By Dorian Martin, I Start Wondering Founder
The topic of mid-life reinvention has been a recurring theme during my lunch conversations with friends over the past few days. Many people say they want to discover the path to their next chapter but find that the actual reinvention process is easier to talk about than do.
I get that! I’m in the early stages of reinventing myself spending 11 years caregiving for elderly parents. What I have discovered during my own odyssey is that it helps to learn from people who have done (or are in the process of doing) the work of charting a new course.
A Model Example
One example of mid-life reinvention is Christy Turlington Burns. You might know her as the American supermodel who graced many magazine covers and ads starting in the 1990s. Yet, Turlington has lived a life of even more substance than style.
Even as she enjoyed great success as a model, Turlington began to deliberately change her life’s direction. At the age of 30, she graduated from New York University with a degree in philosophy and comparative religion. She also became involved in public health advocacy in 1997 after her father died of lung cancer.
Turlington’s life calling emerged six years later. In 2003, she suffered a near-fatal postpartum hemorrhage during the birth of her first child, Grace. This life-altering event triggered her deep interest in maternal health issues. In 2005 while pregnant with her son, Finn, Turlington traveled to El Salvador. “That’s when I fully realized that had I delivered my daughter in one of the communities I visit, I likely would have died,” she told The Wall Street Journal. It turns out that postpartum hemorrhages like the one she experienced are the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths globally. And surprisingly, the number of maternal deaths caused from these hemorrhages is increasing in the United States, even though medical treatment can prevent 98 percent of these deaths.
To raise awareness about this issue, Turlington created public service announcements, offered testimony to Congress and created Every Mother Counts, which was initially a website but now has grown into a non-profit organization with a staff of nine. She also became an Advocate for Maternal Health with the international humanitarian organization CARE and an ambassador for Product Red, which engages the private sector to raise awareness and funds to fight HIV/AIDS in eight African nations.
Making a Difference While Continuing to Grow
Her efforts are paying off. Every Mother Counts has awarded $2.6 million to grantees in the United States (New York and Florida) as well as Haiti, Tanzania, India, Uganda, Bangladesh, Syria, Guatemala, Malawi, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nepal.
Not content with these achievements, Turlington continues to push the envelope and find ways to grow. As a way to educate the world about the challenges facing many pregnant women, Turlington produced and directed the documentary, No Woman, No Cry, in 2010. The movie – available on YouTube – tells the stories of individual women across the globe (Guatemala, Tanzania, Bangladesh and the United States) who faced difficult pregnancies. Starting in 2011, Turlington began running marathons as a way to raise awareness and funding for Every Mother Counts.
And if that’s not enough to make you tired, Turlington has written the book Living Yoga: Creating a Life Practice, continues to develop documentaries and wants to enroll in graduate school.
So what can you learn from Turlington’s journey? Here’s a quick list:
- Look at your own life experiences to identify something you’re passionate about.
- Find ways to get involved in organizations related to your passion – or start creating something if nothing currently exists on the subject.
- Reach out to like-minded individuals.
- Continue learning through taking classes and attending seminars.
- Try new things, even if they are out of your comfort zone.
Christy Turlington Burns offers an inspiring example that mid-life reinvention is possible. All you need to do is start and then keep putting one foot in front of the other in order to make progress.
Source for This Post:
Reed, J. (2016). Keeping Up With Christy. Wall Street Journal Magazine.