My Third Act

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Career Change, Education, Mary, Uncategorized, Wellness

by Mary Yoke ~

It’s hard not to ponder the strange path my life has taken. Both personally and professionally, I’ve had so many unexpected twists and turns. Career-wise, I’ve definitely had what can be divided into at least three acts — something I would have never imagined in my 20s, 40s or even in my 50s. And who knows? Maybe there are more acts to come. Life, for me, has been so unpredictable.

In my 20s, I thought I had it all mapped out. I was certain I was destined to be a famous opera singer. Every indication led directly to that conclusion.

I earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in voice performance, won every vocal contest I entered, and won two large cash prizes at the culmination of the San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program in 1978.

Me singing Mimi in La Boheme at an outside performance in San Francisco, 1978.
Singing Mimi in La Boheme at an outside performance in San Francisco, 1978.

Famous impressarios, conductors, voice teachers and opera coaches all were convinced I had a magnificent career ahead of me. I lived — diva-like — for music and art. This was Act One, and, like any act in a theatrical play, it came to an end — and an unfortunate end at that.

Suddenly, in my late 20s, I was beset with unexplained hoarseness. I tried everything: a month of complete vocal silence; 100 shots in my back to see if I had allergies; and a tonsillectomy, which was followed a year later with an adenoidectomy. I changed voice teachers and voice coaches; I moved to different climates. I studied the Alexander Technique. When experts said it must be psychosomatic, I entered therapy. All to no avail.

During the subsequent and devastating entr’acte, I unhappily supported myself with a number of different jobs: waitress, bartender, line cook, pastry chef, legal aide, bookkeeper, receptionist in a large car dealership, salesperson in music and clothing stores, and as a church organist.

Eventually, I chanced into the world of fitness. And so the Second Act began.

Luckily, after teaching group exercise for a couple of years (back then, we called it aerobics), I met an influential person who recommended I return to school for a Master’s degree in exercise physiology, which I achieved in 1988.

Fitness has been good to me. Not only were jobs available, but I was able fairly easily to juggle the demands of new motherhood and maintain a flexible and accommodating work schedule. Plus, a great side benefit of a career in fitness is that staying in shape is actually part of the job.

I worked first in cardiac rehab and as a physical therapist assistant, then in corporate fitness, and then in commercial fitness, all the while teaching one academic class per semester as an adjunct professor.

In 1986 I became involved with a major international fitness certifying organization, and for 30 years this company has provided me with amazing opportunities for teaching, writing, and traveling around the world to present a wide variety of fitness workshops and certifications.

I’ve also presented at hundreds of conferences and have made several online videos on a Hollywood sound stage. I’ve been so very fortunate and I’m tremendously grateful to all those who’ve helped me and inspired me. The fitness world is full of people who motivate others for a living — they’re an enthusiastic and passionate bunch!

The bizarre thing is, I never could have predicted this entire career back in my 20s. Who’d have thought I’d become a fitness presenter, educator and writer? This was SO not on my radar during Act One!

Teaching at Indiana University.
Teaching at Indiana University.

And now, surprise!, I’m in Act Three. My fitness credentials helped me land a Visiting Lecturer position in kinesiology at Indiana University. I entered academia full-time and found that I loved it.

After decades of cobbling together a full-time income from multiple fitness jobs, I’ve now decided it’s good to stay more-or-less in one place and have some job security. I’ve found that I love developing longer-term relationships with students over the course of several semesters. I am inspired by my students, other faculty, and partners within the community. I love the vitality of a college town, the vibrant action on campus, the idealism and questing of students, and the golden bubble of learning, which is the academic world.

I have a strong sense that this is where I now belong. When the Visiting Lecturer position ended, I found I was finally at a point in my life where a PhD could become a reality, and so I’ve moved into health behavior research and will receive my doctorate by the end of 2016.

I hope to stay in academia, do research, inspire students, collaborate with inspiring colleagues, and continue with my writing and presenting. I am filled with purpose and feel as if I’m on fire!

Seriously, every single day is exciting and amazing for me. I’m being challenged in new ways I couldn’t have imagined ten years ago. Even though I’m at the age where some of my friends are already retiring, I feel as if I’m just getting started on a new and amazing path.

Retirement for me? No way! I have zero interest in retirement — I feel as if I’m good to go for another 20 or even 30 years. There’s so much I want to learn and accomplish.

I guess the reason I felt compelled to write this post is that I am continually surprised at my own career path (and don’t get me started on all the personal life changes I’ve experienced) and I’d like to put forward the idea that this is possible for others.

I’ve come to believe that, in fact, we can have multiple careers within one lifetime. Perhaps this can be an important way to stay vital, energetic, curious and productive. If you’re floundering in uncertainty or in a dead-end job, take heart that life can hold something better for you that may be beyond imagining.

In my own case, I can assure you that my unorthodox and unexpected journey has nevertheless caused me to thrive in ways I could have never foreseen. Who knows what lies ahead?

by Mary Yoke | email | facebook | linkedin

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Surrounding Ourselves With Thrivers

Posted on Leave a commentPosted in Career, Happiness, Uncategorized

by Maria Katrien Heslin ~

We clearly live in troubling, volatile times, where stress, depression and anger are ubiquitous; personal safety is precarious; incivility is commonplace; bitterness is booming; and uncertainty and unhappiness are rampant.

For many, it’s easy to get caught up in this whirlwind of negativity. We see it all over social media, in the news, and we may hear it and feel it from our friends, family and coworkers. Some of the feelings may be easy to understand and justifiable, others less so.

One of the dangers of getting stuck in the misery swirl is that too often we allow one adverse reality to impact how we perceive other aspects of life, such as our work, health, relationships or humanity in general.

It almost seems like negativity is catching. Actually, might this naysaying vortex be socially contagious? If a condition such as obesity is, then it’s likely a social trait such as negativity is too!

In fact, studies show that when one person became obese, their friends were 57% more likely than the average person to become obese; friends of friends were 20% more likely to become obese, and their friends were 10% more likely to become obese. Other behaviors such as smoking, happiness, creativity and drinking saw similar results.

Nick Cooney, in his book Change of Heart, What Psychology Can Teach Us About Spreading Social Change, shares that researchers suggest that such behaviors spread in part through subconscious social signals about what is normal. If the person sitting next to you is eating more, chances are you will, too. If several of your friends are Debbie Downers, you’ll begin to see that as a socially acceptable condition, and you’ll take on that behavior yourself.

The good news is, that hanging out with positive, hard working, fun, spunky and ambitious people can rub off on you too! The Jim Rohn adage that we are the average of the people with whom we most surround ourselves, is far more than lore.

And that’s such a huge part of why I’ve launched this blog “Thrivers.” Yeah, like the world needs another blog! Well, actually in these turbulent times, I think the world does need a vibrant voice of optimism, energy, hard work, positivity, fun, passion and accomplishment.

For Thrivers, I’ve handpicked a handful of writers of various ages and professions, who approach life with optimism, curiosity, energy, humor and a quest to learn, always. What’s not to like about that?!

These are individuals who love what they do professionally, or who are in the active pursuit of that work-centric joy, and who, to the best of my knowledge, don’t wallow, worry or whine excessively while they find their way.

Now this doesn’t mean they necessarily thrive 100% of the time in all parts of their lives or that they always have thrived — but they get what thriving is all about and are on a quest to grow, be happy and inspire others to do the same. On top of that, they’re all people who can write well and produce compelling articles that inform, entertain and engage the reader.

People of this ilk are true thrivers, and they are rare. I’m so fortunate to know them and to have their work gracing our blog waves. Yes, I am surrounding myself with fellow thrivers, which helps me keep thriving, and you can too. Here is a little bit about each of our contributing writers:


Hannah Goodwin graduated from Indiana University in May and this week started a full-time job in the office of Indiana’s Lieutenant Governor. I met Hannah a couple years of ago when she took my class Public Relations for Nonprofits. I liked Hannah right away. She’s sweet, incredibly sarcastic, self-deprecating, bright, inventive and determined. In her last semester, Hannah took my PR Career Success Preparation class, and she may not admit it, but given the plum job she’s just landed, apparently she learned a lot. 😉 Her first piece with Thrivers is called “It’s A Numbers Game,” which clearly demonstrates the qualities I’ve just ascribed her.


After 30+ years in fitness, Mary Yoke is pursuing her Ph.D. She is warm, lively, fit, pretty, interested and downright sparkly. She knows more than almost anyone about fitness and is writing her dissertation on people’s attitudes toward physical activity. Mary’s also a fantastic yoga teacher, who loves music and plays the piano daily while overlooking a large, lush lake. Enjoy Mary’s articles A Doctoral Candidate’s Meeting and The Motivation to Move.


Kate Halliwell is an excellent writer who just enjoyed a most enviable internship in LA at IndieWire, an online entertainment publication. She didn’t exactly sit around, filing or going on coffee runs there; she garnered more than 65 bylines! Kate also is lively and witty, and she has just started her senior year at Indiana University. Kate’s prolific on Thrivers too! Check out her articles:


I’m also thrilled to have the lovely Kelly Bush on our team. Kelly is a 30-something enjoying a new, fabulous career in the New York art world after taking a less fitting path. I met Kelly years ago, when she worked as a Teaching Assistant for my father Tom Heslin, who was an IU Kelley School of Business professor. Kelly is brainy, clever, wise, sharp, tenacious and cultured. Enjoy her first Thrivers piece.

For the moment, our sole male contributing writer is Tibet Spencer. Like the others, he is incredibly likable, funny, focused, astute and positive. He is outdoorsy and athletic, and has a natural charm about him. Tibet graduated from IU in May and has just converted his summer internship into a full-time job with an advertising firm in Indianapolis. His two Thrivers posts have been particularly popular:


Next up is Olivia Humphreys, who was chosen by her classmates to be the one they’d most like to hire, given the opportunity. She’s awesome. Like Hannah, Olivia took both my PR for Nonprofits class and the Career class, and she’s such a positive force. She characterizes herself as a relaxed Type A personality and is really bright, creative, organized and well prepared. Olivia graduated in May and almost immediately began working for a nonprofit called Centerstone. She absolutely loves her job, and in The Better of Two Goods, you can see why. Also enjoy her writing about The Importance of Craft Time at Work and Embracing My Ruby Slipper Syndrome.

 

stephanie copy
Brand new to the Thrivers team is Stephanie Harbison; her first post comes out next week. Stephanie is impossible not to like, despite the fact she’s so smart, sweet, funny and pretty! 🙂 She is also a great writer, who is passionate about her day job and her volunteer work. She and I met a few years ago and served as leaders of a local group, the Women’s Success Network. Watch for her upcoming piece and many more.

 


I round out the Thrivers team, and I’m a Mindful Career Coach, who helps people reach their professional mountaintop. I also teach at IU and love laughing, writing, traveling, animals and yoga. I’ll cover topics ranging from hot resume trends to mindful leadership, career success and workplace ins and outs.

So far, Thrivers is off to a flourishing start, with more than 1500 visitors in its first two weeks. We hope you’ll check it out, be inspired, learn from our experiences and share your own. Most of all, we hope you’ll catch the bug and thrive with us!

 

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