MIDLIFE REINVENTION MAVEN.
This is written in all caps across the Lorraine Ladish’s homepage. A mutual friend introduced me to Ladish, author, digital entrepreneur, and yogini, a few years ago, and I was immediately smitten with her improbable zest for life, exceedingly kind demeanor, and seemingly boundless energy.
I was thrilled then to recently reconnect with her to discuss her career path and the challenges she faced along the way (there were many, including some particularly soul-sucking parts). Eager to get her take on work-life balance and her thoughts on pursuing your passion I wanted to know what sage wisdom she might have for those of us still trying to figure it all out.
Can You Take Me Through Your Career Beginnings to Where You Are Now?
I was always a writer. I’ve always been bilingual in English and Spanish, and in my early days I adapted TV series from English to Spanish. I was also a language interpreter (I was Cindy Crawford’s interpreter during her Revlon tour in 1992).
I published my first book at 30. I wanted to be a novelist, but I realized at 29 that if I didn’t write my story about my eating disorder, I would never be able to write anything. I did, and a month later I had five offers from publishers. The book, I Feel Fat is still in print, in Spanish. I’ve authored many more books since then covering the struggles I’ve gone through in life.
Can You Tell Me More About How Your Career as a Writer Evolved?
In 2008-09 I found myself the single mother of two girls. I was 45. I lost my marriage, but also my source of income due to the recession. I had to reinvent myself all over again. Print newspapers and magazines were not hiring freelance writers.
I’d never had a 9-to-5 job by choice, but that made me absolutely unemployable in any other field besides writing or translating.
I was a fitness instructor in my early 20s and considered going back to that. When I was down and out, on food stamps, having had to sell my family’s heirloom jewelry that I was saving for my girls, and all my own possessions, I found ways to relax and chill. I would go to a dance studio where I took salsa lessons and danced socially.
A young businessman who I met there saw my profile on Facebook and said he needed a writer. He paid me $12 per blog post for his coupon and savings site. The posts had no byline but I was happy to make money writing again. Then, at a networking event, I met a guy who designed websites, and he needed a writer too. It wasn’t exactly up my alley but I started learning everything about SEO, and writing for the internet.
Eventually I applied to be a guide at About.com (then owned by The New York Times) and got the gig. I started pitching digital publications and eventually was asked to be the editor at one, and finally the editor-in-chief of Mamiverse.com, a site for Latinas moms. I always did this as a contractor, by choice.
When I turned 50, I realized I yearned for doing my own thing again and that’s when I launched VivaFifty, a bilingual site for women over 50. That was in early 2014. Younger women also wanted to read my tips, so I eventually relaunched my own website as a blog. Both sites are under the umbrella of Viva Fifty Media LLC. I also write for digital outlets such as NBCNews, AARP, and Mom.me, and I do brand ambassadorships and social media campaigns for organizations and brands I love.
Do You Have Any Career Advice for People Who Want to Make a Transition But Feel Lost or Stuck?
Never wait until you are ready, or you will never do it. Ever since I was really young, I’ve always taken risks and learned along the way. When I launched Viva Fifty I had no logo, no business plan, no idea of whether it would work out. I was scared but I did it anyway. It became profitable in a few months. I do have to say I’m a workhorse though. I needed it to happen for me and for my family and I did.
How Important Is it to Carve Out Time for Passion Projects if Your Job isn’t Fulfilling?
It is everything.
I cannot conceive of life without passion projects. I had to take on a three-month gig while I launched Viva Fifty that helped me fund my digital business. It was soul-sucking, but I found ways to make it interesting and fun. Knowing that in the evening I could go back to writing and organizing my own site, helped me get through the day.
If there’s one takeaway from this interview, it’s got to be this: If you’re doing something you love, you’ll find a way to make time for it. You’ll be excited and motivated, not lethargic or listless. Of course, for many people, the challenge is not in carving out time for a passion project, it’s in figuring out what you’re passionate about. This worksheet can you help you get started on figuring that out.
I’m not suggesting it’s going to be an easy journey, particularly if your reflection leads you to the conclusion that a career transition is in order. That kind of change involves risk, no matter how old you are or where you’ve been.
But if Ladish’s journey says anything, it’s that once you figure out what kind of work makes you happy, you’ll pursue it with dogged determination.