Then; Now: Anne Nolan, Providence, R.I

Article excerpt

The following is excerpted from the appendix section of The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Mid-Life by Marc Freedman. Reprinted with permission from Public Affairs, a member of The Perseus Books Group. Copyright © 2011.

When I went to work for the corporate world many, many years ago, it was exciting, and it was new, and I was doing things I'd never done and learning things. But over the years I lost a sense of purpose.

I was working for the money. I simply became more and more emotionally distant, and it was less fulfilling. Still, the president of the company was a wonderful man, and we did good work- we cleaned up the environment. But I didn't clean up the environment. I was in corporate.

Then, one day in 1999, we made the decision to dissolve the company. It's not easy to say this, but I guess I wasn't invested enough to really feel any grief about it being over. I did receive a year's salary as severance, which gave me the opportunity to say, "OK, what's next?"

That year of reflection was an important part of my journey.

I was never a walker before that year, but I started walking every day.... It was a form of meditation for me. I often had what-if-I-win-the-lottery thoughts.... I always had the same fantasy, that if I won the lottery, I would start a not-for-profit dealing with homeless families. I also wanted a house on the ocean, but it was just one of those what-if-I-win-the-lottery things. I can't afford a house on the ocean, and I thought I couldn't afford to run a homeless program.

One day, I realized that I was being really stupid, that I had been working for money for so long, and it was time that I worked for passion, and I just had to make the money work. Was I going to spend the rest of my life making money and being unhappy or not making money and being happy?

That's what it got down to. I knew what I wanted and wouldn't listen to anyone who discouraged me. A number of people told me that I should go to a little place called Travelers Aid in downtown Providence. I had never heard of it, and in my mind it was something in a bus terminal. But eventually I called the woman who was president and asked if I could have a tour. …