Reinvention is No Joke

This whole “second career” transition thing is tough. I’ve been in the middle of a bit of a writer’s block (hence, my lack of blog posts) and a bad case of self doubt. It sneaks into my head at the worst times, too. I’m a lounger in the mornings and it takes me a good half hour to really wake up and get moving. I love to just hang out in my bed contemplating my day, my week, my month, my life. But that’s exactly the time those little voices telling me I’ve lost my marbles, that I walked away from a good income, stability and admiration, that I’m absolutely crazy to put everything – my kids, my home, my relationships, my free time, everything that brings me joy – on the line. This is the mind game I play almost every day, and it’s exhausting.

You see, I spent 16 years building a business, and before that, I spent my education and the early part of my career building my skills as a marketing and public relations professional. For nearly a quarter of a century, I worked hard at becoming the professional I am today. To just stop and completely change direction is no small feat. In the past few months, in those mornings snuggled in my bed, I realized I have a lot of layers to peel back and in some cases outright shed. I also realized I have a lot layers that I should keep and are worth keeping. I’m learning that sorting through who I am and who I’ll still become is at the core of my mid-life reinvention.

I love this photo because it represents the pinnacle campaign of my career. My work with Colorado Proud and the Colorado Department of Agriculture was creative, collaborative, challenging and rewarding. And, it was all about food! More of this, please.

As I sit and write, I look around my desk, and I have sayings posted everywhere, small reminders and inspiration. “Self care is a divine responsibility.” “Beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.” “What if you treated you, not the way you were treated, but the way you should have been treated?” “Be present.” And there’s more. I have an entire box of daily reminders, wishes and inspiration – 365 of them that I try to grab and read every day, although, admittedly I forget some days. I have a journal book that’s all about discovering my gifts, giving myself motivation and being nice to myself. I have kind and caring advisors and friends who support me and give me tools and resources to help me find my way. And still I struggle.

I find solace in the kitchen, chopping, stirring, tasting and experimenting. I find clarity when I write. I find connection with good friends, good wine and great conversation. I find contentment in visual order, whether in my closet, in my kitchen cabinets or in the pages of my favorite food and lifestyle magazines. I find adventure in my car or on an airplane on my way to a new, unknown place. And I find pure joy on a snowy mountainside with my kiddos bundled up looking like astronauts on skis. These are the things that help me through my struggle. These are the things that I long to do when I’m doing anything else.

When it comes to my mid-life career reinvention, I’m trying to figure out how to do more of what I love and still make a financial contribution to my family and my community. It’s not easy, because deep down, I’m terrified. I’m afraid I’ll be judged if I take a step (or five) back to an entry-level job. I’m afraid I’ll run out of money. I’m afraid I’ll never find satisfaction and joy in my work, whatever that happens to be. I’m afraid I won’t have time with my kids. I’m afraid my kids will resent me if I move them away to explore a new opportunity. I’m afraid my already fragile marriage will completely disintegrate and I’ll be alone. I’m afraid I’ll be alone.

There it is. The crux of my midlife fears. I’m scared of being alone. Shit.

Here’s the funny thing. I really love solitude. Before I had kids, my favorite thing to do was to ski by myself. I loved to get in the singles lift line and ride up with complete strangers, quietly listening to their stories of fun on the hill. My most cherished part about skiing alone, however, was stopping midway down an uncrowded run and just listening to the quiet of the mountains. That kind of solitude is something I seek, but the idea of being alone in life is not the same thing.

To me being alone is the feeling of being rejected by friends, family and loved ones because I choose to go down an unpopular and unchartered path. Being alone is being misunderstood and feeling like I’m the outcast or that I simply don’t fit in. Those feelings suck, and it’s hard for me to wrap my head around my sense of being rejected. “Why do I care?” I ask myself. “Plow ahead, because pursing a path that calls you is a noble thing,” I answer. But it’s. So. Damn. Hard.

Here I am, baring parts of my crazy soul that I’ve never shared before. And I may be rejected. Alone. But I suppose that’s the point. Perhaps the more I do it, the better I’ll get at it, and the light that’s guiding my way will become brighter, my future more focused. I have to believe that it will.

In the meantime, for anyone else out there searching, know that you are not alone. You’ve at least got me, flailing at my computer in my basement trying to figure out the point of it all. I’m open to anyone who’s made the leap into the unknown, hoping their net eventually appears. Even if you haven’t made the leap or never will, I know you have your own struggles, and I am open to you, too. It’s true that reinvention is no joke, but I know that in the end it’s all worth it. And so are you. And so am I.

Among wine grapes ready to be harvested in the Loire Valley in France. One of my all-time favorite days with some of my all-time favorite people.
Soul-satisfying solitary skiing in Crested Butte.
Ski day with the kiddos
Micro astronauts on skis in Breckenridge.

Much love and connection to you all. Thanks for reading.



My Luckiest Ski Day Ever

My luckiest ski day ever
January 2014
Mary Jane, Colorado.

I love to ski. It’s my most favorite activity. I love to ski with my husband. I love to ski with my kids and I love to ski alone. It doesn’t really matter who I ski with, I LOVE it. When I was a journalism student at the University of Kansas, I always thought I’d do public relations for a ski resort. It was my dream job (it probably still is). My public relations professor told me that I’d more likely be promoting politicians (more on that in another post) than mountains. I didn’t listen to him, and when I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I packed up a little U-Haul trailer and moved west to Denver.

I settled in Denver, found a job in PR, although not in the ski industry, and skied as often as I could. My husband eventually proposed to me (he on a snowboard, and I on skis) in Paradise Bowl on Mt. Crested Butte. My job in ski industry PR is still elusive, but I’ve managed to make skiing a priority in my life. I now have two munchkins and am trying hard to introduce them to the sport I love. Let’s be honest, that’s a lot easier than it sounds.

People travel from all over the country and spend thousands of dollars for a ski vacation. My family is lucky enough to be a mere hour and a half away, considering weather and traffic, from the slopes. My kids haven’t fully grasped this privilege and probably never will. It’s sort of like the Internet. My kids will have no understanding of what life was like without immediate access to the Internet.

They will assume everyone skis, that everyone gets up at the crack of dawn, sits in traffic in a blizzard all for a moment of solitude in white, fluffy powder. They will assume that everyone waits in line in the summer time at a ski shop with a giant blow-up dinosaur on top of it to get new gear for the upcoming ski season. They will assume that everyone has had mild frostbite on their fingers and toes and that sometimes they can’t actually move said appendages.

Another lucky ski day
Keystone, Colorado

Skiing is a part of me the way being a mom, a business owner or a wife is a part of me. It just is. On a recent ski day with my oldest munchkin, it was cold, snowing and the wind was blowing sideways. Let’s face it, it was a blizzard. Mid mountain, whimpers of cold fingers began to take over. We were far from a warming hut and even farther from the friends we were supposed to meet. I could feel my frustration mounting as I tried to explain to a seven-year-old how to keep his hands warm in a blizzard. I could feel myself start to say, “this is supposed to be fun! Do you know how lucky you are?”

I backed off, got us on the next chair lift, wrapped my arm around my kiddo and stuck one of his frigid hands in my armpit and the other in my crotch. There we sat in what would otherwise have been a very awkward position, and in that moment, I realized I was the lucky one. He was being the trooper, not me. He was the one sacrificing, not me. He was the one doing what I loved, not the other way around. At the top of the lift with only slightly warmer fingers, my kiddo followed me down the mountain where we went into the lodge to warm up and eat lunch. I asked him if he wanted to call it a day or ski some more. Without hesitation, he responded gleefully, “ski!”

It didn’t stop snowing. The wind didn’t stop blowing, and it certainly didn’t get any warmer. But we ventured back out. To ski. Together. I couldn’t have been any luckier.

Skiing with friends at Vail.
Learning to ski at Keystone