So, hey, a shout out to all of you middle-aged country women. Where did the time go, right? It seems like just yesterday we were all young girls, riding tractors or horses or bikes around the yard. I’m partial to horses, because you can snuggle with them, but I’ve ridden them all.
I remember driving a tractor up the hill by the barn one day, when I was young, and stopping to change gears, not sure why…and popping the front wheel off the ground…holy smokes I thought I was going over. Thank Goodness that little International hit ground again and kept going up the hill, with me a little shaken and a little wiser.
That’s one thing about middle age, hopefully we’re all a little wiser. I don’t know about you, but I’m also a little larger…and I tire quicker…but anyway…
Growing up in the Midwest has given me many fond memories, a few terrifying ones, and some sad ones, but that’s how life is. We’ve learned about love and loss, falling in love with puppies and baby goats, and having to say goodbye to old dogs and horses and a duck that lived in my horse barn for 12 years.
Whether you never had children, or you did and they’ve moved on to college or homes of their own, we’ve dealt or are dealing with an empty nest. We now hopefully have time on our hands. Time for ourselves for a change.
We’ve worked, then came home to mow, sweep, dust, wash, cook, and maybe sew, quilt, garden, drive a tractor, put up hay, feed the chickens, brush the horses, water the garden, and sometimes…just sit in the barn and listen to our horse munch hay, telling him how our day went, leaning our head on his shoulder, enjoying the late evening air, the smell of hay and straw and animal fur.
Then after supper snuggle with our dog on the deck, or maybe our hubby if he isn’t out in the fields or the barn fixing something…cause something always needs fixing, and watch the sun set. I never tire of watching the changing light, and how it shines thru the clouds and the trees, and how quickly it fades into night.
In the spring I love listening to the frogs peeping from the pond. In the summer it’s the crickets making music, and the doves cooing to their mates, and always the happy little sparrows chirping and flying about, seemingly careless and free.
Like the changing seasons, our lives change with age, going from youth to young adult to middle age. Childhood is behind us, old age ahead of us, but now is the time to be in the present. To enjoy what life has to offer us each day. To let ourselves be ourselves. To stop trying to please everybody else and please ourselves.
If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do or try, now is the time. Give yourself the freedom to be who you want to be. This is the time of your life to relive those childhood dreams that never came to pass. Or discover new ones. You may or may not still want to be a horse trainer or a vet (my childhood dreams), or a dancer or surgeon or whatever. Maybe there’s a piece of that dream you can still bring alive, or find something better that fits you as you are now.
Now, there are a lot of articles on the web about retiring, and reinventing ourselves, and they all seem to require large nest eggs. The reality is, not all of us have set aside large amounts of money in a 401(k) for our retirement. Some of us have only worked for small companies, only making enough money to get by. So we have to keep working and hope that our social security funds will enable us to go down to working part time in our later years. So we’re not able to quit work to start a business or move to the lake and spend the next 20 years boating and living on vacation.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy our middle-age and bring a dream to life.
Pursuing your dream in middle-age
First – you have to figure out what it is you want. And give yourself the permission to have it. Too many women think they’re selfish if they put themselves first. You’re not. You can’t give to others if you’re empty inside. You need to be happy and fulfilled in order to help anyone else. Remember that.
Did you have a childhood dream that never came true? Do you still want that? Can you still have it? Perhaps you wanted to run your own business, but things didn’t turn out the way you planned. Maybe now you think it would be too much work, or too demanding. Find out the why – why the idea appealed to you – and design another dream around it.
What about your dream appealed to you? Helping people? Leading an organization? Being independent? Creating something? Find out what moved you about that particular dream, and find another way to achieve that.
If your childhood dreams aren’t what you want as a middle-aged country woman, then reach inside and find out what it is you’d like to do now. Sometimes it’s hard. We’ve had our dreams squashed by the demands of work or family.
It’s hard to pull them back out and say, yeah, I want to be an interior decorator, or I want to paint, or I want to be a wedding photographer. Or I want to be a doctor instead of a nurse. Or I want to consult with business owners on how to grow their businesses. Or I want to develop a new breed of roses. Or I want to operate a Christmas tree farm. Or I want to grow lavender and make perfume. Or whatever.
Not many of us can afford to quit work, buy a farm to grow lavender, and be happy ever after. But there are ways around the money issue. You could rent property. You could look for partners, or investors. If want you want is a burning desire, you can brainstorm a way to get it. Or at the very least, to get a version of it. Maybe you know someone who has a farm and would consider leasing you an acre or two. Or you could start small in your own backyard, and ease into it.
So, once you find your “why”, also called a touchstone or passion, turn that into a goal. For instance, when you were young you dreamed of being an artist. But life came along and you didn’t have time to draw or paint so you let it go. But you love creating things, especially art, and you’d love to make drawings and sell them.
So there’s your new goal – to draw and sell the drawings.
The next step is to dedicate some time to your new goal (or you could call it your purpose, or your “why”), which is to draw and create something that people would love and be willing to buy. So start calling yourself an artist and look for things to draw and get what supplies you’ll need, set aside a space, and make time to draw. Expect yourself to be rusty and maybe even suck at it for the first couple drawings. Keep drawing, or whatever your goal is, just keep at it until the juices start flowing and the skill develops.
Pretty soon, your art will get better and better, and then you can start showing it to friends and family, and maybe try selling it online or at craft fairs. And you will be easing into a side business, and maybe even a retirement business that you can work at full time and make a living from when you retire from your current job. How cool would that be?
So, spend a little time thinking about what you’d like to do in middle-age. Spend more time outside? Do more creative things? Start a blog? Start a business? Get back into a sport? Change jobs? Travel? Do you want to connect with a group or do more on your own? It’s up to you.
Even if you think you can’t afford to do anything, or you’re alone, please don’t think you’re stuck. Even little goals will help you. Join a facebook group about a subject you enjoy and post your thoughts, and chat with others in the group. You may make a friend or two. Get together with a few friends or family members to do something like take a trip, to share costs. Get crafty. Creating uses our mind and soul and makes us feel like we’re using our talents and gifts, not just stagnating. Learning and doing something new makes us feel stronger and more confident.
Goals don’t have to be large and lofty. Learning an instrument is a great goal. Creating or revamping a flowerbed is a great goal. Getting our hands in the soil and growing something is a wonderful activity. So is learning to bake bread, or reading a certain number of books in a month, or writing letters, or connecting with an old friend, or taking a class, or whatever it is that would make your days go by faster, and more enjoyably.
Just like sorting thru the old stuff you’ve accumulated in the attic, sort thru those childhood dreams. Keep the good stuff, and toss the old, outdated, not-you-anymore stuff. And find a dream for you now. Then, go for it!