This boomer got a late start … but a new life

One of our favorite subjects on BoomerCafé is boomers who are still reinventing themselves. That’s exactly what Diane Atwood of Gorham, Maine, has written about. She was a local television reporter, but made a decision at the age when most of us retire to go back to school. She calls it, My Late Start.

We should all be lucky enough to have at least one moment of enlightenment during our lives. Mine came during a painting class I took in my 50s called “Painting for the True Blue Beginner.”

Diane Atwood

Diane Atwood

One of our assignments was to find a picture of a painting we liked and try to copy it. I chose “Man in a Room” by Paul Cezanne. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but kept trying to paint what I saw.

I’ll never forget the moment my view shifted, literally and figuratively. I was working on the man’s pants and tried to copy a shape on one of the legs. As the instructor had suggested we do, I stepped back to critique my progress and there it was — a wrinkle in the pants. I was astonished and from that moment on, I have been trying to make my own marks.

After that night, I continued to push myself. I took some evening drawing and painting classes and attended a few workshops, including one on the streets of Manhattan, which was a totally intimidating and exhilarating experience.

DIANE_ATWOOD_3

Diane Atwood, writer and blogger.

I began to daydream about quitting my job and going to art school, but at the time, it was an unrealistic yearning. Eventually, at the age of 64, I did quit to become a freelance writer and blogger, which gave me more flexibility to paint, but unfortunately, less income for art classes.

Then I heard a rumor that our local university waived tuition for people over 65. I had been moaning and groaning about turning 65 in a few months and suddenly, I felt joyous! I applied immediately— even had to write two college essays. I was scared, but I knew for sure that I didn’t want to be lying on my deathbed (far into the future, I hope) kicking myself for not trying.

Before I knew it, there I was sitting in the middle of a sea of young people, most not out of their 20s, some not even into them yet. Because I’m still writing and blogging, I only have time to take two courses a semester at most. They might be handing out my diploma at the same moment my ashes are being sprinkled in the flower garden, but as they say, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.

Two years have passed since I became an art student. I have been given opportunities to push myself way outside my comfort zone over and over again. I am so grateful for all the creative people and challenges that keep coming my way because I dared to take a chance.

29 Comments

  1. It’s never too late!
    I too am retiring from TV at the end of the year.. I found the bass guitar instead of the brush! It is kicking my butt.. but for some reason, I can’t stop obsessing with this new challenge.
    Thanks for the article.

      1. The challenge is just to be able to play well.. and play along with my favorite songs.
        How ever if Rod Stewart calls.. I’ll be there to fill in! 🙂

  2. I love your attitude. I had started college in the late 1970’s at age 18 but only got in 2 years of courses and no degree. I had always wanted to earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree,and PhD. I love learning and have spent decades reading and doing self-study but when I was 52, I decided it was time to enroll at the fully accredited non-profit Excelsior College which is now private but started out as part of New York’s university system. They allowed me to transfer in all of my previous credits and get federal financial aid to pay for their fully accredited (and challenging) online courses. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in January of 2014 then applied to their master of arts program and now at age 56, just finished my master’s thesis and had it approved. Once I officially get Master’s, I will pursue my PhD.It is never too late. For those interested in Excelsior, their website is http://www.excelsior.edu

    1. I’m so impressed! Your story reminds me of a post I have in the works for my health and wellness blog (CatchingHealth) about a woman in her 60s here in Maine. Her high school guidance counselor told her to forget about college because she wasn’t smart enough. (She had missed lots of school because her mother was very ill and she had to take care of the house and her siblings.) She proved him wrong! For various reasons, it was a long, circuitous journey but she graduated from a hospital-based nursing school, then went on to college and got her bachelor’s and master’s degrees and in her late 40s, got her PhD. She is a nurse practitoner. What is your field of study?

  3. Good for you, Diane. I too, started blogging at the age of 66 and, like BobJ, began taking guitar lessons. My inspiration came, in part, from the words spoken by Michelangelo on his death bed. He reportedly said, “Ancora imparo,” which means, “Still, I am learning.” Enjoyed your article; thank you.

    1. I like that saying a lot Alan. I’m hoping to go to Italy with a friend next year to paint (and eat and drink wine and be tourists) and I’m sure we’ll visiting Florence, among other places.

      1. As long as you are going to Florence.. I would suggest visiting Cortona.. Nice little town with some great shopping, great wine and fun things to do and see.

  4. I am a big believer in designing the life you want on the basis that leaving it to chance is a hell of a gamble to take with your one and only life. I work on the basis that I would rather give something I go even if it doesn’t work out than spend the rest of my life wondering what might have been.

  5. Hi Diane , I just recently started following your blogs. Congratulations for going back and doing what makes you happy . Painting just makes you feel so good.

  6. So much talent, courage and hard work…so proud of you my sister. Thought you might want to know that I shared this with Charlie’s mom and she thought you were younger than me….you go girl!!!

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