It's 3:00 a.m. and I'm wide awake in a hotel room in Oklahoma City, finishing the final details on the book you are about to read. Why am I in Oklahoma City? I'm asking myself the same question. Technically, I'm location scouting for an upcoming indie project I'm producing. Yes, at my age. I just wrapped the first season of my show Carol's Second Act the night before and I'm sick as a dog. I had to skip the wrap party to go home and pack, hop on an early flight, and I've just spent the day fruitlessly searching for a house to shoot the movie in. We're less than three weeks out from principal photography and we still don't have our lead actor. What on earth was I thinking?
Timing is everything and it just so happens that the opportunity to independently produce a film didn't come about until now in my sixties. Shouldn't I be relaxing by a pool, hanging out on a golf course, or sitting in a beachside cabana playing canasta with the gals? (I don't know what canasta is but I think ladies in their sixties play it.) It's tempting. But we've had this script for at least ten years and it's now or never—I'm not getting any younger. It's not time to wind down yet, it's time to press on. So on top of my other commitments, here I am throwing myself into the deep end once again—care to join me? I'm embarking on my second act.
All growth comes with a level of pain; I'm feeling it and I'm sure you've felt it at times, too. But somewhere down in the depths of my soul, I must enjoy this. There's a certain excitement in the terror of the unknown. It's kind of what actors thrive on. And so it is with me. I don't feel like I know what I'm doing at this juncture but I'm certainly willing to learn. I'm fortunate to have a team of very talented and dedicated young people around me who somehow just get things done. My challenge is to keep my focus in the right place—not on the result, but on each step in front of me.
The good news: I know I'm not alone in this madness of second act growing pains. There are countless people in the world right now finding drive, purpose, and passionately reinventing themselves in all kinds of beautiful ways. I've found tremendous inspiration from the people you are about to meet in this book. Their strength, commitment, and willingness to step out in faith and desperation—all inspire me in ways I was not expecting when I started this project. I mean, I thought a book about second acts would be a good idea at first and I wanted to inspire others. I just had no idea how much I would be personally impacted through this process.
You see, this book is a by-product of my own personal transition in life. You'll read more about my story in the first few chapters, but as I was setting out on my own second act journey, I wondered about the stories of others and what made them decide to leap into the unchartered territory of reinvention. I thought about all the misconceptions that come with getting older and the questions I had in my own heart—is it too late? Am I too old? Am I too crazy? (Don't answer that.) But beyond the questions in my heart, there were dreams. Dreams and desires I had placed on hold because of whatever pressing thing in the moment that was taking my time—motherhood and family, my career, life. I couldn't let go of those things that were sitting on the sidelines of my heart, I had to bring them to pass. And that is what a second act is all about.
Second acts can be by choice: a new career, an artistic expression, a mentoring opportunity; or they can be due to a change in circumstance: a divorce, the death of a loved one, a layoff, or the empty nest. Second acts can be about self-fulfillment and they can be about service to others. Your second act is your call. It's personal to you. It's your path and your journey.
As I talked to my friends who have already transitioned into their own second acts, and began collecting stories for this project, I realized there is so much to glean from others' experiences. I have personally found new strength and determination as a result. This is my hope for you, too. As you read, don't let yourself become a passive observer. We do that all too often nowadays. Instead, look for yourself in these stories. Find common hopes, dreams, and fears to connect with. Let the strength you read about in these pages become your strength. Let the creativity and resolve connect with the creativity and resolve in your own heart.
My greatest desire for this project is to empower you on the next steps of your journey in this life—to find meaning, purpose, hope, and fulfillment on the adventure that awaits you—the adventure that is Your Second Act.
IN THE BEGINNING: MY FIRST ACT
Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. —Helen Keller
Bread, booze, and burrata. If anyone would have told me a few years ago that I would be giving up my three most favorite things on the planet (hubs and boys excluded, of course), I would have taken you straight to the nearest psych ward—because that's just pure craziness.
But getting old makes you do crazy things...or is it that you've finally become sane, and realized what matters most?