Change is one of life’s many inevitabilities, right up there with death and taxes. As someone who hasn’t always embraced change without a good fight, it took me nearly five decades to come to grips with that fact. Maybe it’s the wisdom that comes with age or the value of hindsight, but at 51-years-old I have come to understand that while it may be scary, change is necessary if we want to grow and evolve as human beings.
That’s what I told myself when I decided to leave a secure, high-paying, corporate copywriting job with one of the largest companies in Texas to pursue a career in the fitness industry at the age of 47. When I shared this news with friends and family, the reactions were pretty much what you’d expect when someone just shy of 50 years old announces she is jumping into an industry largely dominated by people decades younger. “Are you sure?” “How much longer do you think you will be able to do that?” “Why now?” And my personal favorite, “Are you having a midlife crisis?”
But the truth was, I was burned out and uninspired. The restraints of the 9-5 life were killing my creativity and love of my craft. I was pretty sure that writing pithy copy about cheese wasn’t going to make a big difference in the world, and I wanted more. In my 40s, I had become athletic and started competing in half-marathons, endurance bike rides, and triathlons and I was passionate about fitness, health, and aging well, especially as it pertained to women. I was insatiably curious about what my body could do when I pushed it, fueled it properly, and treated it well. What I discovered was that I could get in the best shape of my life and become stronger physically and mentally in my 40s than I ever was in my youth.
Other women took notice, and I began to get requests from friends and colleagues to help them take back their bodies—and subsequently their lives. Through those conversations, I began to realize the harm that our beauty-and youth-obsessed culture inflicts on women. We are constantly reminded through television, social media, and advertising that when we reach our 40s and 50s, our best years are behind us. That we become invisible or irrelevant. That, much like a car, we depreciate as we age. I wanted to change the narrative.
Changing the Narrative
I became certified as a fitness trainer at 47 and began side hustling, balancing my full-time job with training a growing number of clients while still making time for my husband and children. It was a lot and looking back, I have no idea how I did it all. But I knew that I was passionate about it. That’s when, with the support of my family and friends, I decided to trade in my suits for spandex.
It wasn’t always easy. For starters, it put a noticeable dent in my income. There were other unexpected challenges that occurred during that first year that almost made me rethink my decision. But rather than throw in the sweaty towel, I reminded myself why I started and dug in deeper. Today, I have a full roster of clients, along with a steady gig at a boutique cycle studio and a thriving freelance journalism career that has rekindled my love of writing. In short, I have created a life filled with everything I enjoy.
Looking Back After Starting Over
So would I do it again? Absolutely! Would I do a few things differently? You betcha! Before you make any major life change, it’s important to take stock of your life and your reasons for wanting to shake things up a bit. Here are a few things to consider:
Be honest about your “why:” For me, the why was about trying to make a difference and reminding other women that it is never too late to live your best life. It is something that I am passionate about, and I believe that passion is the key to any life change. If the change you are considering doesn’t give you butterflies (in a good way), or if it doesn’t feel authentic to you, it won’t work.
Have a plan: Whether it’s exploring a new career, or moving to a new city, do your homework and make a plan. For example, if you are struggling to make ends meet, this might not be the best time to quit your job, move to a remote location, and write a novel. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write your bestseller. It just means that maybe you start by keeping your day job and carving out some time to write a few pages each day.
Expect the unexpected: Even the best-laid plans will inevitably hit a glitch. Be prepared to go with the flow and be open to modifications. Remember, if the plan isn’t working, you change the plan, not the goal. Setbacks do not equal failures, and I have personally found that it’s the challenges that help shape you and show you what you are made of.
Don’t ignore red flags: Your intuition is your BFF—trust it! From going into a new relationship to starting a business partnership, pay attention to red flags. Anything that doesn’t feel “right” probably isn’t—I learned this one the hard way.
Trust the timing: Just because you aren’t ready to take the leap right now doesn’t mean you never will. Conditions may not ever be perfect, but you will know when they are right for you. Timing is everything.
Surround yourself with support: Whether it’s emotional or financial, support is crucial to success. Surround yourself with only those people who want the best for you and check in with them often. It’s important that you have people you trust to give you honest feedback, encouragement, and even constructive criticism. These folks should be your biggest cheerleaders!
There is a song I love by the band Coldplay that asks the question, “where’d you wanna go, how much you wanna risk?” Anything you want to do in life requires an element of risk. There is the risk of failure. There is the risk of looking ridiculous. But there is also the risk of regret if you go through life without ever taking a chance on yourself. That was not a risk that I was willing to take. I firmly believe that you can design a life you love at any age and that success looks different to everyone. For me, it looks like having a flexible schedule, having more time for family and friends, staying active and healthy, and hopefully inspiring other women to believe in themselves enough to do the same.