When we launched Huff/Post50 one year ago, we implied that our generation was not ready to "go gently into that good night." In a year that brought the death of a dear friend, Nora Ephron, at seventy-one years old, I am inspired by a toast that Nora gave on the occasion of my fiftieth birthday. She stood up, champagne glass in her hand, and said, "I am here to tell you good things can happen after turning fifty. I didn't direct my first movie until I was fifty."
It got me thinking: If Nora could accomplish what she did in twenty-one years, why is it that we are somehow led to believe that age defines what we can and cannot do? If anything, turning fifty seems like license to liberate yourself from any definition at all.
This has been a difficult time for many. At Huff/Post50 we have tried to bring you astonishing stories of reinvention borne out of hardship and tragedy, as well as from choice, vision and will. In the last year I have come in contact with many people who don't know where to begin, or how to make a change. I always ask them this question: What is it that you loved to do as a child? What gave you the most joy? In most cases men and women can answer immediately, and most times the thing they loved to do is not what they ended up doing. So many things can keep us from doing what we love to do.
But when confronted with either an opportunity to do what you want to do, or when forced to do something other than what you have been doing, there is always a choice to be made. People's faces would light up when talking about a childhood passion. An extremely gifted head and neck surgeon I know loves playing guitar so he had a music room installed in his medical office. A friend who is a wonderful interior designer told me she would spend hours as a child decorating large cardboard boxes with wallpaper, curtains, carpets, all designed by her. And I, finally admitting to myself that my lifelong love of music and singing had to be a part of my future, recorded my first album and have been touring with my band.
Sometimes people would answer that they knew what they loved to do but it was "too late." Some of these people were in their thirties and forties! But it's never too late. Go to that city college and take that writing class. Go to the local community theater and audition for their next play. Call your friends to come over once a month and sing songs around the piano. Write that short story and send it in to a contest. Once you decide what you want to do, the path will be in front of you. Years ago I read an interview with Oprah who said that most people can't answer the question, "What is it you want to do?" She said that once you know the answer you will know the steps to take to make it happen. Even Oprah has been inspired to reinvent herself this year.
The joy of being able to do something you have a passion for has a side effect: good health. You want to keep doing what you love doing so you can do it longer. That leads to taking better care of yourself. After another friend died suddenly of a heart attack, even though he was the picture of health, and Rosie O'Donnell had a heart attack, I called my doctor and had a full heart work-up. All good. I have a lot more I want to do, a lot of love I want to share and a lot of thanks I want to give. Got to stay healthy to do that.
So, all you Post 50s out there, what do you love to do? What gives you joy? What did you love to do as a child? The future is there to be defined by you.