How I Changed My Life Completely At Midlife

Camera_LensI married really young. Way too young. I was a kid myself at eighteen, and having my first son by age eighteen and my youngest at twenty was a disaster. I mean, really. How does a child bring up a child? But, that’s exactly what I was trying like hell to do.

My marriage went south fast, but I stayed in the trenches because I thought it was the only option out there for me. Fifteen long, mostly hard years later, I got up the nerve to think that maybe, just maybe, there was something better out there in the world for me. I deserved it and was going to go after it. Finally.

Dating was wonderful – some of the best days of my life. I worked hard as a single mom and was proud of my two sons. They’d weathered the family break-up in their own way, sometimes In full-blown rebellion, other times telling me I had made a good decision- that they wished I had made the cut sooner. The deep hurt showed in their young eyes more often then not, though, something this mother did not miss.

So, later, nine years into the dating scene, I met another guy. I fell in love and even though all the warning signs were there – a gazillion red lights flashing in front of my face – I took the plunge. Again.  I turned thirty eight, and the rose-colored glasses were firmly in place. Years passed before I accepted the fact that I’d married a gambler.

A few more passed before I could admit the harsh truth – we had lost everything. I had worked two and three jobs at a time to pay bills. I had sold all of my jewelry, family heirlooms even, to save the house.

He had known this the entire time, had watched me struggle, while he’d spent his after business hours in the darkness of casinos and betting parlors. While he’d wasted paychecks that could have helped us get ahead, instead of putting us further into debt.

When we finally sat together and I told him I just couldn’t take it anymore – that I had loved him with my whole heart, blahblahblah, he’d started to cry. ” I know,” he’d stammered, “and that is what makes this so hard…because I don’t dislike you.”

I stopped breathing. I put my tear-stained face in my hands while I listened to his words again. How nice. He didn’t dislike me. Seriously? What did that even mean? I didn’t dislike avocado, or winter, or salmon. He didn’t dislike me? Really?

I guess that was the last straw. It broke this camel’s back. Fifteen years of bailing him out, trying to save a second marriage. Now, clearly on my own again.

I was fifty by now. Half a century and now done with taking care of other people – silly boys who think they are men – I was just done. I was going to concentrate on me for a change. Probably for the first time ever.

I worked hard, I played harder. I decided to pursue my love of photography and travel. I attended some workshops, determined to be the best student I could be, trying to learn as much as I possibly could along the way. I had some success with stock photography, am published in local magazines that liked my style of writing, as well as the photo essays I’ve submitted alongside any article for consideration.

And, now, fast forward. At fifty six, I’m on my way to Ireland in October. I am on assignment for a world-wide travel magazine. My article and images will appear in Springtime of 2015. Amazing.

I kick myself when I look at the years behind me – the only good things are wound around the lives of my sons, my lovable boys who are now grown and on their own.

I pinch myself when I look at the years ahead. I am excited. I am traveling with the Canon, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends. I feel like my whole life is ahead of me. I feel like fifty-six is the new thirty. I feel like the pages in my book have only just begun turning. I have a new pen and clean paper. I feel that whatever I write now, will be the most important thing I’ve yet to say.

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  11 comments for “How I Changed My Life Completely At Midlife

  1. IBikeNYC
    September 2, 2014 at 7:58 am

    Thank you for talking about this.

    At fifty-five-and-a-half, I, myself, am on the cusp of Big Changes FOR Me!

    All the best to you, and thanks again for the encouragement!

    • Theresa St. John
      September 3, 2014 at 8:02 am

      Fifty- five is so young! We have the rest of our lives ahead of us. I wish you the best – keep me posted!

  2. Now_What?
    September 2, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I needed a sign to get me out of this slump that I had found myself in after 2 divorces and like you, a mom @ 18 and again @ 19 and 22 with no time for myself or to know who I am or who I can be. Thoughts of me being too old to try to live a fulfilling life was all too overwhelming. Depression sank in, forgetting dates and small tasks…OH NO, do I have dementia??? Now that I have read your post this all makes sense. I am forgetting b/c I am unfulfilled and NO, it’s not too late @ 52 to live and like what you desire.
    WOW, I REALLY needed this post!!! I’m sure lots of us do! So, again, Thank You!! You Rock!!!

    • Theresa St. John
      September 3, 2014 at 8:07 am

      Slump is a good word for it ! Divorce is tough and I remember thinking I was not good enough for anything – obviously – with two under my belt.
      Inch your way forward!
      Find something that you love to do – someplace that you love to be – and go for it.
      I hope you keep me posted on how you are!
      Thanks for your compliments on what you read, makes me feel good that my words could help you. :O)

  3. Ann Fletcher
    September 2, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    Dear Theresa,
    Wow, you are brave and inspiring and a good writer. I have no doubt that your photography is excellent as well. You go girl!

    Ann Fletcher

    • Theresa St. John
      September 3, 2014 at 8:00 am

      Thanks, Ann. We all have a story, right? I have had many to inspire me in life,I am grateful for all of those who encouraged me to move forward in my life.

  4. September 2, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Good for You! Best of luck!!

    • Theresa St. John
      September 3, 2014 at 8:09 am

      Thanks, Haralee.
      I feel like a whole new world has opened up for me. Having fun finding my way through it,.

  5. September 4, 2014 at 1:38 am

    How do I say this? Change is good. I have just abandoned a career I loved to go after a career I’ve loved even more. We can do this. We are strong, capable women. The best is yet to come.

  6. mariah
    December 9, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    thank you for your story, I needed the role model. sing that vision of hope!!!

  7. luciana
    December 23, 2015 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Theresa

    Im working on a project that portraits people like you. That changed their lives. How can I contact you. I’m living my email with the magazine and my Skype is lupetrocchi.

    I would love to talk further.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

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