Susan Heinrich with Boy on Motorbike Street Art in Penang Malaysia

Midlife Arrived with an Unexpected Call to Change My Life

MIDLIFE

I knew I needed to make changes but had no idea where or how to start

Someone asked me how I knew it was time to change my life. My answer: I waited until the part of me that remembered I had dreams that had been pushed aside, had run out of patience. I’ve fondly termed that experience as my “midlife upheaval”. And I say fondly because that distress call from my subconscious finally shook me awake to the truth my life; the status quo was no longer working. 

Even when it became clear something had to change, I truly didn’t know what or how. I felt stuck. If you are also feeling the desire to make a change, but have no idea where to start, I hope my story (and other’s you’ll find on this midlife blog), will inspire you to continue on your own path to change. 

Susan Heinrich stands on a rock in a river in Beaver Creek Colorado

No One Else Was Going to Change My Life

I spent a few unhappy months thinking the question of how to change my life would magically answer itself. I was married with teenagers – I couldn’t exactly run away to Bali.

I thought about the advice we give to our young adult children: It’s ok to not know exactly what direction you want to go, but you need to take the first step. Try something new. Anything.  You don’t know where it will lead, but it will set you on a new path. And every path leads somewhere.  I realized that if I was going to change my life, I couldn’t wait at home for it to magically happen, I needed to set out on a new path.

A woman holds up her hands to make a heart around the sunset at Kaanapali Beach in Maui

Making Friends with Uncertainty

Beginning on a new path also meant I needed to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I was once pretty good at that. As a reporter for a national newspaper, I often had to learn about new things and interview people who I could have been intimidated by. But I had left that career track years earlier to be an at-home parent. I had continued writing but from a pretty comfortable chair.  To change my life and pursue new dreams I had to be willing to stretch myself, deal with uncertainty, even disappointment and rejection. 

I had to be willing to have challenging conversations

Learning to Set New Boundaries

Changing my life didn’t just happen out in the world. I had to set new boundaries with my family, in particular my husband.  I had to be willing to be honest about how I was feeling, what I wanted and what was no longer working for me. Being honest with a spouse (even a very supportive one) about your dreams, some of which may not include them, is scary. I worried about hurting him and straining our marriage.  But I knew that if I was going to change my life in all of the ways I wanted, I had to be willing to have challenging conversations. You can read more about that in Self Differentiation in a Midlife Marriage.

Susan Heinrich hiking on Grand Teton National Park

Learning How to Say No

As I started to embrace change it was as if dreams faded like old photos tucked away in a memory box, became vivid once more. And new ones began to emerge. I needed to make space for them in my life. That required me to get more protective of my time and energy, one of the things we women so readily give away to others.  How did I do it? With one magic word, and it isn’t please. No.  

No, I can’t volunteer next week. No,  I can’t drive you. No. I don’t want to host that dinner party.

How can we expect things to change unless we start giving ourselves and our dreams a big helping of the attention we are giving away?  Saying no was empowering. And the more I do it the easier it gets. 

You can read about the other ways I’ve prioritized myself in Making Yourself a Priority at Midlife. 

Changing my Life & Finding New Purpose

As I began to make these changes in my life, it created space for me to begin to imagine a bigger purpose and meaning. I knew that to change my life in the profound way I was seeking, I needed more than a new job, I needed a new purpose. It took a little exploration but I eventually realized I wanted writing to be at the center of my life once again. And I’ve dreamed for some time of working to empower women, both my midlife contemporaries and women around the world who don’t have the same opportunities and resources that many of us have. Those interests combined with my passion for travel ultimately led me to launch this travel website and midlife blog, Midlife Globetrotter. 

I’ve had to learn new things and take on new projects. I’ve also prioritized my health. You can read more about that in Fit at Fifty. 

Susan Heinrich sits on a balcony at the Hotel Erwin Venice, California

How Has My Life Changed?

I’ve been on this new path for about three years, putting one foot in front of the other even when I didn’t know where I was headed. My life hasn’t changed in some ways but has changed more than I imagined. I didn’t move to Bali and I still make dinner and do laundry. But I am happier and healthier. I have a growth mindset that allows me to learn new things. I’m writing almost every day and doing work I love. 

If you are on a similar journey and trying to understand how the things that matter the most to you, or simply enjoy doing might translate into a career change I recommend you read: Midlife Career Change Inspired by What Makes Us Unique.

Susan Heinrich does a yoga tree pose in her backyard

I wake up excited about the day ahead, and am discovering things about myself.  I had no idea I would enjoy the analytics side of a website, and photography and graphic design are new passions. I feel excited about the future instead of fretting about what’s ahead. 

And I am connecting with other midlife women and realizing how much of this journey we have in common. When I hear that something I wrote helped another woman make sense of her own emotional upheaval, I’m grateful I shared my story. When a woman tells me Midlife Globetrotter helped inspire her to take a dream trip I feel almost as excited as if I were going with her.  If you’ve signed up for my newsletter or commented on something I’ve written, or taken the time to read one story, here on Midlife Globetrotter, thank you! You have helped to change my life. I hope I can in some small way help change yours.

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About - Midlife Globetrotter

Hey there,

I’m glad you’re here. Can we talk about midlife? I reached my late 40’s, realized my kids were growing up, and adventure began calling in a new way: big travel adventures as well as everyday ones. I want Midlife Globetrotter to be a place where we explore how to add a sense of fun, freedom and meaning to these precious years. Let’s celebrate how far we’ve come, and all that’s ahead.

Susan

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