My reinspirement | a midlife discovery mission

Midlife Discovery

re-in-spire-ment | Where inspiration meets reinvention. A purposeful retirement from one’s professional career in order to pursue self-discovery and explore all the beautiful possibilities life has to offer. Usually undertaken by women in midlife.

This blog is my story of how I got here, to this point of midlife inspiration and desire to reinvent my working life, pursue my passions, and live my dream. But first I need to figure out what comes next.

“What do you want to do?” It wasn’t the first time I had been asked – or asked myself – this question, but it was the first time I understood that it was entirely up to me to find the answer.  

We were sitting on a Caribbean beach, talking about how grateful we were for the break from the cold winter and the brutal pace of our jobs. “We moved to Vermont a year ago, but we haven’t changed anything,” Peter remarked out of nowhere. The words echoed and ricocheted inside my head – haven’t changed anything, haven’t changed, haven’t changed, anything, anything, anything……

When I bought the Vermont house in 2012, we were still living in southern New Hampshire. My stated goal was to move north in 2016, quit my Boston-based job and start over. We made the physical move on schedule, but instead of quitting my job, I had doubled down. I had taken on more responsibility just to be sure I wouldn’t regret at least having tried to take my marketing career to the next level before giving up on it.

I’m glad to have given it my all, but it had become increasingly clear that my “all” wasn’t going to be enough for the job or for me. I would have to change something, and that would have to start with figuring out what I wanted to do.

I started with what came naturally – market research and strategic planning. While I gathered data and began to make spreadsheets and selection matrices, I put off starting the count-down clock. There was no way I could set a target date for changing my job until I knew for sure what that change would entail.

But here’s the thing, I was never going to be sure. I was never going to change anything – anything…thing…thing – unless I first changed my way of thinking and operating.

I did not come to this realization on my own. It took several weeks with a life coach to help me see that I was, in her words, “steamrolling my life.”

The stories we weave about ourselves can be difficult to unravel.

I had woven a story of myself around what I should do — plan, work, achieve. Even as I sought to find my purpose and make a career change, that story was difficult to unravel. What I thought I needed was to line up what I wanted to do next, the logical goals being a new job or more schooling. What I really needed, though, was time for self-discovery, to answer the question ‘what do I want to be,’ not do.

I am fortunate that both of my long-term employers were financially successful and shared the rewards with their employees. I leaned into that luck as best I could and have tucked away enough savings to afford a bridge between corporate working life and full-on retirement.

Reinspirement is a grown-up version of a gap year.

I jumped off the corporate merry-go-round just before Christmas 2018, and am using this time for much-needed midlife self-discovery. My propensity is still to plan, work, and achieve, but I’m directing that energy to a variety of exploratory activities that are helping me loosen the ties to my corporate story and to clarify what I want to be.

My goal for reinspirement is to set a goal – to find my purpose.

I started out just trying to detox from 24×7 emails and the culture of busy and important. This involved an enviable amount of time for long walks with the dog, reading, checking-off my farmhouse renovation to-do list, and playtime with my partner and my family.

I increased my investment in self-care – a regular yoga practice, a better diet (less stress eating and drinking, more time for fresh vegetables), Marie Kondo-ing my wardrobe, and beauty treatments I previously pooh-poohed – eyelash tint, Botox, even a tattoo – all a part of my self-discovery and the growing freedom that comes in midlife (thank God!).

Now it is time for rehabilitation – the restoring of someone or something to a useful purpose – and mine is still a work in progress. A colorful new whiteboard, the launch of this blog, taking classes on creative writing and entrepreneurship, building a new local network of smart and connected women, and even some glitter, are all part of the process.

As part of it, I am working my way through The Artist’s Way, a workbook of “discovering and recovering your creative self.” Through author Julia Cameron’s assignments, I am tapping into my creativity in a way that serves my goal, not the goals of a corporate marketing campaign. I am feeling less blocked and lighter as a result of the daily “morning pages” commitment to writing and encouragement to express creativity without inhibition (hence the glitter).

I’ve also used the time to learn and become more active on issues that are important to me. Attending demonstrations, legislative sessions, and committee hearings as Vermont becomes a leader in protecting women’s health and reproductive rights was a privilege. Contacting legislators, submitting written testimony, and publicly stating my support for abortion rights in a letter to the editor were all valuable learning experiences.

Through this process of self-discovery, I continue to unravel my old story and am beginning to write a new one. I can now answer, with greater certainty and self-confidence, that relentless question – ‘what do you want to do?’  

Pivotal Points

1. Take time to practice self-care and create space for new ideas

2. Explore and discover all the possibilities.

3. Commit to nothing (not yet).

Published by Catherine H Palmer

I used to help big companies tell their stories, now it's time to tell my own. I blog about midlife reinvention and making a new life in rural Vermont. Follow me, I have no idea where I'm going.

4 thoughts on “My reinspirement | a midlife discovery mission

  1. Hi Cathy! I’ve just read all the posts published so far to your blog (while on the early bus in to the office), and am captivated by your writing. You’ve always been a great story teller. I can’t wait to read more


    1. Good question! That was about the time I took my first employee badge photo at my last corporate job. Badge photo

      I think I would tell her three things: 1) Say yes more often — put your name on the byline, do the interview, get on the stage. 2) Be more selfish — don’t let “I’m too busy” be the reason you are not taking the time to learn new skills and take advantage of opportunities that are interesting to you. 3) Don’t be so hard on yourself; you are exactly where you are meant to be.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: