Hmmm…are you saying I have a face for radio?
I will start at the beginning…. well, the beginning of the middle, that is. After all, that is where life as I now know it began. For 18 years I did a magazine column called “Life’s a Beach,” and it chronicled everything from the daily life of a family with seven kids (yours, mine and someone else’s), working parents and way too many pets. I was actually quite funny — many times when I wasn’t trying to be. There is just so much that is bittersweet and humorous in family life. The column was both national and international, and our family was blessed with fans and friends from all over the world, many of whom came to visit us in San Diego and even more whom we went to see in places as far off as Istanbul, Belgium, Italy and Asia.
Just as so many of you have done, I am sure, I woke up one day and all my story prompts were gone. In a blink of an eye seven children were at some form of young adulthood and I was once again a cliché — an empty nester (if you don’t count the hoards of aging pets they left behind).
That would have been a good transition if it had not also taken place just as the great recession was taking place. The visions of retirement that had been dancing in my head were replaced with a staggering amount of debt that I inherited when one of my major clients opted into a BK. The good life gone at 57 years of age, I found myself packing myself into pantyhose and business suits, pounding the pavement looking for a job. I would have to phrase it “ajob,” because for a 57-year-old who has run her own company for most of her life, “ajob” is a four-letter word.
The job search made it crystal clear that there is a distinct age discrimination in hiring, and even among those who did not outright discriminate, the respect I was once taught for “older” folks is no longer the norm. I had one prospective employer tell me that my education (two master’s degrees) was irrelevant because education from the 1970s was too dated (and I’d just finished off paying for my college loans!). Another prospective employer spent the entire interview texting to someone who was clearly more important to his business than I. When I suggested he may have more pressing matters and we should reschedule the interview, he told me I had embarrassed him (I did not get the job). I grew tired of those articles that talked about jobs for folks after 50: become a dog walker, work in childcare — minimum-wage jobs that would not sustain a lifestyle that I had really hoped not to give up! Inevitably I would be asked about my “skills,” and having been the head of a company, my “skills” came in the form of folks I had hired to do the many jobs I was now applying for: computer work, social media, accounting, blogging, etc.
It was my youngest daughter who gave the proverbial wake-up call and told me to reinvent myself. I was not ready to trade the bifocals in for contact lenses, but I did attend as many free- or low-cost classes as I could pack into my week. Yahoo taught me behavioral targeting, and Mac classes had me blogging, doing my own website and even doing eblasts that looked professional. If you believe in chance encounters (and I am much more a fan of the nothing-happens-by-accident theory), I ran into an old associate from my years in radio who encouraged me to do my own radio show. “You are funny, articulate, and could get great guests,” he said (and I thought…uh-huh, and I have a face for radio!). With nothing to lose I gave it a shot. The network had a show all lined up for me: medical marijuana. Pairing me up with that topic is the definition of irony — hadn’t I been the “Just say no” queen for decades? However, it was a job, an opportunity and a challenge. Many of us have those never-look-back moments. Not only did I develop an open mind about a subject that meant hope and help for many folks suffering and helped out what is still a very controversial “cure,” I also developed a national and international fan base (déjà vu?).
In less than a year I went from host to network chief, with a few dozen shows on radio and now TV. One that is most dear to my heart (and most likely why I am here today) is GRAND Magazine Radio. We talk about not only the serious side of grandparenting but also some of the lighter and sillier sides as well. Almost overnight I went from the grind of the job hunt to interviewing celebrities and dignitaries. This fall I had the privilege of doing a two-hour show from the AARP Life@ 50+ convention and had guests as diverse as Tim Conway, Jocko from Sha Na Na, Al Jardine (who founded the Beach Boys), and Little Anthony and the Imperials. That same show had us celebrating the wonderful sisterhood of the Red Hat Society and gave me the opportunity to interview a beautiful young woman, Corina Kellam, who not only values the stories and wisdom those of us over 50 may have to share but also has turned it into a vocation for herself doing legacy-preservation services (see sidebar). Oh, I almost forgot to mention, while I was tilting at windmills, somehow my original brood of seven managed to produce seven grandchildren, once again giving me purpose and a whole bunch of new material to bring to (hopefully) another 18 years of “Life’s a Beach”!
GRAND readers: Who would you like to hear interviewed on GRAND Magazine Radio? What subjects are you interested in hearing about? Interested listeners — and prospective show sponsors — are invited to contact me at email@example.com.
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Contact Barbara at firstname.lastname@example.org.