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New Strand: Second Acts

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 ella@goodenoughmother.com – 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!

Peace!

27 Comments

  1. Mike McGinley

    February 1, 2011 at 6:34 pm

    So true and honest. This is why this site is special.

  2. Rene Syler

    February 1, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    Aww, thanks honey!!!

  3. Barbara

    February 1, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    This article will make you think long and hard about your goals and objectives. Very thought provoking!

  4. kimberly

    February 1, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Dec. 2009 i lost my mother very unexpectedly and we had not spoken in years, I was her only child. This was the beginning of my downward spiral. August 2010 i was “laid off” from a job that i only loved 25% and in September I finally had to make a adecision about a dog that got out so much I had a personal relationship with the staff at the animal shelter. The dog was the final breaking point. I had spent a great deal of 2010 mourning my mother and racked with the guilt that she died alone and in so much turmoil. I do not cry in front of my children, so I had designated crying times (Crazy right?)
    I stayed in prayer, i stayed busy, i overcommitted myself so that I would have a reason to stay out of the house and out of the fetal position in my beloved bed. It seemed as if I would never find a job or get over my mother or the dog. But eventually I began to see light, i saw my faith strengthed. I began to look at other women who had gone through uniniated change and made it through OK. You were one of those women Rene and I admired the way that you regrouped, rebranded and moved upward to success despite all of the rocks in your pathway.
    As I began plans to start a business, I was offered a position that was truly God-sent for me. It was December 2010–a month I had now began to dread. And now I had a new memory for December.
    The journey was hard, but it was something that I needed to go through. I needed the time off to grieve my mother and wrap up her affairs. I needed the time to figure out what it was I really wanted to do and who I wanted to be.
    I believe that we need these unexpected things to happen to shake us out of our comfort zones.

    Thanks for everything that you do Rene, we joke all the time on DARTAGWAHF, but I truly appreciate you and the role model that you have been for me. <3 <3

  5. Rene Syler

    February 1, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Oh Kimberly, I don’t even know what to say. I am so humbled that you looked to me as someone who could hold it together especially when it was all I could do to get out of bed and shuffle to the car to take the kids to school. I am so thrilled for you in this new job and hope that you have been able to make peace with your mother’s passing. If you drew strength from me, think of the people who are doing the same from you! You rock!

  6. Margit

    February 1, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Right words at the right time. I don’t even know where to begin on just how much I needed to read this right now. It is no mistake that found your blog last week. I’m about to start my second act. Scared straight, but ready (at least that’s what I keep telling myself) to dig myself out. Thanks for the brutal honesty. You rock!

    P.S. – Watched you back in the day in Dallas…even more beautiful now (inside and out.)

  7. Rene Syler

    February 1, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Oh thanks so much and so glad you found us here; I too, believe there are no accidents. I once had a pastor say “You can’t steer a still ship”. That has stuck with me my whole life. In other words, you may not know where you’re going just yet, but you’ll figure it out as you start moving. If it’s the wrong path, you will make the necessary corrections and adjust. But not moving only ensures you will stay in place. Get ready for the monumental growth that comes when you are stretched beyond what you thought was your capacity. Mark my words, you will be fine!

  8. kimberly

    February 1, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    thanks Rene! Good luck Margit!

  9. Nikki Newman

    February 2, 2011 at 12:36 am

    Ok, so either I’m experiencing a major hormonal imbalance right now or you just keep writing deeply moving and beautiful pieces, Rene, and I need to bill you for kleenex! It’s 8.30 am here in Doha and I’m sobbing into my cup of tea! It’s the latter by the way. Your honesty and strength give me strength to continue with the path I’m on and to continue nurturing the part of me that doesn’t come so naturally, the part about not giving a sh*t about what people may think of me, especially when I share my story, because I know that somewhere along the line, it will touch the right person and make a difference. X

  10. Sarena

    February 2, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    THE SECOND ACT… WOW!!!
    Rene Syler I hereby declare you brilliant!

    I am so grateful that ACT 2 promises to bring more passion and strength and purpose and above all a “get back up and try again and try something new” spirit with it!

    Once again, your honesty has proved inspirational…
    My intermission is over!

  11. David Freeman

    February 2, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    Gosh I hear what all you ladies are saying. And even though I’m “a man”, as tough as it is for women, sometimes society really looks at an unemployed male as “a loser” more so than even a woman in the same position. But it ALL comes down to how we perceive ourselves and where we can find those hidden pockets of strength and confidence, doesn’t it? I’ve found Rene’s story inspiring from day one. While I get this can be seen as “a woman’s issue”, in someways it does transcend gender lines. We all live in the same silly society and with its harsh judgments and rules.
    As someone who stutters, I had few people believing I’d be able to start a successful contracting company doing the Landscape design I so love doing. But I found that the trick is to learn about YOURSELF as deeply as you can, almost fromthe outside, so you can identify, rather than “ffel” the things in life that excite you. I simply did what Rene did and looked at my loves and looked for the one that was possible to monetize domehow, even if that result was down the road a bit.
    It is exactly that open honesty that Rene has that allows her to be able to transmit her verve for the things she does. It becomes like a contagion! People love to be excited. So when youfind a way to make others as excited about what you do as you are, it just snowballs, with a little bit of work, of course. So many dream. But a wonderful lady with her own PR company told me that if spent literally an hour a day building my dream, it could become a reality. Ten years ago my company was taking in maybe $150,000 a year. And that ina good one! In 2008 I took in very close to a million dollars. And in these last 2 tough years I’ve managed to match or exceed that. You can all do this ladies! And I am currently seeking to reinvent myself yet again. Rene is an example for me too. But we all need to be our own fans, and set example of “CAN DO!” for ourselves. How can we expect others to believe in us if we don’t? Sure its scary, but it’s better than the bed and blanket calling your name! Heck you can all start a group called “Second Acts Inc.” And lift one another up! Rene? Love you girl.

  12. Rene Syler

    February 2, 2011 at 11:08 pm

    Thanks David. You know when I get to wherever it is that I am going, I will have gotten there through the ardent support of so many, like you. It is not unnoticed. Thank you my friend 🙂

  13. Cathleen Whitelow

    February 4, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    Whew! As I read your post, Rene, as well as the posts of others, one thing I learned is that we all have our “Katrina.”

    As I shared with you when we met during your visit to Dallas, I am originally from New Orleans. Over the course of five weeks, my Daddy died, nine months into my new marriage I found out some things about my new husband that had I known, I never would have married him and Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. It is by the grace of God that I am not in a straight jacket, committed to a mental institution.

    I am inspired by you sharing your story as well as those who share their stories on this string. I am still emotionally and mentally paralyzed to some degree. I am just thankful that I am alive.

    Thank you, Rene, for providing a forum where we can be figuratively “naked” and grow from our valley experiences.

    I would like to answer your “second act” questions. Something is telling me that in doing so, it will help usher in my healing process.

    God bless y’all.

  14. Rene Syler

    February 4, 2011 at 11:07 pm

    Oh sweetie, you are vibrant and strong. I think that’s what this is all about, testing our personal strength. To go through all that you did in such a short time, you’re right, there should have been a straight jacket with your name on it. But if there was one, you didn’t need it. Once I was playing golf with my husband and he told me something I think fit with a lot of this. He said if you drive the ball and it hit s a tree, then the barn and then into the hole, it’s still a hole in one. That is the only thing reflected on the scorecard. There will be no special annotation about the things on the course that helped or hindered. Same applies here. No one will know the depths to which you sank; they really don’t need to. All they know is that you made it. You’re doing just fine 🙂

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  18. Alex Alexander

    February 10, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Reclaiming my voice as an artist..not letting someone else define me just because of my age. One art director once said…do you know how to use a digital camera…..damn am I that old just because I still use a film camera….I told the young art dirctor, I was at the front when digital went digital and everyone jumped on the band wagon……I am finding a lot of pro shooters going back to film cameras…I am lucky I have a camera system that shoots both film and digital…..and I still can b low away these youngsters

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  20. Faun

    May 15, 2011 at 8:47 am

    I’m seriously thinking of taking you up on your offer of Second Acts. You see, since our governor has been in office, I have been laid off a total of three times and due to another budget cut, the job that I got in January (which was supposed to carry a three year contract), my current employment will be ending the end of next month. I don’t look at it at all as poor skills or management on my part, I look at it harshly having to do with the State government. I refuse to accept that responsibility. However, this has affected my financial situation extremely because I’m a single woman with no one else to count on as a back up. I do have other dreams I’ve wanted to pursue and one of them includes going back to college to either pursue another field (nursing) or get a doctorate in my current field (social work) so I can teach. I’ve also wanted to write and get my work published. If I felt I could afford to not work and pursue my dreams I certainly would, without hesitation! However, I am in the process of looking for employment again, trying to stay ahead of the game, and looking forward to getting a new governor because this ish we got is for the birds!

  21. Irene

    May 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Oh, you are just simply the best….

    I believe each act happens for a reason…thanks for being true blue and an inspiration to all….

  22. Rhonda

    May 29, 2011 at 11:22 pm

    Wiping away the tears of a Sister Sojourner. Growth is indeed painful and disappointing on so many levels. I am ready to be brave. I am ready for my breakthrough. My mentor of 135 years says that it is near. I am ready with my loins girded by a fine and sturdy girdle inherited from my mother in 2009.

  23. Sandy Seale

    October 17, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    For once I have only a rather short comment. I believe we are all re-inventing ourselves, our lives, our relationships all the time. Thats what life is or we’re stagnant. Life happens. Stuff happens. The important thing is that if we truly have our priorities in check then we’ll be ok….eventually. We need to learn to be happy with what we have at any given moment & not allow “stuff” to alter that happiness. Yes it gets hard….yes its not always easy. But if we lose sight of whats really important, love, relationships, etc. then we are truly lost. If we hold dear these things then we’re never truly lost. Sometimes this “stuff” happens & in the end actually makes our life better. Change can be good with the right attitude. Life’s going to inevitably change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. But its how we handle that change that defines us & our happiness. Okay so it wasn’t so short as usual 🙂

  24. Whitney Eiland

    March 17, 2012 at 9:44 pm

    Thank goodness you ran this blog again Rene, it hit home…actually a gut punch kind of hit. I have things about my life that I should have done differently, but I didn’t and that’s where the second act comes in….love ya!

  25. Joyceline

    March 18, 2012 at 4:23 am

    It it is like readiiing a good book. Think about a BOOK. I BELIEVE that Gods will is for u to reach the masses. Alot of His people just dont umderstsand persevence, r longsuffer is to make r mode than d way god can use them too. Always give God the glory for xall His many blessing. Luv Ya

  26. Valerie

    March 18, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    Hey Rene,
    It’s been awhile, but it’s so interesting that after so long, the first thing I pull up is your second act column. I watched you every morning on CBS in NY, before going to work at Brooklyn Hospital (my dream job). I am now in Alabama, doing my second act, as an owner of a small Natural/Organic Fragrance Shop in Birmingham.
    Your words are so true and inspirational, that it helps people like me, carry on. Reading those words, just made me understand much better,why I continue to do what I do, and why I do it. No one can, and will ever define me again, as long as I continue to live.
    You are again, the bright star, that everyone needs in their life. Thanks again!

  27. Traci

    July 19, 2012 at 10:12 am

    LOVE love love this! I’m all about second acts and starting over lately. Thanks for sharing.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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