Second acts – it’s never too late to learn something new.

When I retired last year, I promised myself three things. I’d never stop learning, I’d enjoy my newfound free time without guilt, and I’d continue to give back through volunteering and community involvement.

I’d worked outside the home since graduating from college in 1985. When I had my children, I was fortunate to have a flexible work schedule and the opportunity to participate in many rewarding volunteer opportunities. I was a busy person and I loved it.

Not surprisingly, when I retired at the “youngish” age of 58 last year, I found myself with more time on my hands than I was used to. I faced the challenge to stay “busy enough” while also taking advantage of the opportunity to start my second act.

After sharing these concerns with other retirees, I learned I wasn’t alone in feeling a little rudderless. It’s a good change, but it’s a big change. I’m healthy, have an active mind and thrive on challenges, deadlines and productivity. So how does one pivot into a more flexible, slower paced life while still learning and growing?

Well, like everyone else, I took up pickleball. And despite the weird scoring system, I’m a fan. I also signed up to volunteer at a hospital. I look forward to helping both providers and patients wherever I’m needed. And I decided to pursue an interest that has been part of my life since I was a child.

I’ve always been a writer at heart. I wrote poetry and kept journals from grade school through college. I started a blog when I turned 50. Writing was an integral part of my marketing career. I authored press releases, product brochures and newsletters. Upon retiring, I realized I could focus on a more creative style and pursue other writing opportunities – and so I became a columnist!

Taking the leap to learn something new or hone a lifelong passion is possible at any age. As we mature in our lives and careers, our responsibilities shift – children leave the nest, work roles become less demanding or we retire – freeing up time to pursue new hobbies or our next chapter. So why not give it a go?

An emerging theme in this column has been inviting others to contribute thoughts on various topics. For this article, I asked “what new hobby or activity have you pursued later in life?” The responses rolled in. In addition to retirees, many readers in the prime of their careers shared their new hobbies and ventures. The common themes?  Following dreams, awakening the inner artist and relieving stress.

J.J. Jiminez works as a radiologist but found time to turn a lifelong love of music into a new hobby. “Last year I started taking electric bass lessons online. I began this journey 40 years ago but never learned the proper theory and technique. I recently took up acoustic guitar. Music is an amazing stress reliever for me.”

Curt Anderson, who’s had a long career at Busey Wealth Management, took to the skies to follow his childhood dream. “I grew up as the son of a pilot and always longed to fly, but life got in the way. When my father passed away in 2001, I decided he would want me to pursue my dream, so at 45 I headed out to Frasca Field – and the rest is history. I still fly and absolutely love it. Aviation is challenging, rewarding, and in some respects, spiritual.”

Dave Barr took up poker. “It’s been a fascinating run. I’ve met a cast of characters that defies description. I’ve played with professional poker players, doctors, lawyers and those awaiting sentencing… I’ve played in the world series of poker several times. It’s been a tremendous amount of fun.”

Meanwhile, Dave’s wife Leslie pursued a completely different hobby. “I found and fell in love with Zentangle at 50, and become an instructor at 51. I recently started taking Plein Air painting classes. I love stretching my creative muscles.” Curious about Zentangle? Visit

Jeannie Vansickle found that a creative hobby helped with grief. “Art became my therapist after the unexpected death of my husband.”

Joyce Kramar and her husband took up ballroom dancing after “staring wistfully at the dance floor at parties and weddings.” “When you read about setting yourself up to be happier and healthier as you age, physical exercise, learning new things and having friends rank as important. Learning to dance has checked all three boxes. And it’s just plain fun!”

Laura Finke raised four children before developing a green thumb. “I took up gardening. I couldn’t grow a thing before the kids left. When my youngest child Ashley was a senior in high school, I started an “empty nest wish list.” A month after she left for college, I got busy investing in my life in ways I never had. I found out how much I love learning about plants and garden design.”

At 57 Nancy Dankle and her friend Mary Knight wanted to combine their love of plants with a needed service for homeowners, so in 2017, they launched their garden design and landscaping business 2 Girls in the Garden. “It’s been a fun experience and we love working outdoors with a variety of gardens and commercial clients,” says Nancy.

Changing careers later in life is also becoming a common theme. Cathy Murphy retired after a long career in elementary education. “At 62 I’m learning all about the insurance biz and going to work as an agent. It’s a big 180!”

Rich Montgomery works as a Pharmacy Technician but has been spending his free time learning multiple languages on Duolingo. “It’s fun, easy, educational and hopefully someday – useful.”

Lynn Anderson, who along with her husband Scott, has joined the pickleball craze, says that she is also “having fun learning to play bridge with her girlfriends.”

Bridge is a complicated game to learn at any age. I witnessed this when my mother hosted bridge night when I was a child. At 89, she continues to add new games to her repertoire and now hosts a Mahjongg group.

Whether it’s picking up the latest sport, challenging your creativity or even changing careers – It’s never too late to learn something new. There are always dreams to follow. Whatever your age, station in life or employment status, you won’t regret trying a new hobby, perfecting a lifetime passion or joining that pickleball workshop. Here’s to second, third and even fourth acts!

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