For the Year of the Boomer -- 2014 is the year the youngest Boomers turn 50 -- here is another installment in my survey of 50 Boomers across 10 career categories who have reinvented themselves within the last 10 years.
The 1985 film "St.Elmo's Fire" helped usher in a series of movies that spoke directly to the Boomer generation. Coming on the heels of "The Big Chill," the film was a poignant look back at our transition into adulthood -- a perspective that, in our late 20s and 30s, we were just beginning to appreciate.
Carl Kurlander, the film's screenwriter, based the story on incidents and characters from his own life growing up in Pittsburgh, and his college experience in Washington D.C. As a budding screenwriter, Carl's career took off following the release of the film, which garnered attention for its constellation of "brat pack" stars (including Demi Moore and Rob Lowe). But despite the visibility and access that the film gave him, Carl struggled to get another film made, and his writing career, while steady with studio writing assignments, did not yield any further big-screen hits. He did find success, though, in television, where as a writer-producer, he shepherded a couple of TV series, including the hit show, "Saved By The Bell."
In 2000, Carl hit a wall. Writing and producing in the entertainment industry is an endless treadmill. And Carl, born in 1959, wasn't having that much fun anymore. The handwriting was on the wall: it wasn't going to get any easier. While there might be a hit somewhere down the road, Carl was also thinking about the prospect of raising his family in an environment that he didn't necessarily see as nurturing. When the University of Pittsburgh offered him a chance to take a one year sabbatical to teach in his home town, he jumped at the chance to take what he thought would only be a year off to clear his head.
To his great surprise, Carl had a life-changing epiphany. In Pittsburgh, Carl rediscovered himself through rediscovering his city, and the enduring values and personalities that have made that city what it is today -- the first intentionally re-invented American city. Pittsburgh, the epicenter of 19th century industrialism, was the first city to fall apart at the end of that age, and the first city to publicly address its reinvention. Today, Pittsburgh is re-emergent as a technology and innovation center, melding industrial-era energy and ambition with information era science and curiosity.
Carl realized that there was another untapped opportunity in Pittsburgh: a significant number of top entertainment luminaries, including executives, producers, directors, actors and writers, were all Pittsburgh natives who had emigrated to Hollywood. In 2002, he published an op-ed piece in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette calling for Pittsburgh to not only focus on bringing Hollywood movies to shoot in Pittsburgh, but to use its Hollywood footprint to help encourage, train and support home-grown talent.
Along with fellow entertainment business "Burghers" Ellen Weiss Kander and Maxine Lapiduss, Carl founded Steeltown Entertainment Project, a non-profit cultural center designed to better establish and support an active Pittsburgh-based creative media infrastructure.
Leveraging their business relationships, the founders have turned Steeltown into a local phenomenon, incubating and, in some cases, actively producing, local short films and some high profile documentaries, including the Smithsonian Channel's "A Shot to Save The World," about Jonas Salk's discovery of the polio vaccine. Steeltown has become a hub that unites arts, policy, filmmaking and education initiatives throughout Pittsburgh and the state of Pennsylvania.
Carl's one-year sabbatical has become his life's calling. While he travels back and forth to Los Angeles on Steeltown business, his agenda is firmly rooted in Pittsburgh's continued emergence as a media center. His life today is diametrically opposite from his life as a writer, and he can't quite believe how it has all played out: "You'd better align yourself with the Universe," he laughs, "because the universe is very strong..." His story speaks to both the unexpected snowballing of events that can lead to significant life change, but also to the rekindling of our ability to engage and to create. "If you have to work for the rest of your life, you'd better find something you're at least a little more passionate about," he concludes, "It used to be that if you got rejected, got fired, it was terrible. Now it's happening everywhere. Passion is the fuel that gets you going through the rejection. Tenacity and persistence are so much more important than ever before."
Several larger corporations such as Starbucks, Target and Land's End are able to offer even their part-time employees benefits such as health coverage and paid vacation time (head over to ABC for a full list).
For those with an entrepreneurial spirit and computer know-how, the Internet offers opportunities to bring in some cash from home -- at any hour of the day or night. Take Jose and Jill Ferrer, a retired couple profiled by AARP for supplementing a freewheeling retirement with their website, Your RV Lifestyle. By highlighting certain products related to RV living, the pair earns $700 a month, AARP reports. "And we know the potential is there to grow our website business further," Jill Ferrer says. Other ideas: Etsy.com allows the crafty to turn a profit from their hobbies.
Personal care and home health aid topped the Bureau of Labor Statistics' list of the fastest growing occupations in America. The time commitment may vary (between 10 and 30 hours per week, according to SmartMoney), but the median annual wage is around $20,000 for both occupations, according to the BLS.
Bartending is not just for twentysomethings -- and for social butterflies, this part-time gig offers opportunity to rake in extra cash, not to mention tips, with a minimal initial financial investment (a 40-hour certification course at the New York City Bartending School costs a little less than $600, for example).
Age discrimination is less of a problem in government agencies, reports The Fiscal Times. In fact, agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Transportation Security Administration actively seek older workers. Visit USAJobs.gov to search for available positions.
If you've got an artistic flair or an interest in theater, makeup artists can make up to $40 an hour, and only work 20 hours a week on average, AOL Jobs reports. Disclaimer: qualifications may include formal training in cosmetology or theater, and a license is required to practice in several states.
What better way to scratch that globetrotting itch? If you're up for an on-the-go lifestyle, flight attendants also earn up to $40 an hour, making it a very well-paid part-time job.
The nonprofit sector can offer more than volunteer opportunities for retirees, and may be particularly appealing to those who "thought they wanted to change the world ... [but] put that on the back burner for 20 or 30 years while they climbed the corporate ladder," as Tamara Erickson, author of "Retire Retirement: Career Strategies for the Boomer Generation," told The Wall Street Journal. To get started, Idealist.org offers listings for available paid positions in addition to volunteer opportunities: applicants with years of experience under their belts are sure to be met with open arms. Even cooler, Encore.org offers paid Encore Fellowships to "match skilled, experienced professionals at the end of their midlife careers with social-purpose organizations" -- while earning a small stipend for part- or full-time work, midlifers can get their foot in the door to a fulfilling retirement job.
The pay may not be great, but if you're an arts lover, a history buff or a sports enthusiast, the perks certainly are!
"I studied hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy 3 years ago and now I have my own business, couldn't be happier" -- Huff/Post50 reader Lee Adley It's certainly a challenge, but as our amazing readers -- and the many men and women featured on our page -- can attest, going back to school and pursuing something totally different can be well worth the investment of time, money and energy.
Follow John Tarnoff on Twitter: www.twitter.com/johntarnoff