One of America’s best-known baby boomers is longtime television personality Jane Pauley. As reporter Joe Meyers writes, Pauley has reinvented herself several times, and now has authored a new book, Your Life Calling, in which she gathers stories about other baby boomers’ reinventions.
Jane Pauley doesn’t offer any miracle cures in a new book about the ways that her fellow baby boomers are reimagining their lives in late middle age.
“Your Life Calling” is not a self-help tome, but a collection of portraits of people Pauley has met in the process of producing regular “Life Reimagined Today” reports for the “Today” show since 2010.
“I’m very reality based,” Pauley said in a recent phone interview. “The message is not that the best is yet to come … but to realize that to find inspiration you have to be looking for it.
“Even groping in the dark is looking,” the 63-year-old journalist added, laughing, of the changing patterns in our lives that can sometimes only be recognized in retrospect.
“Some people think that you always have to have a destination in mind, but I guess I’ve been willing to take the off ramp,” the journalist said of the circuitous route of her career after becoming a nationally known figure from the 13 years she spent co-hosting the “Today” show (1976-1989).
Pauley writes in the book about the way she has often been viewed as a prototypical baby boomer since she landed the “Today” show gig only a few years out of college.
“I think my most singular accomplishment … was appearing to keep my head on straight while it was spinning,” she said.
Earlier than most boomers, Pauley made her first major transition when she and the “Today” show management came to a mutually agreed upon parting of the ways in 1989.
“Careers are abstractions. But we live in them either in harmony or in discord because paychecks and bills and contracts are real. A well-matched career can nourish the spirit, but a mismatched career can enervate the soul. That’s when you feel there must be more,” she writes.
Pauley’s first post-”Today” job — “Real Life with Jane Pauley” — didn’t work out, but that show evolved into the successful “Dateline” franchise that the journalist stayed with for 11 years.
In “Your Life Calling,” Pauley introduces readers to a wide array of mid-lifers who looked for — and found — something “more” in new jobs and new lifestyles, from a man who became a stand-up comedian at 61, to a type-A businesswoman who found less stress and more joy in making candy.
[Jane Pauley's new book, Your Life Calling, is available at Amazon.com.]
“I find these stories wherever I go,” the author said. “On this book tour, people have been telling me more stories … it has been a cumulative body of work.”
“Your Life Calling” is Pauley’s second book — she published a best-selling memoir “Skywriting” in 2004 — and she was happy to be able to expand the stories from her “Life Reimagined Today” television reports.
“I’m a very intuitive writer, so that has been the easier part (of the ongoing reporting project). The hard part has been taking a couple of hours of interviews (for each segment) and boiling them down to three-and-a-half minutes (for TV). My goal is to tell nuanced stories sothere is something counterintuitive (about the TV editing).
“The writing was fun for me, and it was a real luxury to put these stories into a book,” she said.
Pauley hopes that readers will see that there are virtually “endless routes” to mid-life reinvention illustrated in the stories she has gathered.
One thing everyone needs to be reminded of, Pauley believes, is that you have to go out looking for changes, something that we can begin to resist as we get older and more “settled.”
“I’m pretty comfortable sitting on this sofa as we speak, but my goal has been to be someone who tries to look for something new. I think we all need gentle reminders,” she said of being nudged out of our comfort zones.
Pauley writes in the book that baby boomers might not be “the greatest generation,” but they are the luckiest generation in terms of having more time to try out new ideas.
“I expect to be cycling in and out of reinvention for the rest of my healthy life. I believe that you never stop growing until you stop trying.”