Older and braver

My favourite magazine articles were always about transformations; former couch potatoes turned fit and fabulous, nine-to-fivers blossoming into entrepreneurs, and women brave enough to set off on exciting solo adventures. As much as I loved reading their stories, poring over their photographs in awe, I knew that would never be me.

My own life was settled and predictable. I lived with my little family; my husband, our daughter and a small menagerie of pets. I had worked for a lovely company for more than twenty years and led the busy life of a wife and mum.

My husband and I had been married for almost 25 years, more than half of my life at the time, when we decided to go our separate ways. I never imagined that I would be divorced and couldn’t picture what my life would be like from then on.

When I took stock of my life (my one precious life!) I realised that I hadn’t done anything to push myself out of my comfort zone for as long as I could remember. For years I had been stopping just short of doing anything that scared me.

Bravery is defined as “The ability to do something that frightens one.”

When we think about bravery we tend to think of tackling huge endeavours such as climbing mountains, crossing oceans or trekking to the North Pole. But many things that seem small and insignificant to some can be terrifying to others and require enormous bravery. People who know me are surprised to hear that it still takes a lot of courage for me to introduce myself to a stranger at an event.

I decided that the well-known quote “Do one thing every day that scares you” had to become my mantra as I set about the mission of scaring myself.

I had always wanted to learn to speak Spanish, so I booked myself into a beginner’s course at a Spanish language school. I was to attend school every morning for three months.

The school was in Buenos Aires, in Argentina.

In the initial whirl of excitement, I booked the plane tickets, rented a room and planned my South American wardrobe! And then the thrill wore off and the panic set in. Travelling to another continent alone seemed like a bridge too far. I laid in bed the night before I was due to fly, feeling physically ill and wondering what on earth I had been thinking. How would I even be able to buy a train ticket to get me into the city to school each morning when I didn’t speak a word of Spanish?

I did manage to buy the train tickets and I had a magical three months absorbing the rich culture of the city, eating far too much dulce de leche and spending many peaceful hours reading or journaling in the beautiful Recoleta cemetery. I still can’t really speak Spanish, but this trip taught me an invaluable lesson; that it is okay to feel petrified; to go ahead and do it anyway.

When I returned home it was time to tackle my health and fitness. I was inactive, unfit, and carrying more weight than was good for me. The only thing I would run for in those days was a piece of chocolate. A journey to health and fitness can be pretty daunting, there is a lot to learn, and loads of room for embarrassment and failure (two big fears).

Fast forward; in the eight years since I went for my first short walk around the block I have collected medals for swimming, cycling, running and some triathlons and I have maintained my new happy and healthy weight.

Next, encouraged by friends, I made a small move that would lead to a huge shift in my life. Late one night I googled “agency for mature models”, uploaded a couple of my photographs, and quickly pushed the “apply” button.

In the cold light of day I wondered what on earth I had been thinking, I was a 53-year old grandmother with no experience in front of a camera. I comforted myself with the thought that I probably wouldn’t hear from them.

I did hear from them. And so began the start of another adventure.

I love the glamorous parts of my new job; the makeup, the clothes, the creative people I get to meet – many of whom remain friends long after the shoot is over.

The best part of all of this, by far, is that it has given me a platform to share my story and encourage others to take that first scary step because I know now that each one of us can start a new adventure and create a whole new chapter, no matter our age.

Original article created for Self Made Girl Boss – August 2020
Featured photograph by Anthony Friend Photography