There’s no better time for reflection than this moment of transition from the old to the new. In this special New Year’s Eve edition of Wednesday 5, we return to our popular Women of Reinvention series (spearheaded by Women’s Voices Editor Deborah Harkins) for its wonderful life-lessons and thought-provoking nuggets of wisdom.

We consider ourselves pretty lucky to be surrounded by phenomenal women in the Women’s Voices community—from our readers to our contributors to our staff and our board. As we learn about the intricacies of these women’s lives, we see a common theme emerging: women are reinventing themselves over and over again.  For each of us, the concept of reinvention takes on very different and nuanced meanings—often redefined at various points in our lives. For some women, reinventing themselves is about survival; for others, it’s about new beginnings, or overcoming fear, or simply letting go of a past self and ushering in a new one.

 

1.

Francesca MacAaron —Back to the Theater in Middle Age

wvfc francesca head shot 304069_10150351136680900_505194848_n“When you walk away from something you love, it doesn’t really go away. It simmers. It hides. It never lets you engage fully in what you’ve chosen to do. And then comes the lightning bolt.” — Francesca MacAaron.

When her father died, mezzo-soprano Francesca MacAaron lost the heart to sing. “When my father passed away after a long illness, the heart went out of me. I went up to Boston to audition for a part and I opened my mouth and nothing came out . . . and this was a song I had sung for years. Silence. I started over again. Nothing. I was terrified. I tried a third time, and broke down crying. As I walked through Boston, crying, I realized that I couldn’t perform; that the death of my dad had taken the heart out of it. He would have hated to know that—but there it was. And then avoidance becomes the norm—and you create this mythology around the crisis. And we all deny this—but it’s fear that makes you shelve your own dream.”

And so she reinvented herself.

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2.

Grace Haggerty — “I Didn’t Want to Have Any Regrets in My Life”

31uWINyRrjLIn her fifties, Grace Haggerty decided to go after her dream of singing and creating her own album. Self-producing an album, she knew, would be a major financial commitment. But she relished the producing process—the singing, of course, but also the chance to decide on arrangements and work with professional musicians. “Three hours in the studio felt like 20 minutes,” she says. “I was learning something new every day.”

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3.

Juanita Howard — Sociologist-Turned-Actress

Juanita HowardJuanita Howard, in her 70s, has the enviable mien of a lifelong New Yorker—equal parts humor, intellect, and resourcefulness. She is a self-possessed, confident woman, a woman who knows what she wants. Yet a decade ago she retired from a 30-year academic career with no specific plans for her future. One day she accompanied a friend who was taking an acting class. One of the teachers suggested that she do background work as an actress—be an “extra,” one of those actors one sees going about their business in crowds, stores, etc., to lend verisimilitude to films and TV shows.  In a short time, she secured a role as a jury member on Law & Order, the fabled television series set in New York. “Somehow I seemed to fit what the director needed,” Howard recalled.  That experience spurred her to take more classes to improve her skills.

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4.

Cherokee Black — Transforming with Grace

Cherokee Black“I find it is important to choose spiritual growth as you age and transform. Dwelling on beauty will only serve to make aging very sad. Reinvention is a regular occurrence for me. I reinvent in order to transform with grace.” — Cherokee Black

Cherokee Black will be the first to tell you she has lived an extraordinary life—and she still encounters extraordinary every day. She’s sung with Luther Vandross; she was a background-vocals singer for the legendary drummer “Buddy” Miles; she’s had a career as a fashion model, actress, magazine editor, and make-up stylist. But that extraordinary life has come with many struggles and tragedies. As a fiftysomething, Cherokee just recently signed a modeling contract—returning to the industry after a hiatus of more than 20 years.

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5.

Ruth Turner — Zest for Life

Ruth_photoRuth Turner has created a delightful life for herself at 64, after she left her “40-some-year” marriage in 1990. She had raised four daughters in suburban Westchester and worked  at Consumer Reports, rising to Director of Consumer Reports Books. Her husband had left the marriage psychically for several years before she left it physically, she says. “And so I gave myself New York.”

When her current husband proposed marriage, he added that, of course, they would continue to live in their own apartments. That was the clincher for Ruth. As a result, she sees her husband about twice a week—just about right for her. She calls it “marriage by appointment only.”

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