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.

Your future and past have nothing on your present

My story of coming out as a lesbian has all the standard elements of many coming out later in life stories.

Tiny glimpses throughout my childhood and teen years of my true self, but me shutting those doors and windows tight. I didn’t want to acknowledge the truth of my reality.

It wasn’t until I was 44 that I was able to truly live in the present moment–and that included the fact that I was a gay woman.

“When you cling to the past or future, you are denying what is sacred about life.” –Phillip Moffitt

What I’ve come to understand about my journey and other women’s journeys I’ve witnessed is this:

You will never have any peace until you stop living in the past or the future, and embrace the present moment.

Let me break this down in terms of how this works when you are hiding your gay self underneath a cloak of straight invisibility: if you are trying to figure out whether or not to leave your marriage and you keep telling yourself, “But we’ve been together for 20 years! It used to be such a great marriage,” you are denying the present reality. You are stuck in a past that is not reflective of your present experience.

Likewise, if you are in the same situation, but spend your days worrying about the future: “Will anyone ever love me again? Will a woman want me and my kids? Can I survive a divorce?” then you are also denying the present. Who knows what will happen tomorrow? No one has any guarantees on that.

But I do know this: if you continue to deny your present reality, you will stay stuck in the same place. Maybe you are okay with that for now. Maybe staying in the past or worrying about the future is a safer place for you than your present. I truly get that because I have lived it.

And there is no one timetable that works for everyone and no perfect solution to this crisis of coming out later in life. If there was, I’d be shouting it from the rooftops!

But I will tell you from my own lived experience:

Embracing the present is a gift (see what I did there? It’s true!)

The past and the future have no answers for me. When I find myself in either of those places, I know I’m going to suffer.

It’s up to you when you decide to accept your present reality. If you’re looking for support in doing that, please send me an email about joining our amazing, secret Facebook support group! We’re in there embracing the present every single day.

Embrace the present

 

 

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories #11

Here is the next article in our series where we share our stories gathered from the online support group for women coming out later in life. For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here. You can find the earlier posts and topics in this series here.

 

STAYING WITH YOUR HUSBAND, Part 3

by Laurel Peterson

This month we’re discussing different topics related to late life lesbians who choose to stay married to their straight husbands, either temporarily or permanently. This week, we’re discussing the very sensitive topic of affairs. This week’s question is:

 

If you had a lesbian affair while you were still married to a man, how did that come about and how (if at all) did it end?

Continue reading “Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories #11”

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories #9

Here is the next article in our series where we share our stories gathered from the online support group for women coming out later in life. For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here. You can find the earlier posts and topics in this series here.

STAYING WITH YOUR HUSBAND/PARTNER (Part 1)

by Laurel Peterson

The last several weeks, we talked about the difficulty of coming out to your straight partner. Now we’re moving on to the next step – once you have come out to your husband/boyfriend, your relationship doesn’t magically disappear. The next couple of weeks, we’ll explore the ways in which the late life lesbians in our group tried to make things work with their partners. This week’s question is:

If you chose to stay with your husband/partner after realizing you had a same sex attraction and telling him about it, why did you do so? How long did you stay together?

Continue reading “Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories #9”

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #8

Here is the next article in our series where we share our stories gathered from the online support group for women coming out later in life. For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here. You can find the earlier posts and topics in this series here.

COMING OUT TO YOUR STRAIGHT SPOUSE/PARTNER (Part 4)

by Laurel Peterson

Now that we’ve covered the things that we wish our straight partners understood about our experience as late life lesbians, this week it’s time to get down to the big question – is it possible to stay together once you’ve had a realization about your sexuality? This week’s question was:

How did you and/or your straight partner decide whether to stay together or split immediately in light of your attraction to women?

Continue reading “Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #8”

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #5

Here is the next part in our series where we share our stories gathered from the online support group for women coming out later in life. For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here. You can find the other posts and topics in this series here.

COMING OUT TO YOUR STRAIGHT SPOUSE/PARTNER

by Laurel Peterson

In last week’s post, we wrapped up our month of questions about making the realization that you aren’t “straight as an arrow” on the sexuality spectrum. Now that we’ve talked about making this discovery for ourselves, the next consideration in most cases for our members is “what about my straight spouse/partner?”

For the next few weeks, we’ll tackle how our 600 plus members have approached the difficult dilemma of how to address this issue with your significant other. This week’s question was:

How/when did you come out to your boyfriend/husband?
How did he react?

Continue reading “Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #5”

Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #3

Female hands holding cups of coffee on rustic wooden table backgroundHere is the next part in our series where we share our stories gathered from the online support group for women coming out later in life. For more information on this support group and how to request to join, go here. You can find the other posts and topics in this series here.

MAKING THE REALIZATION, pt. 3

by Laurel Peterson

In the last installment, we discussed the emotions late life lesbians experience when they come to terms with their sexuality. This time, we’re moving on to labels. Figuring out you’re attracted to women isn’t as easy as thinking, “gee, I guess I’m not straight – I must be a lesbian!” Some of our members are attracted to women, but don’t identify as lesbian, and many resist labeling their sexuality at all because they find sexuality too complicated and personal to put it any one “box.” To give you more insight into this question, we asked:

How did you “arrive” at your home on LGBTQ spectrum, and how do you label your sexuality, if at all?

Continue reading “Late Life Lesbians: Our Stories, #3”