Still dreaming those big dreams?

I wonder if other people remember the content from graduation speeches. One line stays with me from the commencement ceremony for my graduate program. I was barely 40 then, on the cusp of huge changes in my life—unaware of what was coming.

The director of my writing school, acclaimed author of many books, gave a speech. She said that after her own graduation, it took her twenty years to publish her first novel. Since she is the author of two New York Times Notable books, this admission surprised me. And I pledged then, under my breath, that this would not happen to me. I’d already published a book of nonfiction and armed with two years of studying the craft of fiction, I would write a novel immediately.

Life intervenes

And I did begin the novel then, even finished a fledgling draft before my divorce. Before I became a single mom of two teens. Before I lost three close family members within two years. Before I dusted off my resume to reenter the corporate world and rebuild a career in marketing.

Who can write during times like these? I might have said to myself then. I was too busy keeping my head above the waters of grief, work, and motherhood. I set the dream of the novel aside.

I picked it up again a couple years ago, embarked on a gigantic revision, gave it to a handful of readers, and subsequently revised it all over again.

Fifteen years since graduating from my MFA program, I completed my novel and found a literary agent to represent me. This is a first step, and no guarantee of a published novel, but I’m thrilled (perhaps more so) because of those fifteen years. I hold the director of my school and her graduation speech in a new, understanding light.

Mosaic over straight lines

I recently hosted two writer friends from that school for a long weekend. They too have returned to large projects after many years. We’re all in our 50s, feeling renewed vigor for creative work which, for a host of very good reasons, could not be completed before now.

I decided to turn to Green Calling’s survey data in writing this piece, to see how 300 midlife women respondents (as of today) felt about this topic. Nearly 30 percent report feeling frustrated for “not having pursued a lifelong goal or interest and time is short.” If this is you, like it was me, take heart.

Women’s careers, especially for those who’ve raised children, often bloom again in midlife. The dreams resurface, even haunt, when suddenly there is more time and space for them. Listen. Set the table with your nicest linens and crystal. Entertain your dreams again, friend. They’re waiting for you, whispering. Maybe singing. Listen.

🌿 🌿 🌿

If this post stirred a dream you’ve set aside, I’d love to hear about it. Send me an email and I will write back.

Sometimes our dreams are known to us, and other times, we’re not sure what life wants of us. If this sounds familiar, you might be interested in an online course I created a couple years ago called Figuring Out What’s Next. I wrote it specifically for midlife women; it incorporates meditation, reflection, and a host of heart-opening tips to shake loose those forgotten (not lost!) dreams. I will be listing it on this week, and registration is open.

Published by Lisa

Writer, observer of culture, careful listener, & founder of

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