This website, and the associated book, are dedicated to every woman who’s ever broken through a barrier, violated a taboo, or overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve what seemed impossible, but was merely difficult . . . without even breaking a nail, or whining about it if she did.

How to grow up and live a fulfilling life

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.

That’s intimidating.

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.

Join the Aging Courageously family on Facebook and buckle your seat belt, because when you grow up this time, there’s no more wishing, no more waiting.

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.)

 

What Business Women Should Consider When Finding a Mentor

Navigating the road to your career is not always easy —  especially as a woman. Although we have been pointedly fighting for gender equality in the workplace for decades, if not centuries, there is still a long way to go.

Finding a mentor can help alleviate some of the challenges that come along with finding out how to get where you wanna go. However, finding a mentor can be a challenging process itself. Here is what you need to know as a business woman looking for a mentor.

Workplace Discrimination

It’s vital to keep workplace discrimination in mind when looking for a mentor, especially if you’re a woman of color. Plenty of bias, prejudice, and stereotyping go on in the workplace, including persistent pay gaps between men and women. In order to avoid, tackle, and overcome discrimination issues, you must learn to recognize sexism in the office. Examples of gender discrimination include:

  • Unequal pay
  • Biased interview questions (i.e. do you have kids?)
  • Confirmation bias
  • Diminished responsibility
  • Gender roles and stereotypes i.e. men are strong, women are emotionally intelligent
  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Unlawful termination

Hopefully, there are no major signs of gender discrimination in your office, but if there are, know your rights and speak up. You can always talk to the Human Resources department to discuss  your options.

When thinking about who you want to be your mentor, keep in mind the people who are doing the discriminating, and take note of who is speaking up. Perhaps a male manager checks the person saying something that can be offensive, perhaps a female manager takes action to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Obviously, you don’t want to have a mentor who will discriminate against you or other women, so try to find someone who can guide you in standing up for workplace rights.

Gender and Female Empowerment

In a mentor, you will want to find someone who does more than stand up for others when they need help. You want someone who will not see you as just a woman, but as a strong, skilled employee. Of course, being a woman is also powerful, so you should look for someone who will help empower you.

According to the findings from research on hostile work environments, “a whopping 84 percent of women have been told that they behave too aggressively, while 47 percent report being asked to do lower level tasks not asked of their male counterparts, like taking notes or ordering food.”

Due to this type of gender discrimination, you should consider gender as a factor in who you choose to be a mentor. If you choose a male mentor, they can potentially help you go after what you want more. The Wall Street Journal reports that “men are more likely than women to feel confident they are en route to an executive role.” In their study they found that men win more promotions, challenging assignments, and access to top leaders than their female coworkers.

Finding a male mentor can help you adopt a strong, confident attitude in the office that can help you further progress in your career. On the other hand, there are definitely major benefits to having a female mentor.

A female mentor is more likely to understand your perspective. They are likely to have experienced workplace discrimination at at least one point or another, and they can help you find ways to conquer it; having a female mentor can help you become the strong career woman you are striving to be.

Regardless of gender, you should look for a mentor who encourages employee development. This can be someone who pushes you and others to look for new opportunities in the office, such as applying for other positions within the company and helping you advance your career. They will be the ones to give you the push you need to get where you want to go, even if it means exploring paths you hadn’t really considered, such as getting a Master’s of Business Administration or another degree relevant to your career.

Being a Good Leader for Other Women

There is no question that the business world needs more women in it, especially in positions of authority. Hopefully, your mentor will help you rise to meet and surpass your goals in your career. This way, you can become a leader, and eventually a mentor, for other employees looking for guidance.

Of course, you should do everything you can to use your position of leadership and power in the workplace to be a good boss to other women and lift up female employees in particular. Washington State University states that being a good leader to other women means fostering “a business environment that invites and involves women in business to gain respect and to feel valued for their contributions, leaders and managers can work to overcome the roadblocks on the way toward building fulfilling careers.”

On your path to finding a mentor and learning where you want to go in your career, make sure to learn from women leaders other than your mentor. Look for inspirational readings from other women, like Inna Rosputnia and Mariellie Rodriguez Mundy. With consideration, patience, and confidence, you can find the right mentor to help you be your best self in the workplace.