BY JEAN MARIE JOHNSON
“She fired me!”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’ve given twenty-five years to that shop and she just…let me go.”
“Said she ‘no longer needed me.’ I’m done. Finished.”
I could understand how she would feel that way. After all, she was 62 years old and had worked in the vintage clothing shop for a quarter of a century. She was seemingly too old for some things – like a “real job”- and too young for others – like Medicare. My friend was nothing short of distraught.
But she wasn’t finished. Far from it!
Fast forward 15 years and this very same friend is well-poised to tell a different story:
“It was really hard. I was scared to death, but SOMEHOW, I made things work.”
She did indeed. At 77 years young, my friend looks back on “Lynda’s Antique Clothing Loft,” the shop in Adams, MA that she opened after being “let go.” With a successful run behind her, she now works at her shop just two days a week – completely by choice. While the early years were difficult and fraught with concern, she slowly developed a loyal following and a solid reputation as a knowledgeable and trustworthy shopkeeper. Over time, however, her niche market’s clientele became smaller as vintage became less in vogue amongst the general population, particularly in her tiny locale.
“How am I going to get more customers?”
“That’s a tough one. What are you thinking?”
She was thinking she’d better take action. First, she engaged her millennial niece, Leah Mulartrick, and opened “Evawagenfish,” an Etsy shop named after Leah’s grandmother, thus creating a worldwide market for her exquisite collection. Lynda was the curator, the one who wrote the descriptions, while her niece was the mastermind behind the technology. Next, she began to cultivate her identity as an antique clothing historian, curator, and lecturer. It made sense. She loved clothing, was well-read in history and had a way of telling a story that included the unforgettable manner in which she “undressed” mannequins in the process. Today, museums and historical societies hire my friend to give lectures, appraise their collections, and catalog their clothing archives. When she calls me while on a hike in the Berkshire mountains, I ask the question.
“When are you going to retire?”
“Who says I have to?”
Lessons from the Reinvention Journey
My friend’s story might have been a sad tale of forced retirement. But because of Lynda’s ingenuity, tenacity, and resourcefulness, it was anything but! Here are lessons to consider when a door closes and you’re faced with what to do next:
Remember that endings are entrées to new beginnings. Life as you know it may be “over” when you find yourself unexpectedly “retired.” This is precisely the time to become “the CEO of You” and begin writing that next chapter.
Work from your core strengths and interests. Your key strengths, interests, and abilities can be channeled in new ways that may never have occurred to you. When you work from these, you stay true to who you are while leveraging what you know and love.
Be willing to adapt. This is where many people get stuck. Lynda is the first to say that she “hates” technology. But that doesn’t stand in the way of her learning what she absolutely needs to know in order to do what she wants to do.
Tap into the expertise of others. Don’t forget that your “tribe” and even the circles in which they move can help and support you. Even better? Do as my friend does: she supports them on their own journeys of reinvention.