It's NEVER too late to reinvent yourself
or to follow your dreams
During the Great Depression, my grandmother was forced to drop out of high school to support her family. Her budding career as a concert pianist was torn away from her when her piano was sold. She was hired as a waitress at the world-famous Schraff’s (which recently made a comeback), and with her income, she kept her family afloat. For the next fifty year, my grandmother did little for herself. She went from supporting her parents and brothers to taking care of her husband and children. Then, at the age of 74, after my grandfather had passed away, she decided to go back to school. She took and passed her GED and went on to graduate from Queens College, phi betta kappa, at 78.
Recently, I saw a thread on “threads” that got me thinking about reinvention. Someone feeling down was asking people to share stories of success after the age of 35. The list was long and inspiring and got me thinking of my own path of reinvention and the people in my life who inspired it.
Back when I was a kid, they called a man of many interests a “Renaissance Man.” There wasn’t a similar term for women, but I certainly have Renaissance parents. My mom began her career as an educator and has continued to be an educator her entire life (other than a detour into interior decoration where she lost money because she kept making friends with her clients and felt bad charging them), but what that has meant varied greatly. Before I was born, she was a kindergarten teacher in Brownsville, Brooklyn. When I was one, she taught ethics to medical students in St. Louis. She was a Hebrew school teacher and then a principal at some of the largest Hebrew schools in New York City. When I was in high school, she went back to school for a masters in Theology (she already had a PhD in Medical Ethics), and then went on to teach theology at Fordham and at a rabbinic academy. About 20 years ago, she co-founded the Hudson Valley Museum of Contemporary Art in Peekskill, NY, where she is now the director. True to her roots, the museum has robust education program, especially with the local public schools. Phew!
My dad is an Oncologist and serious art collector. When he retired from medicine about 15 years ago, he turned his passion for art into his career, opening Marc Straus gallery on the Lower East Side. He co-founded the museum with my mother and is a widely published poet, playwright and author. His recently published memoire, One-Legged Mongoose, was an Amazon #1 Best-Seller in its category.
My brother, a consultant and entrepreneur, turned his passion for speed into a career as a race car driver and co-founded the Monticello Motor Club in New York. He and his wife, Molly, recently got approval to build P1 Motor Club in Florida. They are groundbreaking this year. My cousin Rachel is highly sought after research Oncologist. She helped bring a Nobel-prize winning drug to market and is lead singer in “The World’s Brainiest Band.” Her younger sister, Rebecca, has now retired twice, once at about 35 from a major marketing role to help found a clean cosmetics brand, and again, this year. Now 60 (ish) going on 30 (ish), she’s deciding what to do next. She’s a talented artist and an accomplished athlete—the answer is, whatever she wants.
I could go on….
It’s no wonder I’ve never been able to sit still. Reinvention is in my blood.
In high school, I was sure I would do something in the arts. I painted, drew, sang (I trained in opera), and also did some amateur body-building with my brother (He competed. I did not). Somehow (to no one’s surprise but my own), I ended up in law school. Most lawyers pick a subject and stick with it. Not me. I started as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse prosecutor in the Bronx. Then I went in-house, specializing in employment. Throughout my in-house career, I moved through transactions, regulatory law, process optimization and finally took a position as General Counsel with my current company, where I get to use many of these skills. For many years, I continued to sing with a professional chorus (until I had kids and getting to rehearsals in NYC from our home upstate got too difficult). After I left the DA’s office, I got more serious about writing. In 2006, I published my true-crime memoire, Bronx DA, which sold as a TV pilot to CBS/Paramount in 2010. For years after, I worked as a talking head, discussing true crime cases on tv and radio. And then, in 2022, I published my first work of science-fiction, ReInception, which is book one of a trilogy. Now, in addition to writing and my work as an attorney, I am loving the sci-fi panel circuit and appearing on bookish podcasts. I’m trying my hand at a thriller.
Moving around careers used to be frowned upon. Any time I interviewed for a new role, I had a lot of explaining to do. Now, we call it “Portfolio Careers.” I call it, finding joy. Life is too long and you spend too many hours of it working to not do what you love. If you love learning, if you find joy in change, if you want to try something new, I say go for it. If you’re brave, be an entrepreneur. If you are a bit more fiscally conservative, like me, keep your paying job (which you hopefully enjoy as I do the law), while you pursue your passion.
If my grandma can reinvent herself at 78, you can do it too!
Want to Know More?
I enjoyed this piece about fulfillment and work life balance
And if you want to eat at Schraff’s…
You can follow the restaurant and their plans to open a new flagship in NYC here: https://schraffts.com
And to the masterminds behind the reopening, I’m sorry about my grandma picking the raisins out of the apple pies.
Only 2 reviews of ReInception to go!!
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