True Story: I Reinvented Myself at 50

What does midlife reinvention look like? How do you re-imagine your life when your kids move out and your spouse dies in the same year? Click through one woman's incredibly inspiring story of changing your life at midlife!

What does it mean to reinvent yourself and your life at 50? I know sooooo many people who feel trapped in their lives or career and they’re not even 35! I LOVED this interview Judy and I think you will, too.

Tell us a bit about yourself!

Hi! I’m originally a New Yorker, but have lived in Southern New Jersey, right near Philadelphia, for more than 30 years. I just turned 60 this year, a major milestone birthday!

My fun and work are so intertwined. Since retiring from my full-time corporate career five years ago, I spend my days pursuing my passions of blogging and yoga. Half of my time is spent blogging and the other half is spent either teaching yoga or practicing yoga.

Since my life is more flexible now, I also enjoy traveling and dining out to experience new cuisines. I enjoy cooking too and am glad to have more time to spend in the kitchen.

What did your life look like in your 30s and 40s?

In my 30s and 40s, I was working in global communications at Campbell Soup Company. At the time, I was also raising my two children. I have a daughter (she is now in her early 30s) and a son (he is in his late 20s).

Being a working mother was challenging. I was lucky that my husband was a stay-at-home dad, so I had great support at home.

It was demanding, but I liked my job because it was different each day. I worked my way up the corporate ladder, becoming one of the team’s top 350 executives before retiring early at 55.

What happened in 2007 that made you reassess your life?

During my 49th year, I started blogging, before people really knew what blogging was all about. I blogged my countdown to 50, sharing my feelings about reaching this momentous age.

Blogging was an easy way to capture my experiences at midlife. I really didn’t think anyone would follow my blog, but they did. The local newspaper wrote about my blog and started sharing some of my posts on their website.

Unfortunately, half-way through 2007, my husband took ill after a blood clot following surgery to correct a heart flutter. He was in intensive and long-term care for almost six months and never fully recovered. He passed away two weeks shy of my 50th birthday.

During his illness, my blog took on new meaning and my virtual readers became my support network. Each night, their comments of support would comfort me when I would turn on my computer after visiting my husband in the hospital.

My readers wanted to know what was going to happen to me after losing my spouse and emptying out my nest (my daughter graduated from college and went to work in NYC and my son graduated from high school and left for college). So I started a new blog, A Baby Boomer Woman’s Life After 50, to share my transformation story.

Could you walk us through all the changes you made?

If I were to write a book about my transformation it would be called “From Loneliness to Loveliness.”

I was very lonely in the beginning. I had gone from being married for 24 years and having children at home to living on my own. I still had my job but started to re-evaluate my career and my life outside of work.

I sought help from a therapist and life coach. She asked great questions that made me think differently about my future. She encouraged me to study mindfulness meditation.

I completed a mindfulness meditation course at University of Pennsylvania. After finishing the 6-week program and incorporating the skills into my everyday life, I began to see a change.

At the same time, I started practicing yoga. I loved yoga even more than mindfulness because it was a moving meditation and had additional physical, mental and spiritual benefits. I enjoyed it so much that I decided I wanted to learn more about yoga.

I wasn’t sure at that point if I wanted to teach yoga, but I knew I wanted to learn more to improve my own practice. So I researched trainings and enrolled in a YTT, 200-hour certification program at Lourdes Institute of Wholistic Studies.

It took me about 18 months with weekend classes, observations, and student teaching to complete my studies. Once I earned my certification, I knew I wanted to teach. I wanted to share the benefits of yoga with others.

What does midlife reinvention look like? How do you re-imagine your life when your kids move out and your spouse dies in the same year? Click through one woman's incredibly inspiring story of changing your life at midlife!

Judy’s last day at Campbell’s

How long did it take to get from “Okay, I think I’m going to do this” to “Here I am!”

After losing my spouse at such a young age, it made me realize how precious and short life is and why we must live it to the fullest every day, every moment. I knew in my heart that there are so many things I want to do during my second act and I wanted more flexibility to do those things.

Plus, I was becoming restless at my full-time job. I had spent three decades in a very dynamic and fast-paced career — I needed to physically and mentally slow down.  

Thankfully, through good financial planning I was able to retire early. I reviewed my budget each month, evaluating my spending to make sure I could afford my new lifestyle.

I will admit, it was challenging at first to lose my corporate identity and not get a weekly paycheck. Even more, being a fashionista, it felt strange at first to put on activewear each day instead of skirts and heels. (I began to save big time on dry-cleaning bills and clothing purchases.)

Being a Type-A person, the first year out, I was still trying to keep up the pace of my former life – keeping my days so busy that I didn’t have time to relax. With time, and through my meditation and yoga studies, I changed my daily rhythm  from constantly doing, doing, doing, to more time just being.

I made some other lifestyle changes along the way. I sold my house and right-sized to a townhouse so I no longer had to worry about taking care of large landscaping or other household chores.

I bought a small condo at the Jersey shore. I always loved the ocean since I was a kid. It’s a small condo, but I enjoy spending summer weekends there. The ocean is a great place to stop, breathe and be.

I knew I wanted companionship post-50 and met a new partner through online dating. It was scary at first to date after being married for so long. My boyfriend L and I have been together for nine years.

Now that I’m 60, I think it took a full decade to become the new me. The first five years were about discovering who I was and wanted to be and developing a plan for my post 50 life. The second half of my 50s was about executing that plan. (Ooh, doesn’t that sound so corporate? Only this time the strategic plan was all about me!)

How did the people in your life react to all these changes?

My family and friends were very supportive of my changes. No one doubted my decision to retire early. If anything, they knew how hard I had worked for so many years and felt it was time to slow down and reap the benefits.

What does your day-to-day life look like now?

Today, my days are very different. I still set an alarm – but instead of waking up at 5:30 a.m., I wake up at 7:30 a.m. I exercise more – almost every week day.

I spend my mornings reading The New York Times (I’m an avid fan), going to yoga classes or teaching yoga. I haven’t committed to a full-time yoga instructor position, I am a sub or do short-term classes, so I can remain flexible if I want to travel.

Speaking of travel, because I have more flexibility I can do more traveling – both for my blog or just on my own. I spend afternoons blogging and sharing what I’ve learned with my readers – whether it’s about interesting articles I’ve read, places I’ve been or events I’ve attended.

I don’t work during the evenings. They are for relaxing now, spending time with my boyfriend or my family and friends.

My flexible schedule allows me time to visit my adult children. My daughter now lives in Minneapolis and my son is in New York City.

What does midlife reinvention look like? How do you re-imagine your life when your kids move out and your spouse dies in the same year? Click through one woman's incredibly inspiring story of changing your life at midlife!

Judy and her kids

What do you think your 35-year-old self would say if she saw your life today?

I think she would be happy for me. She would be proud of the new me who has created a more balanced life – someone who is taking care of herself, while still giving, sharing, and caring for others.

What tools, books, websites, resources have helped you navigate this?

I worked with AARP when they launched their “Life Reimagined” Campaign. There’s a book that goes along with the program. I thought their tools for reinventing your life were helpful.

What have you learned from this that ANY of us could apply to our daily lives?

The biggest “ah ha” moment for me was around my yoga and mindfulness – how important it is to fully embrace the present moment.

You cannot change the past nor can you predict the future. Learn how to bring joy to the now. Click To Tweet Focus on what brings you joy in each moment and enjoy it!

And most of all, when you get stressed, take time to “stop, breathe, and be.”

Thank you so much for sharing your story, Judy! Do you have any questions for her? Have any of you made huge life changes ‘later’ than usual? 

P.S. You’re allowed to change (and people who love you will let you) 

12 Comments

Halina

What a great story! Thank you for sharing that, Judy. I agree that there is no perfect time to re-evaluate our lives. I’m in my mid 40s and I’m doing it right now. I left one job and am trying to decide which direction to go. It’s a little scary, being in this limbo, but it’s also exhilarating as I work on figuring it out.

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Simone

Love this interview! Judy, thank you for sharing. It is inspiring how you have built a life you love. I am currently in the corporate world and hope to leave that behind eventually. So many people work in their initial career until their 60s or 70s, and I really want to follow your footsteps into a more balanced life before classical retirement age.

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Judy Costanzo-Cochrane

Excellent Read, Judy, and I am sharing with my friends. So happy for you and proud of you, my former Campbell’s Co-worker. Be happy and thanks for sharing with us your story. You are a true inspiration.

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Suzanne Fluhr

Thanks for sharing your story, Judy. I admire the purposefulness and intention with which you reimagined and launched your second act.

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Anonymous

Judy, you are smart and brave to take a new path. This is very inspiring!

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Judy Freedman

Thank you to those who commented about my interview. I so glad I can be an inspiration to others. Go for your dreams and find your joy. It’s so worth it!

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