I’ve learned a lot since I walked away from a great job eleven months ago to challenge myself in new ways. One surprise has been people telling me they’d like to make a similarly big change in their lives, and are in a position to do so, but can’t imagine taking the first step.
I can only speak about my own experience and say that trying something dramatically new has not been as scary or unsettling as I thought it might be.
A year ago, as I was entering my final month at Duke and gearing up for our adventures, I was — what’s the word? — not anxious, not nervous, but definitely uncertain what would happen. I thought everything would turn out well but recognized the possibility that I might have made a colossal mistake.
In fact, our U.S. and Nepal journeys proved even more amazing than we anticipated, as you can see in my earlier posts. We’re now optimistic about heading to Moldova, a country about which we knew almost nothing but are eager to call home for awhile.
To be sure, Champa and I were fortunate to be able to travel and serve in the Peace Corps. We have good health, a paid-off mortgage and no family responsibilities requiring us to remain home.
We also recognize that many people our age don’t want to travel to exotic places or stray so far from a conventional life. Nor should do they. If they prefer playing golf, volunteering at a local school or a thousand other things, including remaining at their jobs, that’s what they should do. Everyone’s dreams are their own.
As the past year has unfolded, we’ve discovered we are part of a sizable community of people in their fifties, sixties and older who are determined to redefine this stage of life, which I’ve been calling “not exactly retired.” There are plentiful books, websites and other resources for anyone thinking of redefining their own adult lives. My favorite is Second Act Careers by Nancy Collamer, which is filled with great stories and suggestions. Nancy has been a guide for me along this journey, which is an unusual thing to say about your younger sister, but there it is.
As Champa and I now depart for the Peace Corps, we hope to live humbly and be of service to our new neighbors. We want to give back for our blessings. Simultaneously, we expect the experience to enrich our own lives immeasurably. It’s sure to produce some good stories, so I hope you’ll join us through this blog. If it also makes you think about your own dreams, I encourage you to share them here.
What would you really love to do? You don’t have to join the Peace Corps to know that life is calling. How far will you go?