Yesterday I was chatting with a former co-worker who lost her job a few months back. It was one of those conversations that, in her words, was uplifting and sobering at the same time.
She told me she’d been out to dinner recently with a group of women all in their late 40’s – with 50 in their sights. Of the fourteen women, seven were unemployed. But that was not the frightening part. Due to technology or the economy or both, they had not only lost their long-time positions but there was little chance they could go on to another company in the same capacity, as those jobs were now gone. My friend lamented the fact that at this age, she was supposed to be working toward retirement, not reinvention.
Reinvention. Sounds good when someone else is doing it. We applaud their efforts, cheer them on, talk about how courageous they are, and then go on about our lives. And then, SURPRISE! It happens to us. What do you do? How to you stay focused and sane? How exactly do you, as a “woman of a certain age” do a 180? Will things ever be the same?
This is a topic that is near and dear to me for so many reasons. I too, am that “woman of a certain age”. I spent two decades in an industry that placed a premium on youth and looks and as silly as this sounds, was sure I was never going to age. Alas, I did and four years ago, got kicked out on my kiester and caught up in the swirling maelstrom of unemployment.
I know I am not alone in this reinvention thing and my conversation with my friend was proof. At goodenoughmother.com, we believe that second acts are the best (that’s why they’re at the end of the play, duh!) and there are things we can learn from each other as we traverse that rocky path.
To that end, we are starting a new strand here on the site called Second Acts. It’s a series of simple questions that I’d love to have you answer in the hope that someone else might learn from you. One of the hallmarks of Good Enough Mother, the brand, the website and me, is transparency. We don’t sugarcoat things or speak in euphemisms. If you were fired, say you were fired! Claim it and wear it like the badge that it is, learn from it and grow. I’ll start things off today but would LOVE to hear from you.
If you’d like to take part in the feature just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – marking your emails SECOND ACTS. We’ll send you our list of questions for you to answer. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say…
And here are mine…
What is your Second Act?
My Second Act is going to be all about helping other women achieve balance and learn to be at peace with their faults via the Good Enough Mother brand. I’ve always had a strong desire to educate and inform, which is what led me to TV news in the first place. But there was also the excitement of breaking news, the adrenalin of working without a net, as so much of live TV is, as well as the social aspects of representing the station or network in the community. I reached a lot of women when I took to the airwaves to tell my story of my breast disease and a few I actually heard from. But outside of ratings, you really have no way of knowing if you are having an impact. There’s a whole different dimension added to communication with online and social media. The relationship between my readers/followers and me is more symbiotic; I share and learn simultaneously. It’s enormously gratifying.
When did you realize you needed a change of career or lifestyle? What was your breaking point?
That point came for me when CBS told me to get out and not let the door hit me in the ass on the way out! I have never tried to hide the fact that I was fired; hey, it happens. Trying to keep that a secret would have been an enormous waste of energy, energy that I did not have. Who cares? The problem frankly, came down the line. One of the big issues when you lose a job is not just the loss of a paycheck; it’s also the loss of your social circle. When you work in an office, you spend more time with those people than you do in your own home many times. Then, in one swift Trump-esque move, you’re all alone with just your thoughts to keep you company. That was the hardest thing for someone as social as me.
How did you make the change?
It wasn’t easy. The first two years, I waited for the phone to ring. In that time I was dropped by my agent of 15 years who had stopped returning my calls months earlier because he had literally no idea what to do with this new Rene. I signed with another agent but it was a shotgun marriage in that I had a pressing project. She was born the year I graduated from high school (sigh) had very little faith that the ten percent I garnered from projects would be enough to pay for three martinis over a lunch in the city. I shot a couple of pilots in 08 but I felt like Job, everything I touched was crumbling. The darkest part set in in January of 2010.
Many of you know that two weeks after I left CBS, in January of 2007, I had a preventive mastectomy due to my own breast disease and family history. That was an awful time and I can recall thinking “Man, I can’t wait until this year is over.” Then the unthinkable happened. 2008 was WORSE. I was hospitalized with asthmatic bronchitis in November of that year and my freaking hair fell out! 2009 was a year of testing new lows and I asked God daily to help me hang on. In September of 2009 my hopes were raised as I was tapped to shoot a pilot with Paula Deen. That did not get picked up and by the time I heard the news (January 2010) I was barely hanging on.
Was it scary?
Shit yeah! The scariest part frankly, was that I felt like I had lost myself. I have always been someone who saw the glass as half full and a wellspring of optimism flowed from me in all I did. But time after time of getting the stuffing knocked out of me, I felt like I was losing myself. I saw myself as a tarnished penny, old, scuffed up, discarded. I even felt like it showed on my face. I would get up in the morning and take the kids to school, come back home and get in the bed where I would stay for 7 hours until they called for me to pick them up. My bad habits spiraled out of control, I ate crap, didn’t exercise, and one glass of wine a night turned into three. I lost myself and felt the part that made Rene so special, was gone.
What was the toughest part of your Second Act?
I think the toughest part of this for me has been patience. Never my strong suit, I have had to really exercise it now. I’m also not very disciplined and need deadlines and pressure to get stuff done. Working alone has also been a challenge though I must say the more involved I get in social media, the less alone I feel.
Where are you in your transition?
I’m not sure exactly but I am positive I am on the uphill climb. I’m no longer testing new lows but where I am in that upward climb, I’m not certain. I would love to be able to look into a crystal ball (the one I longed that could tell me how long I needed to hang on) and see “Oh on June 4th, 2012 all you have worked for will pay off.” But what fun would that be?
What did you learn in the process?
Wow, what DIDN’T I learn? Okay, I learned a TON about computers, how to edit videotape online, how to record audio tracks, the ins and outs of social media, how to build a platform with no money, how to build my brand commando style among other things. In terms of personal growth and development I learned just how smart I am, not that I questioned it much before but I had my doubts at times. I learned that I am strong. I know what I stand for and won’t compromise that. I learned about my natural beauty through the hair trauma and dare I say, I learned to be happy where I am, even though it’s not where I will stay.
Are you happier now than you were in your previous life?
Without question, yes! Here’s a story. I have always worked for large corporations and that meant attending their big, company holiday parties. Last December, Savannah Media held it’s own, very intimate Christmas party. I had more fun there than I had at any of the others. You know why? Because we were building something and we were all in it together, sink or swim. It felt great.
What’s the best part about your Second Act?
I think that has yet to be revealed. I’ll let you know when I find out. But I would say building something that no one can take away from me, at least not without a check with a lot of zeroes on the end, is a pretty heady feeling.
What would be your advice to anyone looking to make a major life change?
Change is inevitable whether it’s forced upon you or you affect it yourself, it will come so learn to get comfortable with it. I would also say, keep up on all things technology related. Everyone should have a blog, be on Facebook and tweeting. Think of it as your personal real estate. Name it, claim it, use it! Oh and the most important lesson of all, real growth hurts like hell! So gird your loins.
What are your dreams and hopes for the future?
I’ll never tell! I want to be happy and I want to get there by helping other women. I don’t think it’s bad to say I also want to be filthy, stinking rich. No, I mean, going to bed on a mattress stuffed with 100 dollars bills. If that makes me superficial, so be it, good thing I don’t care what anyone else thinks!