What’s new for you? Embracing change

The other night I was cooking with Hachiya persimmons. My previous persimmon experience involved one taste (probably Fuyu) and a poem. I was thinking about the research showing that new experiences help us to feel healthier and happier (apparently, even if they’re stressing us out).

That reminded me of an NPR story about youth and newness–how people tend to gravitate toward the same things as they grow older. My takeaway? It’s important to bust out of your ruts and try new things if you want to understand the generations coming up behind yours.

Our country, or our media, value youth over age and the experience it brings. Even the Penelope Trunk focuses on your career in your 20s, 30s, even 40s. But in your 50s?

(This reminds me of the time I signed up to audition for a dance scholarship program. I’d just turned 24, and the woman at the table said, “I’ll write down 23.”)

How do you navigate a career change in your 50s?

I’m focusing on the change part. Most recently, I’ve come from an industry that leans toward youth–but I think that learning new things, exploring, staying open to possibilities and knowledgeable about shifts is more important than a date on a birth certificate. And better than face cream. Think young and bring your experience.

That made me think of a conversation taking place in the poetry world about six years ago–something to the effect that the only interesting poetry was being written by poets in their 20s and 30s (caveat: I haven’t been able to find a link; do you remember this?). By now, some of those poets are in their 40s. Do they feel washed up? I hope not–because it isn’t about a number, it’s about trying new styles, subjects, approaches to your craft, reading new work, exploring. I remember one poet who read at Open Books explaining that her second was so different from her first because she wouldn’t want to write the same book over again. At the time, I thought, “Huh?” (I loved her first book). But now I get it. I appreciate what Louise Gluck says in Poetry in Person:

“Something can be marvelous and still need to be stopped. Otherwise, you don’t change…And if you don’t change, then you stop writing good poems…So when you can identify a maneuver, even if you never do it badly, you should stop doing it…As soon as an expectation begins to form around your work, either on your part or on the part of readers, you must do your best not to gratify it.”

My next book comes out in February, and it takes new risks, stretches into different styles.

My next job might be in tech, but for a different company or a different audience. Or I might write about something different (science! health!). I’m looking for all the open doors.

Do you eat new foods? Listen to new music? Read different kinds of books? Travel to new places? Work in new ways? How do you keep growing?

Now I’m off to read more about mechanical stress and fatigue strength.

2 Replies to “What’s new for you? Embracing change”

  1. Your question “How do you keep growing” strikes a resonant chord with me. This might sound odd (and is in no way a recommendation!), but I think it helps to be single.

    (Can’t believe I just wrote that.)

    Being single has forced me to turn outwards, into new worlds, in order to grow community: new music, new venues, new foods, walking down new streets, I could go on and on. Last Sunday I was walking in Seward Park with Reilly and he insisted we take a new direction, so we reversed our usual route, and I was stunned at how different everything was! In doing that turnabout, I realized that I’d been walking in the same direction in the park for 26 years.

    New career, though, that’s a bit scary.


  2. T., it’s exciting to see all the new things you’ve been doing! And I know that feeling of not having to ask first.

    I’ve started to take some different streets–partly because it still feels kind of embarrassing to be out walking in the neighborhood in the daytime. Another adjustment.

    But in this transition, my husband has been so supportive. So have my kids. And they all help me get out of the house. Thankful for that.

    (I say “transition” and I realize that it feels more like limbo–as though it isn’t a transition until I’ve found the next thing, reached the other side. But if I were on a boat, it would still be a journey while I was rowing in the middle of the lake. Hmm.)

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