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    Good-bye, Perfect Job! Hello, Perfect Life!

    Excerpted from
    Thinking About Tomorrow: Reinventing Yourself at Midlife
    By Susan Crandell

    "You have the perfect job." That's what someone says to me on a sunny spring morning in New York's Central Park, where we are about to stage the world's first marathon for women over forty. "It must be so much fun being the editor in chief of a magazine." She's right; it is an amazing job, offering tremendous creative freedom. What my colleague doesn't realize is that just a few weeks earlier I quit my job and am now serving out my final few lame-duck weeks. Having reinvented my life, I am living in the tender, scary limbo land between before and after. Her innocent comment sends a chill through me.

    The More Magazine Marathon is one of the rich rewards of the job I've just given up. The publishing director and I cooked up the concept over cappuccinos one morning a year ago. Now, on an unseasonably balmy March day, the race is turning out to be a huge success, with more than twenty-six hundred women registered to run. Multiple TV crews are here, pointing their cameras at me. For a second, I think, What on earth have I done? I have ditched a glamorous job as top editor of More, a magazine edited for women in their forties and fifties, a position that had me chatting with Diane Sawyer on national television, lunching with Jamie Lee Curtis, taking a Learjet cross-country with Meryl Streep, and inventing exciting programs like the marathon.

    Here's how glamorous my new life will be: I'll make a rapid descent from the top to the bottom of the food chain. As a freelance writer, plankton of the magazine publishing world, I'll be at the beck and call of the very editors who used to call me "boss." I'll give up my power-suit wardrobe to sit at home in a T-shirt and yoga pants, typing away at my laptop. Replacing the Midtown Manhattan skyscrapers outside my office window will be a view of woodchucks waddling around on our lawn. The only place I'll be seeing Meryl or Jamie is on the screen at the local Cineplex.

    Hold on, I think, as the race gets under way. Is it too late to go to my boss and say, "Only joking"? My stomach clenches as I wonder if I've made the biggest mistake of my life.

    That morning in Central Park was neither the first nor the last time I second-guessed my decision to leave the magazine and retool my career. Thank goodness I managed to ignore the panicked chatter in my head and listen to a deeper voice that told me it was time to go. Bailing out of a standard-issue job turned out to be the best career decision I ever made.

    Ironically, the very fact that my job was so great made me able to give it up. It was hard to imagine a more desirable job, but I could certainly imagine a better life. Fixing my life didn't mean finding another position; it meant finding a different way to work. I was exhausted by twenty-five years of three-and-a-half-hour daily commutes from my home in the Hudson Highlands to my office in New York City. Too many nights, I lay awake worrying about whether the high-strung A-list celebrity we'd wooed to appear on our cover would throw a tantrum and storm out of the photo shoot. I yearned to spend more time with Steve, my husband of twenty-six years. He'd beat cancer three times, and I didn't want to wake up one morning and realize I'd squandered precious hours I could have spent with him attending some budget meeting. I wanted to be able to knock off work at three on a sunny summer afternoon and jump on my bike.

    Three weeks after the marathon, on an overcast Friday in April 2004, I packed up my Palm Pilot and the wallful of model airplanes Steve had built, hugged everybody in sight, and climbed on the train as a commuter for the very last time. There was a tear in my eye, but a gleam there, too. Where would this adventure lead me?

    Reinventing Midlife, One Life at a Time

    As the 5:46 whisked me north along the Hudson River toward a future that had yet to unfold, I knew one thing: I was in very good company. By quitting my job and revamping my career at fifty-two, I was joining a mass movement of baby boomers who are refusing to go quietly into middle age. Instead of ceding center stage to our kids and letting our own lives wind down, we are making our forties and fifties the most challenging, rewarding years yet.

    Following our hearts and acting alone, one by one, across America, we boomers are creating a social revolution that is utterly transforming the concept of midlife. We are having babies, launching businesses, joining the Peace Corps, going back to school.

    Along the way, we are reinventing midlife itself. We have reenergized the very words we use to describe ourselves. We're not middle-aged, oh no, not us. We're midlifers, a slicker, hipper alternative. There is a dawning recognition among us that these are the wonder years, the time when we can finally seek our heart's desire, move to a backbeat that comes straight from our soul.

    Seventy-seven million strong, ours is the biggest, richest generation in history, and many of us have more leisure time than ever before. We have more money and better resources to implement our dreams. Most important of all, we know our own minds. We are happier and more confident than we were in our twenties and thirties. We know what we want and we aren't afraid to go after it.

    The Good Stuff Is in the Middle

    We may not be young, but we sure aren't old. To our happy surprise, we've found ourselves at this magical place in the center of our life span when we're healthy, wealthy (well, at least richer than we've ever been), and wise. At More, which was aimed at women in their forties and fifties, we used the Oreo cookie as a metaphor: The good stuff is in the middle. Yes, one day we will face the ravages of aging. But right now, in our middle years, life is sweet with possibilities: We can fulfill long-held dreams, or conjure up brand-new ones. We can travel, learn amazing things, even run marathons.

    We're bullish because while we may be teetering at life's midpoint, we feel younger than our age. Many of us are late-blooming athletes, the fittest we've ever been. Ours is the healthiest generation at midlife ever. Heart disease and cancer deaths are down, and we're getting a better handle on how to treat chronic conditions such as diabetes. A record number of us will live to be centenarians. Boomers are rushing to the gym in unprecedented numbers, and we're flooding hiking paths, ski trails, and biking routes.

    Our generation has always known how to dream big. In the 1960s, we climbed on buses and headed south to join the fight for civil rights. In the '70s, we formed consciousness-raising groups and battled for women's rights in the workplace. We registered African American voters. We swarmed the Democratic convention to protest the Vietnam War. We stormed comer offices and persuaded corporate America to make room for women executives. In short, we were on the scene at the great social revolutions of the twentieth century.

    A New Generation of Life Entrepreneurs

    Today we're fomenting another social revolution, the first of the new millennium. This time, it's a quiet revolution, an underground movement. We're not protesting in Washington or legislating change. This time, our activism comes via private rather than public actions-through the life choices we make. We're taking vibrant new directions that say to the world. We're having the time of our lives! Our generation is teeming with people who approach their forties and fifties with creativity and courage. These men and women are shining a true entrepreneurial spirit on their lives.

    It's a trickle-up revolution, where as life changes multiply, a new credo is spreading. This is our belief:

    There are no rules for how we behave at forty-two or fifty-nine. We will decide what is right and appropriate for us. We will take chances, we will seek out or create jobs that fulfill us, volunteer work that sustains us, family and friends who nourish us. We are not marching through prepackaged decades, checking them off on some master life list. We are making it up as we go along. Sometimes we will exhibit the playfulness of a twenty-year-old; sometimes, the wisdom of an octogenarian. If we're lucky, occasionally both. We are the CEOs of our own lives, the architects of our future.

    That's the sassy, new sky's-the-limit approach to midlife. After sitting ringside as editor of More for six years, watching the women in our audience experiment with their lives to great success, I finally found the courage to shake up my own life. Part of the charter I set for my new career was to look more deeply into this amazing phenomenon of reinvention.

    I resolved to explore this social revolution more fully. I knew women were becoming the mothers of reinvention. But were men writing new scripts for themselves, too? I wanted to find out. Were they boldly launching new lives? The answer is a resounding yes.

    As I talked to men and women across the United States, a phrase popped into my mind: Life Entrepreneur. That's exactly what these people are, with their heady idea for a richer, fuller future, and the ingenuity and smarts to pull it off. Stirring together a recipe that reads one part imagination, one part pluck, they are entrepreneurs playing on the biggest stage of all: their lives.

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