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Two months ago, at the age of 54, I left my full-time job to start a freelance communications consulting practice. Why now? For me, there were four compelling reasons:
1. Retirement is not around the corner. Unlike my parents, who retired in their early 60s, I will be working as long as I am physically and mentally able (see my Huffington Post piece on Getting Ready to Join the Old and Poor).
I've had several career tracks, none of which have led to fully funded retirement. But even if they had, I can't imagine retiring in the traditional sense. As long as I've got something to say and can get my point across without excessive drooling, I'll be out there saying it.
2. I'm at the top of my game. I may not be more talented than I was 20 years ago, but I'm a lot more confident. I know the value of my skills and experience, and I am not afraid to charge for them. I've also learned to fish where the fish are biting, which means I now pitch companies that actually want my services. (Not surprisingly, this strategy has also done wonders for my romantic life.)
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3. I'm not afraid to fail. By the time you get to your 50s, chances are you've fallen on your ass, boldly and spectacularly, at least once. It didn't kill you; it made you stronger.
Maybe you even learned to laugh about it. In the big picture - where wars are fought and natural disasters wipe out entire populations - your personal flop was no big deal.
Once I realized that even big problems, like job loss, bankruptcy and divorce, didn't send the world spinning permanently off its axis, I started to lighten up. As my grandmother used to say, "It's all bupkis as long as you've got your health."
4. I don't want to waste another minute. A wise person once said, "You spend the first half of your life acquiring things, and the second half looking for meaning."
I have found meaning in my relationships, in my creative work and in my experiences, from watching the moon rise over the ocean to cheering for my son's marching band. And I know they won't last forever (at least for me). So I am realigning my priorities to put them first.
Deborah Gaines writes about life over 50 for Huffington Post -- check out her blog at huffingtonpost.com/deborah-gaines. She recently started a freelance communications consulting practice, Deborah Gaines Associates (deborahgaines.com). Reach her @DebGainesAssoc