When you grow up
You spend your life trying to figure out what you’re going to be when you grow up. Maybe you know from the get-go or maybe, like me, you are just trying to figure out the next step along the journey.
When I was little, I never really had a clear idea of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought, “I could be a ballerina, or maybe a teacher, or a doctor, or a secretary.” Every time I picked something, I felt like I was jumping in a category of people and nothing felt just right. What if I started a job when I was 22 and woke up ten, twenty, thirty years later and decided it wasn’t for me? In some ways, I feel like my early career has been dictated by the fear that I will have to choose something and stay with it… for the rest of my life.
When I was 18, my mom (age 48) decided to quit her job and go back to school to become a doctor. Nobody knew how this was going to go.
There was only one school that accepted her, so clearly not many places thought she could do it, right?
How can someone reinvent themselves just like that?
Last year, my friend Aaron lost his job at age 52. He told me, “It’s likely the best years of my career are behind me now, Kirsten.”
When we live to be a 102, how can the best years of our lives be behind us at age 52?
One day while my uncle drove me to the airport, he said he wished he could find work he really loved. “I love antiques, but where are the jobs in antiques? Plus, who would hire a guy in his late fifties anyway? I’m worthless on the job market.”
Do you know the feeling? You have experience, and yet somehow it doesn’t mean anything?
So what’s left for you?
While I was in grad school at UC Berkeley, I studied demography, or population studies. In one class, the professor put up a picture on the screen and said, “The U.S. population is aging. We know it, we can see it, and the only way we are going to be able to survive it is if you go out and make better institutions.”
When I look at these four situations, I think, “There’s got to be a way that we can live that supports us in finding something we care about and can make a living doing, no matter how old we are, no matter what stage in life we are in.”
Now there is.
Whether you’re looking for a new story, sending kids off to school, leaving a long standing career for retirement, or something else entirely, you can reinvent yourself. This is something I believe deeply.
Launched in 2018, Aging Courageously will inspire and strengthen you to make your dreams real at EVERY age. Rather than follow the social momentum of slowing down as you get older, with Aging Courageously it’s never too late to feel engaged and passionate about your life.
Who am I?
I’m Kirsten. I guide people in restoring their sense of self through major life changes.
How did this become my life?
As I said, when I was little, I felt like every time I considered a career for myself I was deciding on something that would stick for the rest of my life. Honestly, being put in a category like that scared me. So, I decided I didn’t have to just do one thing. I researched brain cancer in a genetics laboratory at Mayo Clinic, curated exhibitions at an Austrian ethnographic museum, worked as the head baker in a farm to fork bakery on a fruit orchard, and got a Master’s degree at UC Berkeley where I studied populations and aging. After it all, I was sure there was something more for me.
That something more turned out to be sharing my own story. I wrote a memoir called “In My Own Skin”. It’s memoir about my story of loss, love, and growing up after my dad died when I was 14 and my family was in a car crash. Reflecting on the choices and circumstances that have shaped my life, I want to help you love who you are and make your dreams possible from where you’re standing right now.
Let’s get this started!
That’s why I started Aging Courageously. Because the best way to grow up to a fulfilled life is to believe it’s possible at ANY age.
And that’s why I’m excited to share stories of Aging Courageously with you, my new friends at Scrappy Women. We know what it’s like to create something from nothing – “to take risks and put ourselves out there;” “to care about something more than we care about being comfortable, socially acceptable, or politically correct;” and “to be absolutely, totally committed to extraordinary results.” As we venture on this journey into the world of aging, grab hold of your scrappiness and dive in. Let’s show the world just how far our scrappiness can take us in living long, healthy, and fulfilled lives.
Stay tuned for my next post about my friend Sherry, a 70 year old “graduating” into entrepreneurship.
Kirsten Schowalter is the founder of Aging Courageously and the author of the memoir In My Own Skin.
(In case you’re curious…Above is a picture of my mom speaking at her medical school graduation.)