Why Starting All Over Again is no Big Deal or Why Age Has its Benefits.

I’ve never understood why people are so afraid of change.  Life changes every single day, and so does how you feel about it.  I have faced tragedies with grace, and fallen to pieces over minor setbacks.   I am used to struggling, and fighting, to get what I want, and to keep from losing it. Sometimes, life comes easily to me, and sometimes it seems that no matter what I do or where my heart is, nothing goes the way I’d planned.

Michael and I have been at a crossroads for what seems like years.  We both gave up our art careers to concentrate our energies on surviving, and while we are both as type A as they come, we just could not decide on a direction for our futures.  We never really factored in how the economy was impacting our ability to get out of the mess we found ourselves in; we both thought it was something we were doing, that we could change our circumstances through sheer force of will and by redoubling our efforts.

In some ways we were right; in the past year we saved our house from foreclosure, put some money in the bank and decided on a direction for our future.  We managed the impossible in just six short months, but we’ve also paid a high price for it.  After working twelve hours a day, seven days a week as a whitewater raft guide this summer and putting every penny he made into the bank,  Michael fell off the top of a whitewater raft bus a week before RV school started.  He suffered a minor concussion but dug into school anyway and is number one in his class. On my way back from getting him set up in his new apartment in Largo, I discovered that the company I work for decided to move my division to the Phillipines in mid October, leaving me without a job (or the choice to take a job I would hate).   A week after I returned home, I fell in the backyard and broke every bone in my ankle.  I had to have emergency surgery and will be in a cast for at least another four to six weeks. Because I am on medical leave, I still have a job even though my division no longer exists, so I can’t work, but I also can’t collect unemployment.

One of the great benefits of age however, is understanding that even though the last few weeks have not been optimal, nothing lasts forever.  We went from having no idea what to do with ourselves for the rest of our lives at the beginning of this year, to deciding on a totally new career path and working to make it happen in less than six months.  Michael is just two short weeks away from being certified as an RV Technician by the RVTC, with the ability to replace, install, or repair everything from air conditioning units to water heaters, and from awnings to tow packages, in every type of recreational vehicle you can imagine.  We plan on spending six months of the year in Asheville, and six months of the year on the road, which should suit both our pocketbooks, and our wanderlust, just fine.  There are a few other projects in the offing, not the least of which is the whitewater raft guide intensive for baby boomers next summer, baby boomer TV, and whatever else happens to capture our fancy that other boomers can relate to long the way.

A very wise and amazing friend of mine and I were talking not long ago about how damaging this economy has been to baby boomers in particular, and some of the reasons why.   We decided that it’s impossible to work harder, or even wiser, to change the trajectory we are on, not with the perfect storm of cutbacks, wage reductions and age discrimination to overcome.  I still think most boomers feel there is no way out of the mess we are all in, but clinging to what worked before isn’t the answer.   Take a deep breath, step out of the box, and look for ways to challenge yourself.  Some things may work, some things may not, but holding fast to what you know won’t change the fact that that someday, you will be gone from this earth. Have the courage to do something different, even if you start one step at a time.  Michael was a photographer for 25 years, then an artist, and now, an RV Tech.  I was in the film business for 12 years, a successful gourd artist for 20 years, and now, a middle aged broad with a broken ankle and a whole new career at 53.

Life is too short to be afraid of change, and it won’t stop the inevitable from happening anyway.  So get out there and do something different.  You might be surprised at how much one slight shift in your consciousness opens you to new ideas, and new adventures.  My next adventure is to put the finishing touches on the new website and promotional materials for the new business.  I am designing the website myself, and I gotta say, its going to be killer….

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Leaving Behind the Crossroads of Nowhere and Not Much Else

 

When I started this blog seven months ago, I had an idea in mind about where this would all lead.  But like any new venture that starts with little more than a concept, we soon found that our purpose, as well as our direction, was at a crossroads. Michael and I were both successful artists.  We’ve both known what we wanted to do with our lives for the past twenty years, and we had the experience, and the drive to make it happen.

Then the world changed, and we suddenly found that all the talent, focus and commitment on the planet  wasn’t enough to take us where we expected to go.  Neither one of us could even GET into an art  show, and when we did, we barely made back our expenses.  Art isn’t  the best business model under the best of circumstances, and with one of the worst recessions in history clawing maniacally at the gains we’d made, we knew we had to do something, anything to keep from going under…

The question was, what?

We are both type A, both first-born, both accustomed to setting a goal for ourselves and then committing to the hard work to make it happen.  Seven months ago we found ourselves wondering what on earth we wanted to do with the next chapter of our lives and we were shocked (and a little desperate) to find we had no answer for that question.  Even when we asked each other what we would do if money were not an issue, there was a crashing silence.

Then Michael found a craiglist ad for a 1969 Dodge Travco in Crossville, Tennessee, and we thought we’d found our purpose again.  We both love to travel and thought, this could be it.  This could be where we start again.  The Travco seemed to represent  many of the things we wanted; the freedom to travel, a ready-made business catering to the baby boomer generation (most of whom seemed to be experiencing the same financial and directional setbacks we had), the chance to be self-employed again.  There seemed to be a whole bunch of us who never expected to be in this position at this time in our lives, and because we are healthier and more vital than any other generation in history, we thought we could create an opportunity where it seemed none really existed; we could show people like us how to have the adventures they’d planned for at this age, but on a budget.

We dubbed the Travco the “Boomer Mobile” and immediately found ourselves at a crossroads again.  It’s an awesome vehicle and an amazing attention getter. But it’s also not big enough to allow us to do everything  we wanted to do now, and anyway, despite firing up like a champ after not being driven for months, and sailing down the freeway at 70 miles an hour like it was nothing when we brought it home, we just didn’t know enough about it to think this was something we would feeling comfortable striking out in.

If we were going to travel the country shooting segments for the WebTV program we also planned to launch, and we got stuck somewhere along the way, then what?  We were going to be traveling on a shoestring to begin with as it was until the business took off.  We couldn’t afford to see  this thing parked beside the road before we ever even left the state.  Not that it would happen – we could have driven to California and back without a problem – but we just couldn’t take that chance. Here’s the thing about being at a crossroads though.  You aren’t obligated to continue along the path you are on just because it seems like a good idea at the time.  After talking it over, Michael and I decided there was a different way to go about this new business, and now that we have done what we do best; hunkering down, setting a goal, saving the money, researching our options and focusing in on how to make it all happen, we have a new plan of action.

In two weeks, he starts school at the RV Training Center in Largo, Florida.  It’s a ten week course and at the end of it, he will be certified to repair everything from teardrop trailer to a 40 foot Prevost.  I will be taking writing classes at AB Tech and UNC Asheville and continuing to blog about our experiences.   We still have plans to launch a Web TV program about baby boomer adventures, write a book about boomer travel, and next year, we will also offer an exclusive, four-day intensive raft school for boomers who want to learn how to whitewater raft without necessarily becoming guides.  We will also finish the renovations on the Travco, and may wind up selling it to help finance an upgrade to a larger RV.  On one hand, I hate to see it go.  It has a whole new interior and looks on the inside exactly the way you would expect it to given what it looks like on the outside.  But it’s served its purpose by inspiring us to look beyond the excitement of launching a new business, and the contentment that comes with knowing, it is finally going to happen.

So if you have been following this blog and wondering what happened to us….we found our path again, and left the crossroads behind us.  Its time to get back to the business of living,  learning, and having fun….