Is there an opportunity you wish you had taken, if so what was it??
One of the great things about ageing is that experience teaches you that it pays to be brave. In my early 20s however, with the world at my feet, my choices were driven by the need to be safe. When I was reading languages at university, I studied abroad for a year and for the second six months, I had a choice between Spain and Mexico. Of course, I chose the option that was a short flight away from home and I often wonder what adventures I would have had if I’d taken the Mexico route. I wish I hadn’t let fear hold me back.
What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
The next 10 years will be bittersweet as my sons leave home and follow their own paths. However, this does open up new opportunities for my husband and me. In 10 years we will have just about paid off our mortgage and because we are both self-employed, the idea of the freedom that this will bring is exciting. We’ll have more choice over the projects we take on and we will be able to base ourselves anywhere we please so we’re looking forward to seeing the places that we’ve always wanted to visit. The internet has unlocked so many new opportunities for our generation – it’s turned us into pioneers, forging a new way of living midlife.
What has been the best thing you’ve achieved in life?
Top of the list is a happy marriage and a happy family. I’ve worked hard for the relationships I have and made career sacrifices for them but it’s been absolutely worth it. Beyond that of course, my biggest achievement has to be my blog Midlifechic. I pulled together all of the skills that I have gained during my career when I started it from nothing four years ago and now my posts are read more than half a million times a month.
What’s the most valuable advice you can give someone?
Don’t feel that your peak is in the past and that it’s all downhill from midlife. Maybe that was the case for previous generations but we are reinventing it. Midlife is a time to recalibrate and look ahead to what you might do next. Our responsibilities are lightening and digital technology is opening up new opportunities for everyone for both work and pleasure. Midlife is a new beginning and you can be anything you want to be if you set your mind to it.
What are you most enjoying about this part of your life?
My sons are growing older and although there’s a lot that I miss about being the mum of young children, I’m also enjoying the extra time that I have for myself. I can focus again for the first time in years and make plans that don’t have to be centred around everyone else. It reminds me of my final year at university when I knew that in a short time, endless new opportunities would open up. I have the same feeling of a blank canvas although this time I have wisdom and a little more financial security under my belt.
What is your biggest motivator in life?
I’m very aware that the more I put into my life and my blog in particular at this stage, the more I will get out over the years ahead. I’m building the foundations of a new business that may one day become a full-time occupation and it’s also opening up new friendships. Some are online with readers from all over the world and others have extended into real life. Every week my blog throws up new exciting opportunities. I don’t have time to enjoy them all at the moment but if I keep on working at it, one day I will.
What’s been your biggest life lesson so far and how did you learn it?
This is an important one because it has taken me all of my life to recognise it. I have finally learned how important it is to trust my instinct. Whenever I look back at the things that have gone wrong in life, I know that it is because I overruled the niggling voice inside warning me that something was wrong. The jobs that I have hated, the friendships that have been toxic and the commitments that have caused me stress all had warning bells ringing from the very beginning. To make sure I don’t keep on repeating this mistake, I’ve armed myself with polite ways of saying ‘no’ and as soon as my gut tells me something is wrong, I use them.
What’s been your biggest regret?
I make a point of not regretting things, as I’ll explain in a minute, apart from one – the pointy sequinned stilettos I wore for an old friend’s 50th birthday party last year. Why oh why didn’t I factor in that the evening would be a joyful reunion of the party people I met in my first publishing job after graduating? The DJ had been chosen accordingly and we very quickly regressed to our twenty year-old selves, dancing all night. The next morning I awoke to find my big toes swollen beyond all recognition and a few weeks later I lost both nails. A summer season with mutilated feet is not a good look for a style blogger and I regretted those shoes for a full twelve months!
Would you rather regret things you have done or haven’t done?
The obvious answer to this is that I’d rather regret the things I have done and when it comes to big, life-changing choices I believe that we should all be brave and take risks. However, regret isn’t always as straightforward as that. My mum’s last words to me before she died were ‘don’t regret’ and so I hold them close to my heart. It was particularly surprising given the mindset she had been in since her cancer diagnosis. She had battled hard which was difficult to watch but it did mean that I spent a lot of time with her over her last few years. So often our conversations were peppered with her regrets, both large and small. A side-effect of chemotherapy meant that she lost her sense of taste and she regretted a lifetime spent dieting and restricting herself from all of the delicious foods that life has to offer. She also regretted some of her priorities such as placing her career and desire for an immaculate house over spending time with us. In those years her thoughts were filled with regrets for both the things she had and hadn’t done… although there is perhaps a lesson in that too. Whether you are of a religious persuasion or not, the serenity prayer says it all:
‘Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.’