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.

Every Little Thing’s Gonna Be All Right–Positive Aspects of Coming Out

Today, I want to focus on the good parts of coming out. The story that you hear in the popular media can be negative–coming out is painful, difficult, and full of loss. We have to tell gay teens that “it gets better” since coming out early in life can be so awful. People coming out later in life face their own losses, particularly if they are women in heterosexual marriages with children, like I was.

While I don’t want to discount these potentially negative aspects, this media story completely discounts what’s good about coming out. I know in my own situation, I was scared of what my kids might think of me when I came out to them. I had it built up in my mind as a potential negative. But the reality was so much more positive than I could have expected (you’ll have to read my forthcoming book to hear the story of my coming out to my kids!). What I thought would be a negative ended up as a definite positive in my coming out journey.

Here are some other positive aspects of coming out:

  1. No longer having to hide your true self–you are finally out! No more hiding in the closet, no more worrying about “your secret” getting out, no more wearing a mask.
  2. Finding out who your real friends are–the people who love you get the chance to love the real you. The people who don’t get it or can’t be supportive will fall by the wayside. You will find out who your true friends are now, trust me.
  3. Reinventing yourself–you get the chance to figure out what kind of gay girl you are and how you fit into the lesbian scene. This can be like having a second adolescence–one part scary, one part thrilling, but mostly an exciting new beginning!
  4. Freeing up headspace–staying in the closet take up so much headspace–the worries, the lies, the facade you have to keep up. When you’re out of the closet, you free up that space and can spend it on other things (learn a new language! play a new instrument! find a girlfriend!)
  5. A chance to have your best second half–the only way to get to your best second half is to take that first step outside the closet. I promise that however scary it may be, good things are just outside that door. And the only way to cross that bridge to your future is to take the first step.

Take it from me, there are many positive aspects about coming out. But the best one of all is that you are finally you–real and true. What could be better than that?

Leave me a comment and let me know about the positive aspects of your coming out journey. I’d love to hear about them!

 

When Family Members Don’t Support Your Coming Out

First, my apologies for that blog hiatus! Life gets in the way of blogging sometimes, but I’m back on track now. I’m busily working on completing my book and also working on another exciting project that I plan to unveil this summer! So many good things happening at ALLS! I can’t wait to share them all with you.

Which reminds me…if you haven’t signed up for my email newsletter yet, please do that now! I will be sending out exclusive excerpts from the book soon, and newsletter subscribers will be first in line to get info on my new project launch. The link is at the top of the blog on the right under “Stay in touch!”–one click, one email address (name not required!), and you’re in the know. How easy is that?

So, I received a message on the Late Life Lesbian Facebook page this week from a brave woman who had come out, left her marriage, and is in a relationship with a woman now. I know firsthand how difficult this can be, but she did it! Very proud of her. The only problem is that her family is not supportive of her decision to live her truth and be happy. And I wanted to use her message to me as an opportunity to talk about coming out to our families.

A lot of attention is paid to young people coming out to their families, and all of the difficulties that they can face. Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project is devoted to showing these kids that it gets better as an adult, when you can life your own life free from your ties to unsupportive (and sometimes actively hostile) family members. I love this project as it connects gay kids to their community and I know it has saved so many lives.

But, gay adults can also feel estrangement from their families when they come out later in life. They may not be financially dependent on their moms and dads, but they are still connected in important ways–emotionally, generationally (through their kids), and communally (through shared community).

Let me be clear–being shunned or otherwise estranged from family members because you are gay is awful no matter how old you are when it happens. In some cases (mine included), the fear of losing your family members because you are gay is the main reason we stay in the closet. When faced with the choice to live your truth and possibly lose your family vs. living someone else’s version of your life and keeping those family connections–many gay people choose the latter.

I wish I had a magic solution for this issue–my heart broke for the woman who messaged me. I don’t have a way to make it all better, but I do know from my own experience that you simply have to live your truth and I hope that your family members will eventually come around. I do believe that love conquers hate in the end, and all you can do is continue to reach out to your family members with love as they work through their confusion and bad feelings. Be kind to yourself. Find a good therapist. Incorporate stress management techniques into your daily life (see a list here). But know that your happiness is yours–no one else can decide for you what kind of life you need to live, no matter how much they love you.

Leave me a comment below to let me know how you’ve handled similar situations with your family members. Share your advice with us and encouragement to others going through this! I love hearing from all of you and I know that we are stronger together than we are in isolation. Here’s to our best second half!