In the lead up to my 50th birthday, I was hit with some major life-quakes that threw me for six. I moved countries, my mum got sick and died, I got divorced and both my kids left home. A combined ‘solid ten’ on the Richter scale of consequence. The foundation of my life, my identity, my security, my emotions and my self worth were all upended. I found myself stranded in this liminal space between two chapters of life. A part of me was still pining for the familiarity and security that had warmed my world for the past twenty years and another part of me felt liberated and excited by the infinite possibilities of all the ‘unknowns’ that lay ahead. I knew I wasn’t in the market for sensible, beige or elasticised anything…and yet the image of society that was reflected back at me was totally at odds with how I felt.
My response to this midlife conundrum was to give myself a year to reset and reboot. I created my own midlife rite of passage and took off on what I called my Golden Gap Year. It was a (pre-covid) 12-month solo around the world adventure where I trekked in Bhutan, rode a bike from Prague to Budapest, walked the Camino Pilgrimage, sailed in the Greek Islands and turned 50 in New York. While I was travelling and researching my first book, I came across The Modern Elder Academy (MEA) and I was instantly intrigued.
MEA is the world’s first midlife wisdom school. It’s the brainchild of New York Times best-selling author and hospitality maverick Chip Conley, who founded the second largest chain of boutique hotels in the USA and then went on to help the founders of Airbnb disrupt the hospitality industry to create the world’s most valuable hospitality brand. MEA run workshops that help to reframe our mindset on ageing and adopt an “it’s never too late “ approach to life.
When I got back from my Golden Gap, I enrolled in MEA’s 8-week online course Navigating Midlife Transitions and it was everything I didn’t know I needed. It offered me tools to help reimagine a new storyline for the second half of life… one that didn’t assign decline and decrepitude as the avatars of ageing. It was the perfect balance of head and heart. It offered a rigorous curriculum but one that’s overlaid with this genuine sense of soul and wisdom.
The added bonus was that I connected with a group of like-minded, curious ‘modern elders’ with whom I am now working to help launch MEAx in the Australian market. The team behind MEAx are living proof that it’s never too late to start something new. Between them, they have launched new businesses, learnt new languages, climbed mountains, written books and taken up surfing, all in the second half of life. Tradition might expect us to be winding down, but I for one, feel like I’m just getting started. As Chip Conley says; “Life is no longer a one tank journey. MEA is an important pit stop, where you cultivate and harvest your wisdom, refuel your confidence levels and create a life that is as deep and meaningful as it is long.”