About Learning New Dances When the Music Changes
Updated August 2017
If you are like most Baby Boomers, your life to date has played out pretty much as you planned. You have a loving spouse, maybe a place in an interesting city. You are winding up the career you love after an uninterrupted ascending trajectory.
Your 401(k)s and the value of your home have fully recovered from the Great Recession which will enable you to enjoy your remaining years worry-free, surrounded by children who can’t get enough of you.
Sums you up, right?
You’re laughing but I actually know people like that. It can happen.
But for the other 95% of us (I'm just guessing here), we find ourselves in mid-age cobbling together the pieces of at least a few broken dreams. Put the dream back together, even at a tilt. Ignore the cracks.
But are you sure you really still want to keep it?
Maybe you have read the book "Pet Cemetery" by Stephen King. A heartbroken child loses his pet and buries it in a haunted cemetery. He is joyous when the pet returns, but the cat isn’t right, its not the same and never will be.
Like the pet in the book, you will know a dream has been irrevocably broken when you don't experience it the same way. You can't love it the way you once did. Out of habit you cling to it nonetheless because of how much you once did love it.
Careers are among the hardest to give up. You have invested perhaps a college education and probably years of your life. Your work may be tied to your identity, what you see yourself as first. You probably even think others see you as that first too.
The paycheck was more than money. It was the monthly evaluation of your performance not just as a professional, but in many ways as a person. Successful people often feel they are (or were) their best, most authentic selves at work.
They would prefer to continue being their best selves in their waking hours and struggle to find new validations for their daily "performances" once they retire, either voluntarily or involuntarily.
When I was unemployed, I was convinced that if I found the right job in my chosen profession, my problems would be over.
Even as I began to dislike what I saw in the field and lose interest I clung, thinking I could glue the inspiration back together with enough hard work and the right job. Like in the movie, I continued to hold on, rather than grieve, let go and find new validation.
My biggest regret is not letting go sooner. I wasted several years that could have been spent preparing for a new life and new life work. Precious years paying for repetitive continuing education programs and attending events where I felt increasingly out of place.
Precious hours spent learning new data and new skills in a field and on a subject no longer of interest to me. But still I clung.
When a particular corporate career is all they've ever known, many people select diluted versions of it when they're forced out and wonder why they hate it. They become consultants. I've never known a retired person to be excited, and I mean excited, about consulting as a way to wrap up their work lives.
But they just can't let go. The hardest thing to know in job-hunting is when to bear down even harder (not be a quiter) and when to realize that the music has changed inside you and around you and find something new.
You keep thinking you can talk yourself into being excited. That doesn't work at post-50. You're too smart for that. You're old enough to know when you are being manipulated, even when it's you manipulating you.
“You must give everything to make your life as beautiful as the dreams that dance in your imagination,” - Roman Payne, novelist.
The actions people take to find new validation can be positive, picking up a book on a new subject, taking a class unlike any previously taken, joining a new group.
One of the most fun methods I've heard of is going to conferences in subjects that fascinate you. These conferences attract young enthusiasts and their energy is often contagious. And they party.
Once you have explore all kinds of new subjects, new music, one day you hear a tune that makes you want to dance again.
It's often playing at a low volume at first. That won’t stop you from awkwardly and tentatively trying to keep time with it, making you do things that confuse you and that you cannot explain.
The music may be hard to dance to at first (like jazz), catching you so off-balance that pratfalls are just as likely as masterful hitch kick.
I started going to Spanish Meetups in Denver over a year before even thinking about moving to Mexico. Realizing how horrible my Spanish was, I wondered why I kept going when it was so excruciating and awkward. But it felt right somehow too. It was the new music I couldn't dance to yet.
If you find that this new music simply cannot be denied or even tamped down, proceed with a full understanding that any new dance worth doing will take effort. It will be fun, exhilarating and take years off you, but it will be demanding.
You will still have to practice the steps and repeat the new melody over and over in your head, the same way you learned your last dance, and the dance before that. Having to do the work to reap the reward never changes.
Nothing about the process of learning to keep a new beat is easy. You just have to decide how much you still want to dance.
Hola, I am a partner with Ventanas Mexico which provides insight and resources to those considering expat life in Mexico, including "If Only I Had a Place" a guide to renting in style for less.
I am also author of the "Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online," a curation of the best Spanish language tools on the web. Spanish takes several years to develop conversationally. Why not get started now?