Commitment: You Turn: Changing Direction in Midlife is an inspirational book about making big life changes at a time when many of us think it is too late to do so. The term “You Turn” is extremely clever. What exactly is a “You Turn” and who can benefit by making one?
Dr. Nancy Irwin: WE ALL KNOW WHAT A U-TURN IS ON THE HIGHWAY. A “YOU-TURN” IN LIFE IS REDIRECTING WHEN YOU DISCOVER YOU ARE GOING IN A DIRECTION THAT IS NO LONGER FULFILLING OR DESIRABLE FOR YOU. YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS CHANGE AND THE ATTITUDE THROUGH WHICH IT IS DONE, AND HAVE EVERYTHING YOU NEED WITHIN YOURSELF TO EFFECT IT.
Commitment: You refer to mid-life or middle age as “middlescene,” a term which, reminiscent of adolescence, connotes a time of change and transition.
Dr. Irwin: WE NEED A “FACELIFT” FOR THER ARCHAIC TERM “MIDLIFE CRISIS”…”MIDDLE AGE” ITSELF HAS A NEGATIVE CONNOTATTION (THINK OF THE MIDDLE AGES IN HISTORY!)
Commitment: Was this your intent?
Dr. Irwin: ABSOLUTELY!
Commitment: Why is middle age such a transformative time?
Dr. Irwin: TRANSFORMATION/REINVENTION CAN OCCUR AT ANY AGE. THERE IS A GENERAL TENDENCY TO “REVIEW” ONE’S LIFE IN THE MIDDLE YEARS, AS WE HAVE A FIRMLY ESTABLISHED PATTERN OF BEHAVIOR AND EXPERIENCES BEHIND FROM WHICH TO ACCESS, PLUS THE BENEFIT OF SEEING OUR AGING PARENTS’ AND OTHERS’ CHOICES AS OPTIONS TO CHOOSE FROM GOING FORWARD.
Commitment: If one believes, as you do, that life is a dynamic process and everything happens for a reason, it is easier to look at one's life experiences as a path toward an ultimate goal. What advice do you have for those who look at past experiences as mistakes?
Dr. Irwin: AH…..THERE REALLY ARE NO MISTAKES. I HAVE A SIGN ON MY DESK THAT SAYS: “WISDOM IS LEARNED FROM FAILURE.” WHO AMONG US, PARTICULARLY THE WISE, HAS NEVER MADE A MISTAKE? MISTAKES ARE STEPPING STONES TO SUCCESS…..OUR GREATEST TEACHERS. PAINFUL SOMETIMES, YES, BUT THEY ARE REALLY THE ONLY WAY WE GROW. ODDLY ENOUGH, WHEN PEOPLE ARE FEARFUL OF MAKING A MISTAKE AND CHOOSE TO STAY PUT/SETTLE/AVOID A RISK/PLAY IT SAFE, THEY MAY BE MAKING THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF ALL!
Commitment: Your own life has been a textbook example of a middlescene “You Turn.” Born in Atlanta, Georgia, you traveled as an opera singer and moved to New York. You then changed direction and became a stand-up comic. You moved to Los Angeles in 1994 and because you had some free time, you began volunteering at a shelter for abused children where you realized that your true calling was to advocate, educate and help children.
Dr. Irwin: AND ADULT SURVIVORS OF ABUSE, AS WELL AS THE ABUSERS.
Commitment: How can readers apply the lessons of your life to their own lives?
Dr. Irwin: WE ALL HAVE MANY GIFTS AND UNTAPPED TALENTS THAT MAY NOT BE SEEN OR EVEN VALUED DURING OUR YOUTH. I HAD TO GET SOME AGE ON ME TO UNDERSTAND AND HAVE THE WISDOM AND INSIGHTS TO COUNSEL. THIS ONLY COMES THROUGH LIFE EXPERIENCE! IRONICALLY, IT IS THROUGH SELFLESS GIVING THAT WE TRULY LEARN WHO WE ARE. THAT IS WHAT I HOPE READERS WILL GET FROM MY STORY. BELIEVE ME, I WAS SO NARCISSITIC AND SELF-CENTERED BEFORE THOSE KIDS SHOWED WHAT THE “REAL WORLD” WAS LIKE. FURTHER, IF THEY AT THEIR TENDER AGES COULD TURN THEIR LIVES AROUND, WHY COULDN’T I?
Commitment: What is the first step a person who wants to make some changes in her life should take?
Dr. Irwin: ACKNOWLEDGE THAT YOU DO WANT SOMETHING MORE. EMBRACE ANY FRUSTRATION, LONELINESS, ANXIETY, OR DEPRESSION AS A SIGNPOST THAT SOMETHING IS MISSING. GOOD FOR YOU! MANY PEOPLE DENY THIS, AND JUST DRINK OR EAT OR NUMB OUT OR SUBSCRIBE TO THE BELIEF THAT “LIFE SUCKS” …”SOME PEOPLE HAVE IT MADE…BUT NOT ME.” “IT’S TOO LATE….IF I WERE YOUNGER, MAYBE….” THE NEXT STEPS ARE TAKING STOCK OF ALL THE THINGS THAT ARE WORKING IN YOUR LIFE, AS WELL AS THOSE THAT ARE NOT. MAKE A LIST OF ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE GOOD AT (FROM SIMPLE TO COMPLEX) AS WELL AS ALL THE THINGS YOU LIKE TO DO (THEY MAY INTERSECT A GREAT DEAL, OR NOT AT ALL!). THEN TAKE SOME TIME AND LOOK AROUND AND ASK YOURSELF WHAT BOTHERS YOU/UNSETTLES YOU MOST ABOUT THE WORLD? THEN ALLOW YOUR LISTS AND YOUR PASSION FOR WHAT YOU’D LIKE TO BE DIFFERENT IN THE WORLD TO BASTE AND START CONNECTING THE DOTS. YOU MIGHT WANT TO START VOLUNTEERING SOMEWHERE AND SEE WHAT GETS IGNITED IN YOU.
Commitment: What did you learn from the people you interviewed for You Turn?
Dr. Irwin: THAT IT IS NEVER TOO LATE FOR ANYONE. THAT THE SURVIVABILITY OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT IS INFINITE. WE ALL HAVE THE “STUFF” TO OVERCOME ANY SETBACKS, OBSTACLES OR NEGATIVE BELIEFS OF OTHERS AND KEEP ON OUR PATHS TO FULFILLMENT. IT MAY NOT ALWAYS BE EASY, BUT THE FULFILLMENT ALL ALONG THE WAY AND IN THE RESULTS NOT ONLY IS ITS OWN REWARD, BUT INSPIRES OTHERS.
Commitment: What would you like readers to take away from this book?
Dr. Irwin: THAT IS IT NEVER TOO LATE TO LIVE A LIFE YOU LOVE. THAT WE ARE ALL BORN WITH THE SEEDS OF GREATNESS…..MAY NOT BE A STAR QUARTERBACK OR A BEAUTY QUEEN, BUT WE ARE ALL STARS IN OUR OWN WAY. AS HENRY VAN DYKE SAYS: “USE WHAT TALENTS YOU POSSESS. THE WOODS WOULD BE VERY SILENT IF NO BIRDS SANG EXCEPT THOSE THAT SANG BEST.”
Commitment: How important is support from family and friends when attempting to make a “You Turn”?
Dr. Irwin: IT DEFINITELY HELPS AND MAKES IT EASIER TO HAVE PEOPLE IN YOUR CORNER REASSURING YOU WHEN YOU ARE CHALLENGED, AND CELEBRATING WHEN YOU WIN. BUT IT IS NOT CRUCIAL. JUST LIKE YOU CAN START A BUSINESS WITH NO MONEY, BUT GENERALLY IT IS EASIER WHEN YOU HAVE SOME SEED CAPITAL. HOWEVER, WHEN YOU ARE ON YOUR PATH, A SUPPORT SYSTEM WILL SHOW UP. YOU CANNOT MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN A VACUUM! WHEN YOU ARE SHINING BRIGHTLY, YOUR LIGHT WILL DRAW IN OTHERS. WHEN YOU STAY IN THE DARK, GUESS WHAT HAPPENS THERE?
Commitment: It often seems that now is not the right time to make a change. How does a person know when the time is right?
Dr. Irwin: IT’S ALWAYS THE RIGHT TIME AND IT’S NEVER THE RIGHT TIME! IT JUST IS…. IT’S NEVER A GOOD TIME TO BREAK UP WITH SOMEONE, OR HAVE A BABY, ETC……IF YOU “WAIT” IT CAN TURN INTO “WEIGHT” ON YOUR SOUL. FURTHER, YOU CAN ALWAYS START PLANNING AND RESEARCHING THE STEPS TO TAKE WHEN ANY REAL OBLIGATIONS ARE TAKEN CARE OF. THIS WAY, YOU REALLY ARE TECHNICALLY ALREADY ON YOUR PATH. YOUR MINDSET SHIFTS THE SECOND YOU DECIDE WHAT YOU DO WANT TO DO. ALL THE REST IS BUSY WORK. JUST LIKE WHEN YOU BECOME ENGAGED, YOU ARE ALREADY “MARRIED.” YOU ARE LIVING IN THE COMMITMENT. WHEN YOU GET ACCEPTED TO A SCHOOL, YOU ARE ALREADY A STUDENT.
Commitment: Your book includes inspirational stories from people who made big life changes as middleaged adults: a man who converted to Judaism and became a rabbi; a woman who came to terms with her homosexuality, a woman who overcame illness, switched careers and became a healer and life coach, as well as many stages of mid-life career change. How did you find such interesting and determined people?
Dr. Irwin: THAT IN ITSELF IS A WHOLE BOOK! AGAIN, WHEN YOU COMMIT TO A VISION, ALL THE TOOLS YOU NEED APPEAR. LIKE: “WHEN THE STUDENT IS WILLING, THE TEACHER APPEARS.” SOME WERE PEOPLE I HAVE KNOWN FOR A WHILE, SOME I SAW IN NEWSPAPERS OR BOOKS, OR IN NETWORKING ORGANIZATIONS. THEN IT TOOK ON A LIFE OF ITS OWN…..ONE PERSON WOULD FIND WHAT I NEEDED AND HAVE THAT PERSON CONTACT ME, ETC. WAS REALLY FUN GARNERING ALL THESE STORIES AND CHOOSING THE MOST DIVERSE AND POWERFUL ONES FROM THE SIMPLE TO THE COMPLEX.
Commitment: In your book, one of the contributors, Chellie Campbell, when writing about how she achieved her goal of having a book published as a middle aged woman, says, “delay is not defeat.” How helpful is it to think of rejections, or set backs as “delays” towards an ultimate goal?
Dr. Irwin: IT’S CRUCIAL! MANY OF US ARE SO “WIRED” TO BELIEVE THAT REJECTION IS JUST EVIDENCE THAT WE ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH, IT CAN’T WORK OUT, ETC. REALLY THE UNIVERSE IS TESTING YOU TO SEE HOW BADLY YOU WANT IT. FOR IF YOU CAN’T HANDLE REJECTION, YOU CAN’T HANDLE SUCCESS. IT REALLY GETS TO BE FUN TRUSTING THAT REJECTION IS PROTECTION AND REDIRECTION! IT’S ALL A NUMBERS GAME ANYWAY. JUST LIKE IN SALES, YOU KNOW IT TAKES 9 NO’S TO GET TO A YES. SO YOU BEGIN THANKING THE NO’S AS STEPPING STONES TO THE YES. THEN YOU SIMPLY SAY WHAT JACK CANFIELD CALLS HIS FAVORITE FOUR-LETTER WORD: “NEXT!”
Commitment: Another of your contributors, Carl Weisman, without a job or income, suddenly feels something he had never felt before: a sense of possibility. Is this something we should all be looking for?
Dr. Irwin: I JUST HAVE TO LAUGH AT THIS QUESTION…IT SO FUNNY TO THINK OF HAVING TO LOOK FOR POSSIBILITY, WHEN THAT IS ALL THERE IS! IT’S LIKE REMINDING OURSELVES THAT THERE IS OXYGEN TO BREATH. WE ARE ALL SO PROGRAMMED TO BELIEVE THAT THERE IS LACK AND LIMITATION AND THAT IT IS A TOUGH, COMPETITIVE, DOG EAT DOG WORLD. LIKE WE HAVE TO COMPETE WITH EACH OTHER TO BREATH! “DON’T TAKE MY OXYGEN!” WE ARE SO FOCUSED ON WHAT WE KNOW WE KNOW (OUR DEGREES, EXPERIENCE, RESUME, ETC.) THAT WE FORGET WHAT WE KNOW IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING COMPARED TO WHAT WE DON’T KNOW. AND THAT IS THE REALM OF POSSIBILITIES. JUST LIKE WE PRETTY MUCH KNOW WHAT THE EARTH IS LIKE, AND A BIT ABOUT OTHER PLANETS, YET WE ACKNOWLEDGE WE REALLY DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE! IT IS ALL OUT THERE FOR OUR EXPLORATION…IF WE ARE CURIOUS ENOUGH AND WILLING TO BEGIN THE JOURNEY.
Dr. Nancy Irwin graduated from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in Tarzana, California with honors and the Director's Award. She is a member of the Hypnotists' Union, the California Psychological Association, the American Academy for Experts in Traumatic Stress, and the California Coalition on Sexual Offending (CCOSO).
Dr. Irwin is also a certified practitioner of Neurolinguistic Programming, Time Line Therapy and Emotion Free Therapy, combining these modalities with hypnosis to effect the most rapid change possible in her clients. While Dr. Irwin treats over 100 different issues, she is dedicated to treating victims of child sexual abuse as well as abusers.
In addition to earning a doctorate in psychology from Southern California University of Professional Studies, Dr. Irwin has a Master of Music degree in Opera Performance, and her background as an opera singer and stand-up comedian adds heart and humor to her healing. A popular keynote speaker she insists, "Change does not have to hurt!"
To learn more about Dr. Nancy Irwin, visit her at her website at www.drnancyirwin.com.