|BWS Stories - "If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves|
"If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves - Learning Later, Living Greater: The Story of a Late Bloomer Boomer
Nancy Merz Nordstrom, M. Ed., is the author of Learning Later, Living Greater: The Secret
for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years, published by Sentient
Publications in Boulder, Colorado.
Nancy blogs and writes columns for several online sites
that focus on adults over the age of 50.
These sites include www.eons.com
and www.growingbolder.com. She
maintains a web site at www.learninglater.com that provides
information for the general public.
Learning Later, Living Greater: The Story of a Late Bloomer Boomer
Follow your bliss! At
age 63, I never thought I’d be living these famous words by Joseph
Campbell. But when I realize that I’m
doing the work I love and sharing my life with a wonderful man - well, to me that’s bliss!
As a first-time author, I guess you could say my whole life set
the stage for the point that I’ve now reached. It’s been hard, and there were times when I wondered what I was
doing. But I kept going. Now, looking back it’s easy to see how it all
came about, but at the time…
I married my high school sweetheart; we had four children,
and a nice, normal life, complete with its ups and downs. Once our children were school-age I went to work
as a secretary, but my main focus was always the family. Then in our 40’s, my husband and I began
making plans for the future.
How does that old maxim go? Life is what happens when you’re
making other plans, or something like that. Well, our plans for the future came to an abrupt halt early on a warm
August morning in 1993, when I found my 48 year-old husband dead of a heart
The shock and grief kept me in a kind of fog for several
years. I tried all the usual routes for
coming to terms with his death – grief therapy, life counseling, immersing
myself in work, but nothing seemed to help put the pieces of my life back
together or help me wrestle with the idea of no longer being part of a
twosome. As someone who was raised to
believe that a woman’s primary role in life should be wife and mother, the loss
of that role was a huge adjustment and one that did not come easy.
Slowly, however, the fog began to lift. As I struggled for a way out of my grief I began
stepping outside my comfort zone, no easy task.
First, I began attending workshops, support groups,
conferences and weekend getaways, all run by and for women. Every event I attended
gave me the opportunity to bond with other women, to express myself through
creativity and discussion. I
fully expected that this would be my life from now on, and threw myself
completely into this wonderfully supportive environment. The work I’ve done over the years with
women’s groups has been a powerful cathartic for me.
Next, I found myself thinking about travel. What I had noticed, much to my dismay, was
that ads for travel and vacations all placed heavy emphasis on “couple-hood.” It was very off-putting, especially for
someone who was still trying to come to terms with her new status as a single
One day I came across an ad in a women’s newspaper for
educational travel programs – programs where single women could feel safe and
included. Since I loved the story of Heidi as a child, I decided on a trip to
the Austrian and Italian Alps.
Except for some overnight stays in New England B&B’s, I
had never traveled alone, much less outside the U.S. I didn’t even have a passport! So this decision was another very big step
outside my comfort zone. Little did I
know at the time where taking that step would lead.
Off I went to Austria
and had a fabulous time. While in Austria we attended lectures at the University of Innsbruck, and I found I loved being
back in the classroom. That experience, combined
with all the women’s workshops and programs I had been taking back home,
solidified the thought that had been lurking in the back of my mind, under my
grief, the idea of going back to school.
So, in the fall of 1996, at age 51, I took another big step
and entered Cambridge
College. What an environment! It was stimulating, invigorating, almost a
fountain-of-youth for me, and it literally turned my life around. I emerged six semesters later, in 1998, with
a Masters of Education degree. My focus
was adult education and psychology as I saw first-hand the power of adult
education and what it was doing for me as a mature adult. I realized what I really wanted was to work
in some kind of venue that promoted adult education, especially for older
adults. While I was trying to decide how to use my brand new
diploma, I continued working as the Assistant to the President of an old,
historic Boston-area institution. While
at this job, I met a gentle, caring man and we became friends. Our friendship was a direct result of yet
another step outside my comfort zone.
In the years following my husband’s death, I had become a
fan of the TV program – Star Trek: The
Next Generation. For Valentine’s Day
my kids had given me a huge poster from the show with a Valentine theme. Deciding to put it up on my office wall was
not easy. Would people think I was
nuts? But I did it anyway, and that led
to the connection with my co-worker as he too was a fan of the same program.
From there our friendship slowly developed and we were
married on a hilltop overlooking the Boston
skyline in September of 2000. I was 55
years old. Walking down the aisle again
had never entered into my new life equation.
But surprise! There’s that old
maxim again – Life is what happens when
you’re making other plans. How
Early in 1999, I had taken yet another, seemingly small step,
but one that would lead to even more change. I put an ad in my local neighborhood paper looking for women to form a
walking group. Struggling with my own
weight, I needed walking support and what better way than by gathering a group
of women together? That ad drew a nice
response and we were off!
In talking with the group as we walked, I found out that one
of the women worked for an organization called Elderhostel, Inc., that provided
educational travel programs for older adults. She mentioned a job opening that was coming up. One thing led to another and at the end of
August, 1999, I went to work for Elderhostel and found my perfect job. For the next five years, from their headquarters in Boston, I directed the Elderhostel Institute Network
(EIN), North America’s largest educational
network for older adults. Different from
Elderhostel’s regular type of educational travel programming, EIN helps start
new lifelong learning institutes or learning in retirement programs, for older
learners at local colleges, universities, retirement communities and other
We also provide resources to all these programs, help
organize regional conferences, and promote communication between all the
programs. Today we have over 380
programs affiliated with EIN. It is a
stimulating and enriching job that feeds my soul and helps me feel as if I have
fulfilled my educational goals.
In 2004 my husband and I left Boston
and moved to New Hampshire,
but I have continued my work with Elderhostel, working from home. In 2004 I also seriously began thinking about
an idea which had been lurking in the back of my mind for sometime – writing a
book about lifelong learning for older adults.
So, once again I took a step outside my comfort zone, and after
a lot of hard work, in the early fall of 2006, “Learning Later, Living Greater:
The Secret for Making the Most of Your After-50 Years,” became a reality when
it was published by Sentient Publications in Boulder, Colorado.
It seemed to me they were a perfect
match for the book, which is a kind of “transformative, holistic approach to
fostering human potential” in one’s later years, as their web site says. It was, after all, conceived and written to
inform the Baby Boomers and others about the value lifelong learning can bring
to their later years. A user-friendly,
easy, breezy read, a kind of guidebook for the After-50 years, the title really
says it all.
So here I am today, just about two
years later, and the book is still selling. I’m busy marketing it any way I can; radio interviews, TV shows, press
releases, the Internet, speaking engagements, you name it. Today, unless authors are very well known
they also have to be marketers.
I feel truly blessed and
grateful. I’ve got a wonderful family, three
gorgeous grandchildren, a terrific and supportive husband, and work about which
I feel very passionate. Not bad for a
late bloomer Boomer!