by Denise Berger
Are you feeling kind of grumpy? Maybe a little note of despair? Me too. The economy stinks, but many of us are lucky to have jobs. Some of us still go to the gym or participate in social gatherings. Others of us still manage to volunteer our time. We work. We work some more. We go to school. We may even drive our kids to school in some kind of SUV or minivan. We have family – kids, parents, grand-parents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, nephews, nieces. We have pets. We have a roof over our heads, food, and hopefully our health. Some may still manage to get away on a vacation. We have friends. Sooooo, why might we feel a touch lost and confused? We are 40-something. We are accomplished and we have another 40 years to go.
Does it sometimes feel like we’ve peaked and now it is mostly down-hill from here? We could have a whole lifetime ahead of us, and shouldn’t it be good? I recently wrote an article on creating a legacy and asked these following questions: What will be the legacy we each leave behind? What do we want it to be? What would make our kids, our families and our friends proud? Maybe this sounds a bit morbid, but when we look at our lives in the context of a time span, stopping to think about the track we are on – collectively, as a group of people, and individually – can be daunting. The thought that we could actually leave a mark on this world can be overwhelming. However, the feeling that we might not leave a lasting impression on this world is SCARY to me and should be just the catalyst we need to spur us into action to have an impact and make these next 4-0 something years count!! Building a legacy requires each of us to take action and to be a leader, in whatever small or large ways.
And, while we all value the choices we make and especially the ever-so-delicate balance to be present for our families, the fact is there is no spontaneity in doing the laundry and cleaning the house, week to week. A friend relayed to me a story about how the woman she was in her 20s and early 30s is someone in a dream – professional, intellectual, aggressive, career-minded, traveling the world, and leading important meetings, and pursuing a MBA. She was going to be a successful, high-achieving business woman. Now, after having four kids and living the life of a stay-at-home mom, she laughs as she recalls how excited she is to find a pair of missing gym shorts in the dirty clothes. There might not be a whole lot of surprise in a desk job either, but there is the potential for it, at least. Even that isn’t enough. We want more. We want action. We want adventure. We want to have impact… in something… in anything!! Allow for correction: All women have tremendous value. While house chores can easily dominate anybody’s daily schedule, the stay-at-home moms are generally not sitting around doing mundane, repetitive work every day either. They are busy too and they are struggling to have impact in this world by not only volunteering their time to make the schools and our communities better places for families to live but also raising children who will contribute to society. So, we mid-life women are all in this together.
So, here’s what I’m doing about mid-life. I’m figuring out a goal, or two, or three. Maybe it’s short-term; maybe it’s more long term. Whatever it is, I’m going to make sure that when I look back from now, I continue to feel a sense of accomplishment and have stories to tell my kids, my friends and peers!! Rebecca Shambaugh, in her book It’s Not a Glass Ceiling; It’s a Sticky Floor , states, “Actively seeking out new opportunities and learning to tolerate risk is a form of leadership, in that being a good leader is about putting yourself in different and challenging experiences that teach you new things about yourself and the world in which you work.” Dolly Parton (who knew from experience) said, “If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”
I think the 40s is about exploration. That search can be uncomfortable, sometimes confusing, and alternating between boredom and excitement. I don’t know about you but I’m willing to take that on because the past 20-something years have been an adventure and I’m looking for more. How about you?