You Never Start Over

Today’s post is a guest blog by my amazing partner, Rachel, on the importance of knowing that you never start completely over. I couldn’t maintain this blog and the support group without her, and she helps me in so many big and little ways. I love this girl, can you tell?


“You never start over. You start from where you are. Every time.”

This is what I said to my partner, Andrea Hewitt of this Late Life Lesbian Story, as we were working through our fears side by side beginning our brand new careers. Both in our mid to late 40’s, I had lost a “comfortable” corporate job I had wanted to exit for years, and she was feeling stuck in her own work and called to do something more fulfilling.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do moving forward, but I knew where I had been.

In my recent work, I had worked with contracts and did very detailed work. I have a degree in communication and marketing, and for 25 years I have also been a semi-professional singer-songwriter. I know a lot of people and genuinely enjoy different personalities. When I remembered how much I enjoyed the process of buying a house a few years ago, I decided to ask the broker I worked with to allow me to work with him as a real estate agent.  It’s a great fit, and I love it!

Andrea decided to follow her passion to help women have babies as a doula. Win!

We jumped. We are so much happier having done it. We are richer in love and life for now, and that’s enough.

Start-Where-You-Are

The other recent joy in our lives is meeting so many fascinating and diverse women through Andrea’s Facebook support group who are coming out later in life. They are navigating a whole new world. Some are feeling very, very frightened and stuck because a divorce from their husband will mean a scary transition into a financial change of life for them and their children.

I’d like to offer some hope and encouragement if I can. Please know that I know it will not be simple. Also, I’m going to preface this all by saying GET A LAWYER if you are considering divorce. If you have been out of the workforce for many years having made the choice to stay home while your husband worked, you have contributed equally to your family. Don’t let guilt over discovering your authentic self make you give up what is equitable in a split.

The following approach to a career change can apply to us all as it did to me, but let’s focus on you, the stay-at-home parent:

“I have been a stay-at-home wife and mother for 20 years. I have NO job skills!”

Well, bull hockey. Everyone has marketable strengths (even when you are feeling emotionally weak). Review your strengths. Even if you are not in a place where you feel ready to move forward into a new job, marital situation, or location. Let’s write it down in a for-your-eyes-only resume.

FORMAL EDUCATION – Ancient history? Write it down.

Even if you feel that high school diploma, trade certificate, Associates, BA, BS, or MA has gathered so much dust you can’t find it, you DID that. Those were accomplishments in your life. You still have that ability and drive to learn. And MAYBE you remember a little something. Tap into that, sister.

LIFE – THE REAL EDUCATION

You know what those folks who are in the workforce will tell you if they are honest? I didn’t know a damn thing I thought I knew when I started. The education part wasn’t the end all. People in the work force learn by doing whatever they do. They learned as they went along. That’s called life. You have done that the last 20 years as well, right? LIFE. What skills have you learned? Write them down…

e.g.

Kids – You know how to be a caretaker to kids and have all kinds of knowledge because you raised them. If you have a special needs child, you have learned a ton of stuff about working with special needs and how to navigate the school system. Did you homeschool? You are an educator and a TRAINER. Coach? Same thing.

Those skills are amazing! Just being able to change a diaper properly is a commodity. Ask me. I can count on one hand how many diapers I have changed. The first one I put on backwards. I was probably 30. Just saying…

Community Stuff – Officer of the PTA? You have leadership skills. Did you help organize the silent auction for the big fundraiser? Congratulations! You have well-honed organizational skills and have worked in non-profit development. BAM! See how this works? Keep going…

Home Economics – Not just for the crafty and cake makers anymore, but ALSO for the crafty and cake makers. I had a mom friend who started a birthday cake business, does well and loves it! And sew? Sew What? I can’t sew. I HIRE people to sew for me as do “sew” many others (sorry).  

Home Ec II – You may be the one who budgets and pays the bills for the household. You may use Excel or Quickbooks. You are a bookkeeper or accounts payable clerk or can teach others to work with these programs and make a budget.

Damn, girl, see? We are just getting started…

Hobbies – You may say you don’t have any hobbies. What are your interests? What do you want to read about or study? What did you “used” to like to do? Write it down…You may be a good writer. You blog, you write articles for a newsletter or have helped to put together countless programs for church or events. You’re a great communicator. You may be in community theatre. You’ve built sets for it. You know lots about gardening. You’re into fitness and nutrition. You may play an instrument. Give some lessons. You’re a fantastic amateur photographer. You are very, very knowledgeable about getting the word out on social media and how all that stuff works (call me).

None of my examples may apply to you, but YOU KNOW A LOT OF STUFF BECAUSE LIFE.  Dig deep. Review in detail everything you did last week if necessary. Something will come up for you. Next…

COMMUNITY and CONTACTS –

Who do you know? Who are your friends, neighbors, acquaintances from the community and at school?  Reach out to them. This is really the way to a) get a job or b) let people know about a business you are starting. It’s called SOCIAL CAPITAL, and you have it already.

Pick up the phone, perhaps ask them to have coffee. You don’t have to tell them your whole story, but let them know you are transitioning from your stay-at-home position, have pinpointed your strengths, and you are seeking to capitalize on them. Do they know of a good fit?

These people already know you or know your reputation and are likely to recommend you for something or introduce you to someone else who might.

Now you should put together a REAL resume that features goals and skills (see above!), but social connection is the way to make something happen, especially when you feel like you are lacking a solid work history and don’t look experienced on paper.

You are amazing and talented! Live your authentic life and it will get better and better. Just remember…

You never start over. You start from where you are. Every time.

What does Elizabeth Gilbert’s coming out have to do with me? (Lots, apparently!)

Last Wednesday, I was up early checking email when a request popped up from the Telegraph, a UK newspaper.

“Hi, I’m writing from the Telegraph Women’s section, wondering whether you’d consider doing an article for us? It would be linked to the news about Elizabeth Gilbert. I saw you quoted in a previous piece, and thought you’d be perfect.”

I don’t always wake up to requests for articles from a British newspaper, but when I do, it’s a very good day! Soon, I had another request–this time from The Guardian–for a 5:30am (US time) phone interview the next day for an article on women coming out later in life.

After these two articles were published last Friday, the emails started pouring in from the UK and beyond–from women wanting to join our online support group.

I’m beyond thrilled that our group is growing! We’re now up to over 300 members, and I have about 20 more emails in my inbox right now–more women who are looking for support and connection on this journey.

One of the worst parts for me when I decided to come out was thinking that I was the only one who had ever done this. I had a difficult time finding resources for coming out later in life, and after I did it, I promised myself that I would find a way to help other women on this path.

Whether you identify as questioning, bisexual, lesbian, queer, or “beyond labels,” if you are in the process of coming out and coming to a greater understanding of your identity, you are welcome in our group!

I’m so glad to see this issue getting more publicity as I firmly believe there is power in visibility.

Thank you, Elizabeth Gilbert, for speaking your truth! It’s helped countless women feel less alone today, and that’s a very good thing.

lgilbert
Author Elizabeth Gilbert (left) and Rayya Elias. Photo credit: Noam Galai/Getty Images

 

 

 

New Facebook Support Group

The number one request I get from women coming out later in life is “where can I find community and support?” A year ago, I started the Later in Life Lesbian Support Group to address this need. I choose Google Groups as the platform mainly for the anonymity factor, which is a big deal for those questioning their sexuality and needing support.

While I’ve had great response to the Google support group, the platform is really lacking in ease of communication.

So, I made the decision to move the Later in Life Lesbian Support Group from Google Groups to Facebook for these reasons:

  1. Facebook is the number one social networking platform. It’s where everyone is connecting these days!
  2. With the option of a “secret” Facebook group, anonymity is protected. The group will not show up in any internet search, and it definitely will not show up on anyone’s Facebook news feed.
  3. Facebook makes it easy to share resources, articles, photos, and anything else that might be helpful for women coming out later in life.

Join us in the new group! It’s a secret group, so if you want to join, you need to send me an email at latelifelesbian@gmail.com. Tell me why you want to join the group so that I can make sure you’ll be a good fit.

I look forward to growing our support network and I hope to see you on our new group soon!