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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hélène Tragos Stelian's Next Act for Women

Whether we were stay-at-home moms or moms with jobs outside our homes, at some point we came to a realization that when our children left their comfortable nests – and us – we needed to reassess our purpose, and that’s exactly what Hélène Tragos Stelian did in January, 2015, when she started her blog, Next Act for Women.

I’ll let Hélène explain in her own words how and why the next act for Hélène became the Next Act for Women:

As my twin daughters were turning 17, and were naturally pushing away from me, I knew I needed to find another purpose in my life beyond being a mother. I'd stayed at home since they were born and done a lot of philanthropy, first in the suburbs of Chicago where we lived for 13 years, then in the city when we moved back for the girls' high school years. Still, I felt unmoored as they pushed away and my time freed up. 

I started thinking more and more about what this next chapter of my life could bring. My husband, Peter, was not planning to retire for a while (we're both 51) and our girls would be leaving for college (fingers crossed) in 18 months. What now? 

I began to read about women in midlife—I'm a big fan of Suzanne Braun Levine—and researching possible career paths. I got most serious about doing something in the health profession — I'd always wished I'd been a doctor — but didn't want to spend too much time back in the classroom and I was used to my flexible schedule. I finally decided to become an EMT but, the week before I was to sign up at Malcolm X College for their EMT-Basic program, I hurt my neck and suffered severe nerve pain that no medication or physical therapy could alleviate. Only an epidural, two months later, finally gave me relief. I realized I may not be cut out for the physical demands that come with the EMT profession. 

By the time my body was on the mend, I had had many conversations with other women in midlife, who, like me, were trying to figure out what to do next. While some had had the privilege of staying home with their kids, others had been working outside the home and were looking for renewed challenge and passion. I also encountered women who had found renewed purpose in midlife and came to believe there was a huge untapped opportunity — a need really — to share their stories, in the hopes of inspiring and educating the rest of us who were still "flailing about." 

My first instinct was to write a book about these women's stories of reinvention because I was most familiar with that medium: I'd just self-published the second edition of my planner, Getting Ready for Baby: The Practical Parent's Organizer. But I came to realize that I wanted to find an outlet that lent itself to conversation and that I could continually add to as I met more amazing women. A blog made the most sense.

Now keep in mind that when I started blogging, I didn't even have a Facebook account. I'm a pretty private person and had vowed never to get on any social media. Well that mindset had to change very fast. I'm now sharing and tweeting everywhere! (see links below)

In a sense, Next Act for Women has become my own reinvention! 

Hélène targets primarily women in midlife.

Whether out of curiosity or because they are looking to make a change in their lives, they come to read the stories of other women who took a leap at age 40 or later and went back to school, started a nonprofit, pursued a passion deeply, launched a business, or made a big change in their personal lives. 

On my blog, you'll meet Lori, who became a fitness trainer; Bonnie, who started an organization business; Katy, who became a life coach; Tina, who launched a private college counseling practice; Nan, who started cycling competitively; Susie, who opened a small farm; Sue, who founded an animal therapy program; Nancy, who started a family adventure travel website; Lisa, who moved to Italy and runs tours there; Sybil, who became a mosaic artist; Jill, who adopted two boys; Laurie, who made a documentary inspired by her daughter's diabetes; Haralee, who introduced menopausal women to her line of wicking nightwear; Sunada, who became a Buddhist minister; Cathy, who became an advocate for Multiple Sclerosis; Gretchen, who started speaking out for therapeutic drug policies; Opal, who made it her mission to fight human sex trafficking; Patti, who became a novelist. The list goes on and on… I have over 50 stories on the site right now and add two each week.

Hélène’s stories reveal so many women who decided to put aside all stereotypes of midlife and open their creativities, passions, and talents to make our world a better place, one act at a time. 

If you read Hélène’s Next Act for Women  you’ll agree with her when she says that the stories she shares are both inspiring and educational. 

The women I write about inspire through their courage, their perseverance, their kindness, their humor, their humility. They educate others by sharing their advice and their best resources. I differentiate my blog by providing in-depth background on these women's journeys, allowing for a real sense of connection, and providing practical tips and links to books, websites, and programs. With lots of photos too!

I have also started interviewing women who are experts in their fields and can share their knowledge with us. For example: Julie, a career coach; Ellen, an authority on menopause; Liz, the author of a book about careers for former lawyers; Sandy, a midlife dating coach; Kerry, an expert on second acts... And more!

Hélène offered to provide links for every woman she mentioned in this interview, but I’d rather have you read her blog to find them, because looking through her blog is like mining for diamonds. Every story is inspiring and every life reveals possibilities for exploring our own life’s passions. You can tell that she enjoys writing about these women and sharing their worlds with the rest of us. But Next Act for Women has had a personal positive effect on Hélène too.

Next Act for Women was the catalyst for my writing more personal essays as well. I am now a contributor to Huffington Post (see link below) and just love the opportunity to write about topics that interest me. My last essay on Huffington, entitled "7 Appeals to Moms From Women Without Children" went viral and I'm now working on another hot topic that I hope will gain similar traction. 

I like to say that in writing about other women, I found my own voice. 

For inspiration from women who explored their passions to reveal their talents, click on any of the Next Act for Women links in this blog. And look for Hélène on Huffington Post, Facebook, and Twitter.

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