From Chicken Soup for the Soul in Menopause

Old Is New Again

Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up interest wrinkles the soul.

General Douglas MacArthur

Sure, I already had a degree in finance; it was for security reasons that I studied the field in the first place. You know, that job-stability thing. Yet, it was the end of the last decade of the twentieth century, and I felt it was time for a change.

I was about to turn fifty and suddenly wanted an adjustment, a change in the direction of the wind and the aromas that filtered through my nose. So what if I had job seniority and worked independently. Office pungency had become offensive. I needed to smell the roses—roses with my name on them. So I quit my job.

No, I did not just up and quit. I planned it. In the early nineties, I had gone back to school and studied communication, English, and art history. I started collecting writing samples early, saved some money, and set up a timetable, all for a metamorphosis from old to new. My friends thought I was crazy.Quit a good job?Why not? Everything I ever wanted was screaming at me to go for it.

To prove I was not playing around, I threw a success party the summer before I quit. I invited everyone I knew—friends and enemies—to come celebrate my stepping out. As in a debutante ball, I introduced myself to the world as an up-and-coming journalist. No longer would I have to keep up with accounting stats or economic trends.

Only there was a catch. I was not only coming of age as a journalist, I was also maturing. Maturing in the way most women do not think about until it slaps us in our faces and the rest of our bodies for that matter: hair loss, sagging skin, bifocal glasses, mood swings, forgetfulness, night sweats, fake signs of heart attacks—you name it, I experienced it. Menopause. All the planning in the world did not prepare me for this passage. Besides, it didn’t fit with being a creative writer.

Realizing that menopause was amending my plan, I made adjustments. Instead of becoming down in the mouth, I set out to make “the change” work for me. I blamed all my errors on it. When I forgot to keep an appointment with friends, I simply said, “I’m going through menopause. You know, I have a hard time remembering anything.” If I became curt with anyone, I blamed it on being menopausal. When the mood pendulum was swinging from east to west, from my mouth would come, “You know how it is when you’re going through the change.” Yes, it worked, and it continues to do so. Everybody understands, and nobody complains; they sympathize. In turn, I get to set any schedule I want, change my mind when I choose, even cry for no reason because everyone accepts me. Mother Nature is to blame for my idiosyncrasies, not me.

This current life of mine is rewarding, but fluctuations play their part. Yet, in hindsight, if I had it to do all over, I would still proceed to design the “new” me. It is not about becoming rich and famous. It is about enjoying life like you never have before, in doing what you have always dreamed of doing and loving it—with all its consequences.

I now write as a career choice, carry an AARP card in my wallet, and never felt better than I do now. Just think, if I had kept my secure career job, I would still have nine years to work before I could do what I do now. A transformation and “the change” never felt so good.

Sylvia McClain

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