All posts tagged Transitions

“At 57, I Don’t Lean In”

“Congratulations,” Sheryl Sandberg said with a smile as broad as the years that separate our generations when I told her that at 57, I’d recently gone back to a corporate job. “At this stage, I’m standing up—not leaning in,” I continued. This statement did not generate another high-five from the Facebook COO and author of Lean In, a new working woman’s manifesto for success.

Glancing at my business card, Sandberg said, “I’ll find out who you can talk to about Lean In Circles at your company,” before turning to greet another BlogHer ’13 attendee in the crowded Skyline Ballroom in Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center.

A corporate layoff in 2006 interrupted my 30-year marketing career. When I returned to corporate life after six years of teaching and writing, I knew my future called for a new outlook. I had been the prototypical MBA-owning, globe-trotting, leaning in career girl in my twenties, thirties and forties. Now, I’m a fifty-something woman standing up for the pursuit of personal satisfaction and enjoyment on the job and for living every day as if I’m worth it, because I am.

* At 57, I don’t lean in at work because I don’t feel the need to prove myself anymore. I believe in myself and know that I will deliver value.

* I don’t lean in because I already take a seat at the table. I speak up when needed and not just to be heard.

* I work for satisfaction in a job well done and the personal growth that comes from that, not to position myself for the next big move.

* I’m standing up at work rather than leaning in because I know the importance of a meaningful job. It requires my energy, but it’s just a part of my life, not the whole.

* I’m past worrying whether everyone likes me. I’m not sure I like everyone anyway. But I can figure out how to work with them, and that’s what counts.

* I want to see what’s around and ahead of me, and you can’t do that when your nose is leaned-in to a corporate playbook. I will travel the rest of my life gazing at serendipitous experiences outside those pages.

* I still haven’t heard from anyone in Sheryl’s office about the Lean In Circles at my company. It’s unfortunate that she missed the true significance of going corporate again at 57. There is meaning to be found, purpose to be had, and passion to be explored.

My generation must stand up and be counted. We are in vigorous pursuit of the ultimate goal—a life well lived.

Photo:
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook Inc., center, poses with students for photographs after her speech at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea
Photo: Woohae Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Originally published on LifeReimagined.arrp.og
Life Reimagined AARP “At 57 I Don’ Lean In

The Walker Was Waiting For Me

Walker Husband’s request was simple enough but it put me on guard.

“I’m going to ask you a question and I want you to answer rationally and not emotionally.”

Did he want my opinion on buying another ukulele to keep the one that he bought on vacation company? Was he at Coscto debating a super deal on a big screen TV? Or did he want me to meet him at the local car dealer to test drive a convertible?

“Where are you?” I asked.

“I’m at the little resale shop around the corner,” he answered.

The resale shop. That’s not an odd place for him to be. But it is odd for him to call and ask about buying something there.

“They have a used walker for $10. Do you think it would be a good idea for you to have, just in case?”

Silence on my end.

Husband was asking a perfectly reasonable question that could push me right into irrationality, or at least into being overly emotional. He’s calling to see if I want a walker because in one week I’m having foot surgery on both feet.  Surgery on three hammertoes and one bunion per foot. Surgery that requires ten days of being completely off my feet except for slowly making my way to the bathroom and back to bed, to couch, or to chair. Surgery that results in an 8-week recuperation period where my mobility will be immobilized to a degree that I can’t fathom.

He was asking a perfectly reasonable question and I needed to call on my left brain when forming a response not my right brain, which was screaming: “A walker. What? I’m too young too need a walker. This surgery won’t stop me. Oh, I’m turning into my mother, father, someone other than me.”

“What’s it like?” I asked.

“It’s small, silver and has tennis balls on one end.”

“Will it move over carpet?” The path from bed to bath is carpeted and if the walker was going to be useful it had to be an all-surface walker.

“I think so.”

Continued silence on my end.

“All right I won’t buy it. Your silence says it all,” Husband said.

“No. I don’t know. Do whatever you want.” I was still in denial and couldn’t be responsible for the decision.

“We’ll donate it right back when you don’t need it anymore,” Husband said.

“Fine.” I hung up. He was right. It might help. For $10 it couldn’t hurt.

Husband came home with an upscale version of the model he had described over the phone. This walker had wheels instead of tennis balls and it was still just $10.

I took it for a spin over the carpet. It worked perfectly. I imagined myself gliding through the dark of the night to the bathroom, my way illuminated by a small flashlight I could attach to the front bar. Add a backpack and I could roam from room to room ready for anything. Dress it up with a flag and some streamers and I’d be ready for the local Fourth of July parade.

“The walker was a good idea,” I conceded to Husband.

“I thought so. I promised I’d take care of you,” he replied.

And so he did. And so will Wendy, the name I’ve given to my new wheels. With Wendy and Husband by my side, my walking will be smooth. Or at least more manageable.

And the Transition Goes On

Walking old/newpath

“Why don’t you just say it, you’re retired,” a male friend said after my layoff that produced an unemployment check and a Cobra health insured life.

“I’m not retired,” I insisted. “I’m in transition.”

At lunch with a working friend from the good old days of full employment and a certain path I shared the nascent beginning of my blog.

“I’m writing about women in transition.”

“You’re always in transition,” my male lunch partner said.

He was right. Whether in a job or not, I have always felt in transition. I prefer to think this makes me an expert on the topic rather than someone who always looks for the next patch of greener grass.

When I told my sister about the potential job offer she asked, “Aren’t you enjoying your semi-retirement state?”

Semi-retirement? Is that what my life looked like to the outside? It didn’t’ feel like that inside.

The five years that I didn’t report to an office, I still worked. Not at a corporate office doing the same thing. But I worked. From a home office or at a borrowed desk. At various things. Consulting projects. Committees. Content development. And mostly teaching.

Two hundred students–give or take a few–have sat in my classes and been mentored over coffee and during office hours. Teaching has been the hardest work I’ve ever done. By myself. In front of a room of young adults hoping to advance their careers with the material they are learning in my class. Finding new ways to fill the hours, to bring the principles and theories alive. A three-hour, one-woman show running for 10 weeks straight. Each week required a new script and the ability to improvise.

“I never want to retire,” I tell Husband, who is on the brink of retirement. Teetering so close to being able to nap at will on any one of our couches. To putter in any number of puttering spaces in the house, garage, or outside. To being able to do something else as soon as he discovers or defines else. To being in transition.

Retiring sounds old. And I reject being old, while fully acknowledging being older. So I’m rejecting retirement and accepting rehiring into a new role in a familiar field. Or as I prefer to look at it, I’m just entering one more transitional phase in my life of transition.

Fashion Faux Pas or Face Plant?

bth_red-and-white-gingham-check-a4-1

Coming of age in the 70s I was more than a fashion faux pas, I was a fashion face plant. Nothing can explain away the dress I wore to the junior prom. I looked like a picnic tablecloth on the bottom with a matching place mat on top. Since I can’t find the picture, which I know I saved, you’ll have to use your imagination.

Large red and white checked gingham fabric. Long skirt accented with a ruffle. Halter-top attached to the skirt, also accented with a ruffle. Straps crisscrossed in the back and buttoned into the top of the skirt. My father made me dance around the living room to make sure nothing fell out of the square piece of material over my chest. Since my chest amounted to nothing at the time, I was safe.

Ruffles play a major role in my best wardrobe worsts. My early choices for formal dances at college all had ruffles on the bottom and unfortunately a few had gathered sleeves with ruffled edges. And there was the ruffled yellow dotted swiss bridesmaid’s dress accessorized with a matching floppy hat. Of course that was chosen for me and truth be told, the whole time I wore that dress I squelched the urge to cry out, paraphrasing Scarlett in Gone With The Wind, “I’ll never go dotted swiss or ruffles again.”

Of course it took a whole new decade and career before I found my ruffle replacement. Half the fun of going to work in the mid-‘80s–for me¬–was wearing the businesswoman’s bow tie. Floppy or stiff. Bright red, blue or black. It didn’t matter. I simply liked the ritual of tying it. And it announced my competence without me saying a word.

I first learned about power dressing from The Women’s Dress for Success book written by John T. Malloy. His advice to women hoping to be taken seriously by others (men) in the workplace: look like those others (men) as much as possible. My closet was full of men’s styled dark colored suits that I wore with white, blue, or an occasional pink shirt, when I felt rebellious, and a bow tie. Simple jewelry, gold or silver stud earrings and maybe a pearl necklace rounded out the corporate career gal’s look.

I took all of Mr. Malloy’s advice and added my own twist. Looking at my first-day-on-the-new-job picture I wish I had applied Coco Chanel’s advice: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.” I wore a dark gray pinstripe suit with modest shoulder pads and a light blue wing-collared shirt with pleated front. A bow tie in the same color as the shirt flopped under my wing collar more than it stood at attention. A necklace of alternating silver and lapis-colored beads lay under my tie. Thank goodness I just wore matching silver studs.

In the 90s my bow ties and starched shirts gave way to flowing scarves and silky blouses. Then I went casual, business casual and then work from home casual. Today the most flounce in my wardrobe is found in the pashmina-style scarves warming my neck in overly air conditioned and under-heated environments. I am aware of the return of the bow blouse to the workingwoman’s closet but have resisted. Much as I have resisted anything in red and white checks. Neither bows nor gingham fit my style anymore.

The New Year Feels Different Already

NU PURPLE CLOCK

Signs that 2013 will be a different kind of year than 2012:
1. On January 1st Northwestern University won its first bowl game in 64 years.
2. On January 1st I watched a whole football game on television since the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl in 1985.
3. I learned more about probiotics and restoring the good bacteria in your gut than I ever wanted to learn while watching said football game.
4. An anonymous friend sent me a five-day pleasure challenge to start the new year, and I’m taking it.
5. In a few minutes I will drive to my new full-time job and first corporate job in five years. I didn’t sleep well last night and my stomach hurts now. Some things never change.

What Kind of Blogger Am I?

WhatKindOfBloggerAreYou1

According to a study of blogging styles and attitudes conducted by Zemanta, a content suggestion engine (according to Wikipedia), I’m a Life Stager/Hedonist/Life Improver. Translation: I write about How to Enjoy and Survive Midlife With A Smile on Your Face, or My Face, as the case may be.

If that sounds like a mish mash of styles and attitudes, it is. According to the study, I’m not alone in exhibiting more than one blogging persona. And that, my blogging friends, is comforting to know for a couple reasons.

I’m forever being asked what my blog is about. I’m forever finding myself searching for a one-word answer because people like one-word answers that quickly categorize who you are, and because I teach marketing. I tell my students that an effective brand positioning statement is consumer-centric and singular in its promise. It is the rare branding success that offers two benefits in one drink. (Miller Lite’s Great Taste…Less Filling!) So if my blog is a brand or a product, it should offer something singular. Something it can own.

Here are some of the words I’ve tried on their own: Transition, Humor, and Midlife. But they don’t work on their own. Transition from what? What’s funny? And midlife, what does that mean? Midlife is about as broad in definition as Middle Class. Far as I can tell, Midlife means you’re not wearing diapers.

However, I also teach my students that a target audience or consumer can’t be defined narrowly by demographics. A brand’s consumer is more nuanced than a woman between the ages of 45-55. My students learn how to develop consumer personas, which include a demographic description along with information on attitudes, goals, lifestyle, and behaviors related to the product.

The Zemanta study highlights, for me, that while a blog has a brand identity, it also has a persona attached to it. Maybe I have difficulty describing my blog in one word because I can’t define myself with one word. Maybe I’ve just rationalized why I shouldn’t even worry about coming up with the one word. Maybe I should just focus on the one thing that differentiates me from the rest of the midlife bloggers talking about the midlife journey with a touch of humor. Right now the only answer – and it is one word or two, depending upon how I express it, is: Me. or Julie Danis. Only I can own that.

Boomer Women: Listen to Your Elders

Boomer women the atlantic

I always enjoyed sitting like a mouse in the corner of the room when my great aunt, aunt, or grandma came to visit. My little ears learned big lessons about just about any topic from those who had come way before me. A recent article in The Atlantic reminded me to listen to my elders for advice on how to navigate the mid-life transition I’m facing today. Bottom line: Accept the age you are, rethink retirement, and immerse yourself in community. I’m all ears for this advice. (Photo courtesy of The Atlantic and the AP)

A Short Note On Lists

Forget Me Not Lists

I hate lists
They bring me bliss(ters)
From writing and reading
And seeing my pleading
Of what to do and say
Throughout the day

On my lists there resides
Many plans and other asides
That missed being done
Or were never begun
Oh I hate lists
They make me pissed

FOMO: Orbiting, Exploring, or A Waste of Time?

9780670879830

The former Chief Guru of Hallmark, Gordon MacKenzie, author of Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool’s Guide to Surviving with Grace, gave presentations with notcards, not power point.  A picture and a number adorned each card, which  was attached to a clothesline with an old-fashioned wooden clothes pin.  The audience controlled his talks on creativity and innovation by calling out a number and Gordon would pick the card off the line and tell the story behind it.

“You are in control,” Gordon started each lecture. “I’ll talk until all the cards are gone or someone shouts, ‘Stop.’  It’s up to you.” Of course, the lectures usually went the allotted time, not because no one wanted to be the one to stop Gordon’s stories, but because no one wanted to miss out on what might be the best example of how to be creative and innovative in their jobs and lives. The Fear of Missing (FOMO) out drove the young innovators to listen and learn.

I recently thought about the FOMO influence on my own life. How many of my choices have been driven by the need to see what’s happening behind door number 1, and 2, and 3? Answer: a lot. FOMO’s been identified as a quarter-century affliction but this mid-century modern woman has been afflicted for years. And I like it. Or at least I’m used to it.  More on this topic later, I need to check something out.

 

 

Peering Out Through The BlogHer Blur

logo

It was only a week ago but it’s a blur. A blogging blur. Last week I attended a conference for bloggers. For women bloggers to be precise, 4,500 women who put their thoughts, rants, advice, and analysis of all things worth and not worth being analyzed out into the indefinable, indescribable, is it really real, blogosphere, to be exact.

I attended this conference because the agent who requested, read, and responded to my book proposal said I needed a platform. A platform, in publishing speak, is proof that you can sell your book. That there is a ready made reader, a group of ready made readers, that will be predisposed to purchase your book. Today, one proof of a platform is your social media presence, backed up by analytics. So I went to BlogHer2012 at the Hilton New York for three days to learn how to build and measure a platform.

If I wanted to feel my story was unique or that my perspective was unvoiced, I should have stayed home. Women writing about transition–done. Humorous takes on everyday life–written. Second acts in the making–ditto. Tales from menopause and beyond–please, they are written during the wee hours of the morning when sleep is on a break.

At least I wasn’t a mother with an urge to write during naptime or school hours. There were more mommy bloggers than breakfast bagels. Healthy food mommies, home school mommies, mommy divas, wannabe mommies, and mommy entrepreneurs. Mommies with tales of adoption, multiple births, special need children, single parenting, lesbian mothering, and probably pet parenting.  Although, I didn’t personally meet a blogger with that focus.

Thank goodness I took lots of notes because I don’t remember much these days unless it’s written down. This is a common theme in blogs from women of a certain age, so I will remember to not write about whatever I just forgot.

I won’t forget the expo center full of brand experiences, freebies, and sponsor corporations vying for the attention of a blogger-advocate. There’s something delightful about a conference where you can get your picture taken with the Dr. Seuss’ Lorax character and fill your swag bag with Poise® light bladder leakage pads and vibrators from either Trojan® or EdensFantasys®.

I will remember the presence of the three keynote speakers starting with President Obama, who opened the conference via satellite feed. (Romney was asked and declined.) The President reminded us that he was raised by women and is surrounded by women he admires and supports. He proved that he knows the source and value of free advertising by sharing how his presidency has positively impacted the lives of women.

During an interview with Martha Stewart an audience member asked, “What aren’t you good at?”

After thinking for a bit, Martha responded, “I’m not good at what I haven’t tried yet.”

I wish I was that confident. I’m not very good at being a fan of Martha’s. I admit to being an early member of the “I am not in love with Martha Stewart Club” back in the 80s. I don’t care if she is the very model of a modern media mogul. I have never fallen under her spell.

Katie Couric engaged the audience over the last luncheon. Before I talk about her, I admit positive bias. I am a member of the “I love Katie and want to be like Katie Club.” One day Katie showed up on the Today Show wearing the same J. Crew sweater that hung in my closet. This made me happy. Clearly, a little bit too happy if I’m still talking about it now.

A blogger in the audience asked Katie, “How did you feel during your interview of Sarah Palin?”

I will paraphrase Katie’s answer, because at this point I was not taking notes. “As a person, I felt sorry for her. She was clearly having a difficult time forming an answer. As a reporter, I felt I did a good job of finding out things that I thought the American public would want to know about a person who would be a heartbeat from the president­–the oldest president ever elected.”

Katie has empathy. Katie does a good job. I still want to be like Katie.  I guess I want to be like Martha, too–good at everything I try. After this conference, I know I am like President Obama too. I appreciate the women in my life, past, present and future and hope to build a platform of interest and service to all.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers