Originally posted by the San Antonio Express-News.
By: Richard Marini- firstname.lastname@example.org
A successful school teacher, principal and administrator, Tyra Manning lived for years with a closely guarded secret: In her early 20s she spent eight months in a mental health hospital in Kansas recovering from depression after her husband was killed during the Vietnam War.
Many of those who pursue an encore career — transitioning from one field to another at midlife or later — do so for personal or even spiritual fulfillment. Others out of necessity. Some, like Manning, do it out of a sense of overriding passion.
To tell her story, she published “Where the Water Meets the Sand,” a memoir of her battle with depression and addiction she’d been keeping notes for since 1984.
“The older I get, the more I can see how the treatment I was lucky enough to receive has impacted my life,” she said. “If I hadn’t gotten the help I did, I don’t believe I’d be alive today.”
The book has been her entree to speaking engagements and book readings at hospitals, mental health conferences, schools and organizations such as the Rotary Club and the Daughters of the American Revolution.
“I’m not a therapist but I do encourage people who need it to seek help,” she said of the response she gets from audiences. “I look at what I do as a privilege because it’s so very fulfilling.”
Encore careers like the one the Manning has embarked on are becoming increasingly attractive. According to an Encore.com survey of 1,694 adults ages 50 to 70 in the United States, interest in what are sometimes called “second acts” rose 17 percent from 2011 to 2014.
There are several reasons for this shift. First, baby boomers approaching or already of retirement age, are healthier both mentally and physically than earlier generations. So they’re capable of working longer, too, according to Dorie Clark, author of “Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future.”
“Many who start an encore career are motivated by personal fulfillment,” she said. “They’ve amassed a nest egg, so they’re financially secure. But they don’t feel like retiring completely. They want that second act.”
Sure it’s a cliché, but midlife crises have also been the launching pad for uncountable numbers of encore careers.
“People reach a point when they wonder where they’ve been and where they’re going,” said Hélène Tragos Stelian, who runs the blog Next Act for Women.
She said these sentiments are very common, especially for women as they watch as their kids become more independent and move out of the house, which is exactly what happened to her.
“My twin daughters just left for college, but I’ve spent the last few years thinking about what I wanted to do after an 18-year career as stay-at-home, uber mom,” she said. In addition to launching the blog, Stelian recently finished a life coach training program with a focus on the challenges of women in midlife facing the empty nest.
“At this point in my life, it’s important for me to be able to help others find their purpose,” she said.
Taking a more unusual path, Lori Peery spent the first 20 years of her career in the construction industry, working both in the back office as an architectural drafter and, later, out in the field.
“I wanted to prove how tough I was (as a woman in a male-dominated industry),” she said. While she had to endure “lots of cussing and farting contests,” she enjoyed the work and was never treated unprofessionally.
Eventually, however, she started to feel she no longer fit in with the guys and wasn’t “personally fulfilled” by working construction. She began looking for something different.
“I’d been doing some part-time personal training, and I really loved it,” she said. “So when the opportunity to buy a (9Round Fitness) franchise came up, my husband and I jumped.”
She’s been running the 30-minute kickboxing-centric gym since earlier this year and says she enjoys working with clients to improve their health, fitness and self-esteem. And she doesn’t miss the farting contests at all.
Myra A. Bahme enjoyed a pair of first careers, first as a college professor and later, a financial planner. She’s now on her third, as a semi-retired independent grant writer, helping nonprofits raise money from foundations, government agencies and others by making use of her love of research and writing along with her business acumen.
“I work to keep my mind agile, while also giving something back,” she explained. “I feel that’s one of my responsibilities as a citizen of the world.”
Her encore career also comes with the freedom to throttle back a bit, too. Bahme estimates she works only about 10 hours a week, leaving her plenty of time to enjoy her children, grandbabies and friends, while still working out and playing bridge.
Plus she’s got the financial freedom to pick and choose the clients she wants to work with — and those she doesn’t.
“I feel blessed to have such a fulfilling life at this age,” she said. “I wholeheartedly believe I have found the best of all worlds.”
For many second careerists in their 50s and 60s, however, the change isn’t voluntary.
After years of corporate downsizing, the elimination of traditional pensions, international events and economic calamities, “a lot of people need to continue working,” said Kerry Hannon, a career expert and author of “What’s Next?: Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job.” “They’re afraid of outliving their money.”
Not long after Rick McLaughlin’s partner in their financial services business quit, the company went under, leaving him devastated. Fortunately, he’d previously become involved with the music ministry at a church in Alamo Heights and was taking private voice lessons.
“My wife told me, ‘Go back to school and study music at UTSA and I’ll make a living,’” he said. “I would not be where I am today without her.”
And that’s at San Fernando Cathedral where he serves as director of music. It’s position he has held for nine years and one he describes as “overwhelmingly more fulfilling” than his previous career.
The difference between his two careers, he said, is that in the financial services industry, you helped people to make a living. As a music minister, you make a living to help people.
“You don’t get wealthy in a job like this, but I’m happy,” he said. “Making the switch seemed horrible at the time, but there’s no question it was providential.”
God, he said, was telling him to follow his muse and find his second career.