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Can’t get it out of my head.

I never do post prompts. But this one caught my eye.

Like a song I go to over and over on my play list, here I am, still, or again: learning, exploring, wondering, and waiting…all these things I can’t get out of my head. I feel like there’s work I’m waiting to discover, waiting to begin. I see potential. But the gap between where I am and where I think I belong is some invisible thing that I struggle to bridge. I don’t even know how to define the pieces I’m missing. What exactly will it take to move me from where I am to where I would like to be?

I work, and then I research. I read about content marketing, about apps, about business platforms, I listen to podcasts, I watch videos. I bookmark. I’ve narrowed my focus a lot; but often, I know I’m still in the mode of “ready, fire, aim.” Still wandering around in the wilderness doing discovery by accident.

I’ve blogged about this before, and I continue to look: under every rock; sites I come across that seem to have answers; books that fill my Kindle, begun, but rarely finished. I think I’ll know the answer when I see it, or when I feel it. Or when the universe opens up and rains it down on my head. Or will I? Maybe the rain has fallen already and I was protected from the answers with my umbrella of questions. Is it right? Is this the beginning? Do I have what it takes? How will I know?

My search for entrepreneurship, solopreneurship, authorpreneurship, has been on for a while now. And I struggle with one of the most daunting barriers: I have work, and income, and commitments. How do I jump from what I know and what is stable to something shaky and risky? I’m no 20-something ready to embrace my first failure on the road to success.

No, I’ve done it backwards. I’ve had all the traditional trappings of the good life: family, home, work, stability. So why am I looking for more, in my 50s? Wasn’t I satisfied? Wasn’t I fulfilled? And since I’m making a living doing what I’m doing, if this is just about money, what difference will it make to exchange one way of earning an income for another?

Yes, I was satisfied. And yes, I have had many good things in life. I’m not trying to fill a hole, I’m trying to express an ambition. And the ambition is not for money, although I can’t leave that out of the equation. The ambition is to create something of my own, something that has my stamp on it and my sweat behind it.

Now I dream of building a consulting business to offer writing services. I love the validation of seeing my blog name on the screen, and seeing my logo on my business card. I love the feeling of empowerment that establishing a digital home has given me. I’m not vain about it, but I am proud of it. It feels like the emotions I experienced with my children. I knew that they were not solely of my making, but I had a hand in the process, and a mother’s fierce protectiveness toward them and their journey.

Turns out, it was a lot easier, in the short run, to birth a child than to birth a business, at least for me. Or maybe this is still just the incubation phase, the pregnancy phase, and I’m waiting to see the results of three years of thinking, and exploring, and obsessing. And I don’t feel hopeless: just obsessed and curious. Like someone looking on from the outside, I wonder, when will it happen? And what will the story be, when all the pieces come together?

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Too old? Absolutely not!

From a recent article in New Republic:

Silicon Valley has become one of the most ageist places in America. Tech luminaries who otherwise pride themselves on their dedication to meritocracy don’t think twice about deriding the not-actually-old. “Young people are just smarter,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told an audience at Stanford back in 2007. As I write, the website of ServiceNow, a large Santa Clara–based I.T. services company, features the following advisory in large letters atop its “careers” page: “We Want People Who Have Their Best Work Ahead of Them, Not Behind Them.”

And that’s just what gets said in public. An engineer in his forties recently told me about meeting a tech CEO who was trying to acquire his company. “You must be the token graybeard,” said the CEO, who was in his late twenties or early thirties. “I looked at him and said, ‘No, I’m the token grown-up.’ ”

Read the whole thing.

I love the quote. “Token grown-up.” I can’t say that quite describes me, but I understand the mindset.

I’m dabbling in a world that belongs to youth. Or at least that seems to be the not-so-subtle message that frequently goes hand-in-hand with the universe of tech. And some days, when I’ve lost my way, trying to make sense of terminology (have you ever looked at the Google Testing Center site?) and the next link to the next to the next…well, some days I wonder: is it true? Am I just kidding myself that I can create a presence in this world, learning as I go, learning from stumbling and self-support? Oh, I pay for things along the way: books, and an occasional training program or an upgrade for my blog. I do a lot of reading, trying to stay current, trying to figure it all out.

It is overwhelming. But I also know that even if the technology we have today had been available when I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have dived in. Because I was busy with life, and raising kids, and keeping milk in the house.

I’m still busy. But now I have a lot more free time to invest. Life doesn’t revolve around school schedules, or youth group activities. I’m working my own hours, my own pace, for the most part. And while I have plenty of self-doubt to fuel the fires of insecurity, I’ve also had successes to bolster my confidence. And I think I’m not the only one of my age and experience who has freedom and incentive to navigate in the brave new world. I see a lot of people with more than a few years under their belt out in the digital universe.

The truth is, I’m probably more valuable in the work force now than ever before. And I would guess that’s true of a lot of people my age. We don’t have as much pressure at this stage. We’ve seen business booms and corporate cycles, we know the buzz words and the corporate-speak. We know how to read the writing on the wall, and how to get the job done. And while I may not be start-up CEO material, not being a 20-year-old, fortunately, that’s not the role I’m seeking.

I like to think that this is my time to shine, and to be told that my best work is behind me feels like an insult. What happened to all the slogans that say 50 is the new 30? Because the truth is, I’ve known people who were young at 60, and others who were old at 40. Age is as much a function of one’s mental state and physical health as the actual number. And we’ve known that for a long time.

So while I don’t kid myself that I’m a 20-something, hot out of college and feeling my Wheaties, or even a 30 or 40-something, I also know: I have a lot to do yet, and a long way to go. I won’t be the person churning out new inventions of technology, but I’ll be using the methods and the platforms that work for me.

And I’ll be playing nice. I’m not going to show an ageist attitude toward the young people in the tech industry. They have every right to be where they are, and I’m even happy for them to lead the charge. But don’t tell me I’m too old to participate in a meaningful way just because I’m a few decades further along. I’ve only just begun!

 

Community

I’ve found a whole new community in the past few months. I’ve done quite a bit of poking around on the internet (living in Alaska gives you a lot of time, especially during winter months, to sit in front of a computer screen). I’ve read a lot of posts on a lot of websites, and I’m always impressed by the amazing and seemingly endless variety of topics being addressed on line. I think you could google almost any word and find pages and pages of links to visit, whatever the subject.

But since I’ve plunged into the blogosphere, I’m finding new connections and a whole new digital community to explore and get to know. The site I use for my blog, WordPress.com, offers free hosting and a robust array of tools for bloggers. My guess is that most people using the site are like me: recreational writers, using it as an outlet for self expression. I know there are some professional writers using the site’s hosting service as well, and I suppose there is the potential for any writer to move into a professional realm, if there are enough readers and writing talent to support that move. That isn’t necessarily what I aspire to, although it would be an interesting development.

But the unexpected pleasure I’ve found is the ability to meet kindred spirits; to be touched, amused, and inspired by strangers, who, like me, are using this medium to chronicle bits and pieces of life. Just like the web in general, the variety of subjects people blog about is limitless, ranging from the profound to the mundane. I’m continually surprised by the things people notice and then write lengthy posts to describe, or complain about, or celebrate with words. Some writers share their most personal and intense experiences, and others have a gift for elevating some obscure scrap of life to a laugh out loud experience. I love it when I stumble across a post that brings a smile to my face or a nod of recognition: I know exactly what the author means, I couldn’t agree more, I get it…all those affirming phrases that come to mind to validate my discovery of someone who (at least in a specific posting) is just like me! Not that I think being just like me is the epitome of greatness…of course I’m open to others being themselves…maybe the reality is that I am just like them. But there is the human quality in each of us that enjoys the flash of recognition that opinions, emotions, observations are shared. Sometimes I have the “aha” experience of reading someone’s post and realizing they’ve captured some insight that I get too, but hadn’t quite articulated for myself.

As the old saying goes, it’s a brave new world. Sometimes, when I see glimpses of daytime TV, I think there is too much sharing. That’s why I like the internet so much. You can choose to read or skip content. Of course you can turn off the TV, no one if forced to watch programs that give too much information. But I feel a bit more empowered to be selective on line. If I find a blogger whose writing I enjoy, I can easily view earlier posts, I add a link to my blogroll, I can send a comment of appreciation to the author. Without being too personal and while keeping the comfortable distance of real space between all of us, we have the digital ability to reach out and touch, to nurture friendships, to feel safe in our environment, and yet have amazing freedom to explore.

Of course, in a different way, this ability to check out others from a distance is what all the on-line dating sites are all about. I’m not looking to meet a soul mate on line. But I appreciate the opportunity and the serendipitous joy of finding the kindred spirits out there, of broadening my horizon from my living room, and the pleasure of finding another way to experience the human connection that wasn’t possible just a few short years ago. For all the parts of me that are truly old-fashioned…I love old movies, old music, tradition, family values, faith, classics, standards…I love technology too. Thank you Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and all those computer geeks out there who make it possible (here’s a special nod to my brother, Brad) to enjoy the benefits of these inventions without having to understand the mechanics, and thank you to all the companies that through some magic of economics are able to offer services for free and make it possible to participate without financial risk.