Comment from Linda T.: WMAQ editor 1975 to 1989. Got a Peabody, got my daughter through college, took a buyout from NBC-General Electric, bought an historic house in Key West, became a tour guide and living happily for 20 years in paradise. Hi Janey!!!
Pauley: Linda! Hello old friend. I picked your comment to go first because it made me think about my beloved Aunt Martha. Aunt Martha is my reminder that my generation did not invent reinvention. She reinvented herself over and over again over the course of her long life. She lived to be 95 and she's my role model, though, unfortunately, of all of the genetic characteristics in my family, her confidence and ability to learn new things is probably not in my DNA. When Aunt Martha was widowed in her early 50s, with a young teenage son to support, she got a job in retail sales. When she decided she could do better in real estate, she learned how to sell real estate and got a license. At some point she decided she would have more workable hours in banking, so she got a job in banking, and before long she was a bank manager at a local savings and loan. When Aunt Martha turned 65, she faced forced retirement. And another reason I took your comment Linda was because she literally walked across the street, presented herself at a travel agency in Indianapolis, and worked as a tour guide for the next 10 years. She got to go to Hawaii. She saw Europe. She finally, officially, retired at age 75, but only because the company's owner had retired. Aunt Martha made reinvention look like a way of life. I think we can learn from her generation. They just did what they had to do.
Comment from Cathy in Vancouver: Jane, I'm so happy you're giving a voice to the over 50s who still are in search of our life's calling. Jobs, kids, parent care and the burdens of life are tough. We need to wake up every day jumping out of bed with excitement for a new day. Thanks for getting the dialogue going. Betsy is a friend of mine and she rocks! I'm thrilled to see this segment and looking forward to more in the months ahead.
Pauley: Hi, Cathy. I'm going to turn this over to Betsy in a second, but first I'll make a general observation. Women often experience their lives through the eyes of the people they look after, whether it's their parents, family, friends. When it comes time for reinvention, women often have to be reintroduced to themselves, so I encourage women to take time to do that and not expect all of their dreams and options and possibilities to line-up clearly in front of their eyes.
Comment from Kathy B.: While it's scary to take the plunge, it's reaffirming to recognize that dreams can be realized at any age. How wonderful that you have combined your passion with a new business and, at the same time, giving back. I know firsthand how important it is to have the support and enthusiasm of our family and friends.
McCarthy: It was a surprise to me how much I enjoyed and loved and got from giving to other knitters. One of the best examples of this is a group of older students who were part of some project classes I taught for years. Suddenly the store in which the classes were taught closed. We were left with all having to say goodbye. At that point I realized it would be a good thing to keep this community together, so that's what I did. I stopped having a relationship as a teacher who was paid for lessons every week and instead supported and developed a community. These connections have been very important for the students and they are very important for me. It's very hard, I believe, for people in their 70s and 80s to make new friends. Some of the people in the group have made incredible friendships with one another. I've also realized that teaching knitting is, for me, like therapy. It provides a social context. I've also had wonderful experiences with people who've experienced strokes, people who hadn't knit for years, who felt their fingers were too stiff to ever knit again yet, over the course of a few months, found that they could knit, and that they felt better and had better mobility in their hands. It's been very rewarding. I had no idea that I needed to give this gift and that in return it would be such a gift to me.
Pauley: A lot of questions have come in that relate to Betsy's observation on the "Today" show this morning about not panicking in the face of ambiguity. Betsy, I want to hear you talk a little more about that.
McCarthy: Okay. I don't think human beings are generally programmed to be comfortable with change. We all see how children love repeated readings every night of their favorite books, and as adults we all find comfort in what is known and familiar. That said, when we make a change or move toward a change, we need to be prepared to deal with a lot of ambiguity and uncertainty. There will be, and there certainly was with me, self-questioning at different times. I didn't ever regret not being in health care, but I did occasionally wonder, "Have I done the right thing? Am I moving in the right direction?" So we need to learn to deal some way with the unknown, that gray zone between what we used to do, and do so very well, and the future where, we'll be comfortable once we get there. We needto know how to deal with uncertainty and how not to panic in the faceof the ambiguity that is just a given as we move through unknown territory to a destination we're not yet sure about.
Comment from Chris Holtz: Hi Jane and everyone! Regarding how to figure out "what" to reinvent yourself as, there are many avenues. Every state has a bureau of employment security where a person can get free career counseling, which can involve taking "interest inventories," exploring transferable skills, exploring one's core values and reviewing work and volunteer opportunities connected with those areas. Also, community colleges offer free and almost-free courses that can turn light bulbs on for us—just browse their catalogs. We can also ask close friends and relatives what they think our greatest gifts and strengths are. That's frequently enlightening. In the end, I think we just have to get started on something and we'll know in our heart when it's right for us.
Pauley: I think it's very insightful that we need objective contributions to our own self-assessment. We may recognize our face in the mirror, but we haven't been making an ongoing list of our strengths, weaknesses, and interests. I couldn't give you even a short list of my passions. But be careful who you solicit. Family can have a tendency to see us as we used to be—or how they need us to continue to be. They don't necessarily do this out of maliciousness. All that said, one of the most important insights I've ever had about myself was given to me by my sister Ann, who told me, "Jane, you have a gift for helping people see themselves in powerful new ways." I never thought about that before, but when she said it, I recognized that it was true. I realized that whatever I did in my future, large or small, that helping other people see themselves would have to be a part of it.
Comment from Sherry: [On the Today show segment] Betsy's husband commented about what she had accomplished during the day, and I guess that's the question I ask myself about taking something I love (knitting is one) and accepting that it's a justifiable change in my career path. I've taken a part-time job at an independent bookstore. It satisfies a reading passion yet [the work] feels more like a way to keep my mind active and a little spending cash in my pocket. How and when does the acceptance come that this is a true life change? The old work ethic seems to interfere here.
McCarthy: Yes, it is interesting how the voices we hear from the outside sometimes make us question the decision that we've made. I think it's important to really listen to yourself. The person who just wrote in obviously loves the combination of book store and knitting, but at the same time she has the feeling that maybe it's not justified. We are the ones who know if it's right for us. Maybe, if too many people in our environment are not being supportive, it's good to start looking for groups or people who smile upon what we do so we can get positive feedback and feel comfortable with our decisions.
Pauley: If Sherry can find a way to share her passion for reading with other people, it might give her a very profound sense of justification in what she's doing. It might be a simple matter of making the point to look out for customers who appear as if they might need her help. At the end of the day she can total up all of those chances that she took to help someone.
McCarthy: That's right. If I had just stayed home and knitted to please myself, I wouldn't be feeling the way I do.
Comment from Tena: I'm very excited about "Your Life Calling." The ambiguity comment hit home with me. I recently experienced the loss of a parent and a job of 23 years in a very short amount of time. I just turned 50 and have lots of thoughts running through my head. My favorite saying these days is, "Jump and the net shall appear."
Pauley: I am very much of that temperament, Tena. However, in hindsight, I realize that it took me nearly four years of collecting ideas, and taking them out into the marketplace so to speak, before I found the right partnerships. I'm very grateful I had the patience—patience not being one of my virtues—to wait until the right people, partnerships and opportunities lined up. What do you think Betsy?
McCarthy: Patience is important. If someone is thinking of just taking a jump and landing in the perfect next place, that might not be realistic. It took me about two years to feel like my life was working. I really had to restructure it. When you go from a nine-to-five life, structured with a lot of interactions with a lot of people, to a day that stretches out in front of you alone at home, it takes a while for you to learn how to live and spend your time and break it up in this new life that you're creating.
Pauley: It occurs to me that a previous reinvention I enjoyed very, very much, The Jane Pauley Show, which ran one season on daytime TV, was a delightful experience. But the show failed. So you know, bear in mind that we can find our heart's desire and it doesn't work out, which is why my personal definition of success is to be someone who tries.
McCarthy: Something my mother said to my brothers and me quite often when we were small seems quite relevant here. She was always telling us, "If at first you don't succeed, try and try again." To me that sort of sums it all up. No matter what, it's not good to embrace failure and just sit back and think, "Well, this isn't going to work for me." Dust yourself off. Get up. Try it again.
Comment from Jim in Burbank: Hi Jane, I took an early retirement three months ago at the age of 59 after 33 years at one company. I felt it was time for fresh challenges but was unsure of what path they would take. As many have said this morning, I'm discovering it's a process. It's good to know there are so many others successfully making the same journey. Thanks for your series. It has already been very helpful and insightful, as has this Live Chat! Please do these after each segment.
Pauley: We will definitely be here and hope you will be, too. One final thought: A number of people have, rightly, acknowledged that the economy is tough on a lot of people. I can't make the economy better or guarantee that everybody has an equal share in opportunity, but I would observe that reinvention is not necessarily a job or a career opportunity. Once we get off of the grid, if you will, of thinking our lives are determined by a paycheck, we can instead imagine that a career or job struggle might be an opportunity to invest more mental attention into other realms of life, such as friendships, relationships, or physical health and fitness, and look for abundance there.
Well, it looks like the hour is upon us and we have run out of time. Thank you so much for participating in our debut chat as part of AARP's "Your Life Calling" series. Betsy, I hope you've enjoyed it as much as I have. Catch me again on April 13 on the Today show, where I'll be bringing you another great story about someone who is working to hear their life calling. Stay tuned to AARP.org/Jane for more resources and inspiring stories on reinvention.