Red Responds: Her Life Has Come to Dead Halt

Allison in Chicago writes:

It’s been a tough couple of years. I crashed and burned at age 58
after completing an MFA in writing. I have a large portfolio of work,
including two completed novels and two short story collections. However
losing everything and coming here to stay with my daughter – and then
getting my own place – has really taken its toll on me.

I am 60 now and I’ve put on 40 pounds. My life has come to a dead halt, and the jobs I attract are pretty bad (telemarketing, for instance). I don’t seem to be able to have a rapport here in Chicago with other artists. I am an accomplished pianist-singer-songwriter, and while I see writing as my real vocation I’ve always been able to find music gigs playing in clubs – which I enjoy immensely.

I am thinking Chicago is just not right for me – New York really attracts me, but my current financial state doesn’t even allow for that possibility. I need a book deal or to win a writing contest or something to earn the money it will take to move. In addition, I haven’t had a relationship in 15 years! I need a real overhaul and a life makeover! What do you see in store for me? Is it over for me at 60?

Dear Allison,

You really have been down a rough road. While I don’t see any winnings or windfalls coming your way, I do see that you will be the creator of your own life makeover.

Chicago may not be the best geographical area for you, but right now, you are kind of stuck there. Lack of money is the big evil that keeps you from moving at the moment, but things will eventually improve for you. Even though you may feel like you are beating your head against the wall, you have no choice but to keep your game plan in mind, and keep trying to make things happen.

Writing may be your calling, but the novelist aspect isn’t answering at the moment. It could be several years before you get a deal that has a life-changing impact. Don’t give up – but for now, you should put your passion to work. There are many freelance opportunities out there, and your talents would be recognized. While this isn’t going to make you rich or famous, it certainly can help to pay the bills and put some fun money in your pocket.

You would do well to get a bit of assistance to accomplish your weight-loss goals. All of the stress and frustration of your life situation is helping those additional pounds to adhere. Talk with your doctor about a diet and exercise plan, and maybe even join a group for support. This is definitely a challenge that can quickly turn into a victory, particularly if you ask for help rather than trying to do it alone. Not only will you look better, but you will feel better, and your energy (and luck!) will begin to turn.

Chicago is a big city with many opportunities – you just haven’t been looking in the right areas. While the gigs and musically oriented opportunities aren’t consistent, they do exist. You will start to find them, and that will help you to begin feeling like your “old self.” But here’s a new twist: consider working with some of the churches in the area. It’s a great way to expand your social circle, make friends and contacts, and earn a little extra cash. You could even give back a bit, offering musical instruction for free or at a low cost. This is something that would just plain make you feel good about who you are, and who you are becoming.

Life has put you in a space where you are forced to do what you need to do, rather than what you want to do. The next couple of years are going to be a bit bumpy as well, because they are tied into this transitional period. Think of 60 as 18, and 63 as 30. Life is far from over for you, it is truly at a place of new beginnings. You will be graduating from the college of hard luck in a few short years, and this education is what will bring you success and stability.

Good luck!
Ext. 9226

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