I have heard what the talkers were talking, the talk of the
beginning and the end,
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now.
Walt Whitman, Song of Myself
I’m launching a new career – in my 60s.
It’s daunting and exhilarating. Reminds me of a moment in my 30s when I stood on the edge of a glacial crevasse, my back to the chasm. To rappel down, I had to – against all instinct – lean straight-legged backwards over the abyss. Guiding an anchored rope through a descender device on my climbing harness, I did just that – until my legs were perpendicular to the ice wall. They were shaking. But after a deep breath, walking down the wall with crampons on my boots as I lowered myself on the rope seemed doable.
At the end of 2016, I leaned back into the unknown when I emailed a query letter about a true crime book idea to several NYC literary agencies I’d vetted. I expected to wait several weeks for a reply and had prepared myself for a long march through many rejections, hoping to learn from each. Instead, I heard back right away from Dystel, Goederich & Bourret LLC. Jane Dystel wanted to represent me.
Do I have the energy?
After the initial elation of an impressive literary agent betting on me – doubt fluttered its dark bat wings. I’ve dreamed of being a book author since I was nine. And for just as long, I’ve wondered if I had what it took.
But that insecurity – a long-time, niggling companion – was now elbowed aside by a more insistent ghoul. Do I have the energy and stamina to embark on a new career in my 60s? I’d leaned over the abyss. Did I have the gumption to rappel down … and climb back out?
Who says we only get one adulthood?
Apparently, lots of folks are asking the same question and discovering, “Yes!” It’s even ignited a new term – Second Adulthood – brought to us by a septuagenarian author named Gail Sheehy.
In 1976, I, along with millions, read Sheehy’s book Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life. In it she chronicled what to expect in your 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s. The book ended there. At 22, I didn’t think anything about that. At 39, Sheehy apparently didn’t either.
But in 2004, 67-year-old Sheehy set out to write a sequel to Passages (she’d had a number of bestsellers in the interim). After seven years of research, New Passages: Mapping Your Life Across Time was published in 2011. Call it serendipity, but the 74-year-old Sheehy discovered a new frontier — a Second Adulthood in middle life.
“Stop and recalculate,” Sheehy writes. “Imagine the day you turn forty-five as the infancy of another life.” She discovered that instead of declining, men and women who embrace a Second Adulthood are progressing through entirely new passages into lives of deeper meaning, renewed playfulness, and creativity.
That’s for me. Who’s to say coming of age is only for the young – or that you can only do it once? I’m launching my Shake It Up Sixties – starting with a new career.
Knowing you get a second adulthood can free up the first one.
Hey Gen X, Y and Z — this notion of a Second Adulthood isn’t just for the mature. I wish starting in my 20s I knew I’d be able to embark on several careers. It would have made the first (and next) choice a freer one.
Launch your own second — or first — adulthood.
I’d love to hear from you. Comment here, email me, or meet me on Facebook.
What risks have you taken in work, love, life?
How did they turn out?
Have there been chances you regret not taking?
What dreams and aspirations do you still have?
What’s holding you back?
What new endeavor are you about to embark on and how do you feel about it?
What encouragement or advice would you offer about a first or second adulthood?
I plan to continue to blog about my latest coming of age, the book writing and publishing journey, topics related to my public speaking and training – and wisdoms from my readers. I hope you’ll join me for future posts. Please share your own coming of age adventures – whatever your age.