Part of starting over at midlife is the inevitable revisiting of your past history. It’s an unavoidable experience that you will run into people from your past who haven’t seen you in years and want to know what you are doing with your life.
The answer that you are changing your life at middle-ish age can invite looks of “Wow. What happened to you?!?” as they quickly remind you of an upcoming high school reunion.
At my last high school reunion, a couple of former classmates recounted an embarrassing moment that happened to me during junior high school. After all the years that had passed, for me, it remained just a bad memory.
After I returned home from the reunion, I couldn’t stop thinking about the incident my classmates remembered so clearly. Then something happened; slowly I began to realize that within that long-ago embarrassing moment, were lessons that had waited more than 30-years to be learned.
In fact, the lessons were quite timely.
As I begin to reinvent the second half of my life, my 13-year old self had something to say to my 50-year old self.
The Most Embarrassing Moment – Circa 1976
I stood back, willing myself to be as small and unnoticeable as possible. My junior high P.E. class had spent the last week on the field, doing all sorts of track and field activities; sprints, javelin throwing, hurdles, and the long jump. I was O.K. at most of them, though if the teacher wasn’t watching, I’d run between the hurdles instead of leaping over them.
Each day, we did one of the activities so that by the end of the week, we would have done them all.
The High Jump was the only thing I had left to do. I’d watched my classmates do it. Most got over the raised pole. A few didn’t–and they had to try again and again. Each time the bar fell, the laughter of our classmates grew louder.
Friday came and I made myself small. I hid between the freakishly tall boys in the class. I didn’t make eye contact with the teacher. One by one, my classmates ran a short distance, then contorted their bodies to clear the bar. With only five minutes left of the class period, my heart pounded. She’d forgotten me. I had succeeded at a move worthy of dodgeball. I’d dodged Ms. Talbot!
“Karen Fisher,” I heard.
She was looking down at her clipboard. I hadn’t even noticed what she was doing with that clipboard before. I just thought it was part of the P.E. teacher paraphernalia–you know; jogging suit, sneakers, whistle … clipboard.
She looked around. I stayed behind the “Tall Boy.” The moment I’d fretted over all week, was finally here. Now, I had no choice.
I stood at the start line, seeing the whole scene for the first time. A pole stretched above a thick blue mat. The mat stretched several feet on each side of the pole. The fact that I would be landing on the mat, however, didn’t alleviate my fears. Ms. Talbot stood next to me.
“Remember,” she said. “You can go over frontward or backward.”
I started running. Please don’t let the bar fall, I thought. At the last minute, I decided to go over the pole frontward. Mid-air, I was vaguely aware that I’d cleared the pole. I had a millisecond of relief.
It didn’t last long.
Next thing I knew I was on my stomach; I slowly rolled to my back. My body wouldn’t let me get up. Above me was a circle of faces. They weren’t laughing. In fact, they looked horrified. Miss Talbot’s face penetrated the circle.
“Karen?” she said. “Are you OK?”
I’m Going to Die
I opened my mouth but nothing came out. I put my hands on my throat and then my chest. I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified. I felt my face turning colors. I pushed my stomach out and sucked it back in as if that would bring breath to my lungs. But not a single bit of air moved. The look on Miss Talbot’s face said it all; I was going to die. I was going to die right here with all my classmates looking on.
Then her expression changed.
“You’ve knocked the wind out of yourself,” she said. “Just relax. It will come back. You’ll be able to breathe in a minute.”
After telling my classmates to go to the locker room, she turned back to me.
She was right. My breath was slowly coming back. Several minutes later, I was able to stand up. I bent over, hands on my knees and breathed in the sweet, fresh air. I was staring down at the grass.
It was then that I realized what I’d done.
I had not only cleared the high jump pole, but I had also propelled myself so spectacularly that I missed the blue safety mat altogether, and landed a few feet away from it. She walked me back to the gym. She wanted to call my parents, but I was fine. Later she showed up in my English class to see if I was OK. I assured her I was. Next, she showed up in my math class.
This time I was honest; my ribs hurt. An x-ray later that day revealed cracked ribs–three of them.
When my former classmates reminded me of that fateful day, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Slowly, I realized that my barely-teen self had something to say about my dream to change the second half of my life. She let me know there are lessons I’d come away with from my high jump failure.
5 Lessons From My Past Epic Failure
1. Be a FEAR CONQUEROR.
2. Sometimes you have to just do it–without thinking too hard.
3. Over-analyzing things does not ensure safety.
4. The outcome might not be what you expected, but you still just may accomplish something fabulous!
5. Nobody ever brags about playing it safe.
So, as you think about your big dream that you want to accomplish, aim high. Even if you don’t reach your goal in the way you intended–you’ll still be a better person (ie: writer, photographer, artist) for it!
Here’s a little bit of a twist on making goals; I was listening to a podcast on The Accidental Creative website. In the podcast, best-selling author and founder of Accidental Creative, Todd Henry shares 7 Questions to Ask Yourself instead of simply listing a set of goals.
The 7 ‘Goal’ Questions:
1. What is the greater outcome that I am committed to?
2. Where in my life will I dedicate time to developing my curiosity?
3. How will I stretch myself today, and step out of my comfort zone?
4. Where am I doing something that really isn’t me?
5. Where have I become inflexible because of ego? Where am I playing the victim?
6. What little risk will I take today/this week/this month to confront my fear?
7. Where are my relationship outages? What am I going to do about it?
It’s a podcast I highly recommend for that push of inspiration toward achieving your goals.
What about you? How far will you jump over your current fears and epic failures to achieve your big dream?
Karen Alaniz is a writer, published author and a home renovation expert now that she’s remodeled an old farmhouse by herself. She strives to help women who are scared it may be too late to start over after a certain age and she encourages empty-nest women to invent a new, prosperous and full life–just like she has done. You can read more about Karen on her Amazon Author page.
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