There are clues in all of our lives that point to what will bring us joy in our own ‘second act’.– Julia Cameron
Maybe you’re looking at a career change. Or maybe you’ve been laid off. Maybe your marriage has come to an end. Or your kids are leaving the nest. Maybe caregiving or illness has changed the trajectory you’d imagined for your life.
Or maybe you’re simply feeling restless and wondering “Is there something else I should be doing with my life?”
Author Julia Cameron believes the changes and shifts that happen at midlife and into retirement can be a perfect environment to explore questions of history and meaning, and discover fresh purpose. “We often find that our life experience serves us very well,” Cameron writes in It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond. “We have learned patience. We are able to see the long game. We are able to identify expertise and seek out those who can help us find efficient routes to our goals. And, no matter our age, the thrill of beginning something new is universal.”
Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, a modern classic on the topic of creativity, gently coaches her readers in Never Too Late on how to tap into their unique experience and gifting via a twelve-week memoir-crafting exercise. The exercises aren’t about writing a best-seller, but about the process of reflection and discovery. To that end, Cameron also prescribes both weekly Artist’s Dates – a planned “date” with yourself in order to interact with the specific focus of each week’s writing exercises – and time each day spent simply taking a walk.
Each week, there is a focus on a different writing theme tied to reflection on a life-stage a reader has already lived, with a goal of rediscovering components of a creative, curious life including wonder, freedom, resilience, and adventure.
For example, the chapter exploring the theme of honesty opens with a reflection about the way we learn to perform in order to meet the expectations of others. The reflection questions for the week’s writing exercises focus on young adulthood include prompts such as “Describe your major relationships in this period”, “Describe one strong opinion you held during this period”, and “What was a source of frustration for you during this time?”. She continues with some coaching about how self-doubt impacts our growth in personal honesty, and drives creative expression into the shadows, along with an assessment of the gaslighting “crazymakers” who attempt to sabotage us. The chapter concludes with a discussion about anger, and a few additional writing prompts designed to help you name and write about the thing about which you’re most angry at this point in your life. Each chapter concludes with a set of check-in questions to help you assess how you’re doing on this twelve-week journey.
Though Cameron isn’t writing for a traditional Christian audience, I believe maturing midlife Christians would find going through Never Too Late a very worthwhile experience. Some of us are “trained” in our young spiritual lives to avoid spending much time in self-reflection, considering it self-indulgent. But the kind of reflection Cameron calls for is about growing in self-understanding of the kind that should help us love God, others, and ourselves more authentically as we move into the final act of our lives. I believe this would be an excellent tool for individuals, and would be even more powerful if two or three people committed to go through the book simultaneously, checking in each week to apprise one another of their progress and maintain accountability. If you decide to do so, or if you’ve already gone through the book, we’d love to hear about your experience!