids, surviving layoffs and succeeding at several high-profile jobs.
However, in all that time, I have never seen her drive wane or her kindness harden. She is much more than a survivor, because she never played the victim. Margaret never lets life lead her; she takes the wheel and drives (to quote one of my favorite bands, Incubus).
As she explains, “Life is both long and short. I’ve found that leading it joyfully and authentically has been a choice. As trivial as it sounds, resentment, fear, paralysis, victimhood would just take away from the nice time I could be having instead.”
Margaret serves as a guiding light for women who need to escape unhealthy relationships, worry about being alone, sense they can achieve more in their careers or fear that it’s too late to make changes.
At 51, Margaret is in the prime of her life. I’m excited to see where the next 50 years will take her.
– Linda Williams Rorem, 29 April 2013
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