Forties, smorties! I had a successful career in the computer industry, culminating as a V.P. at a large NY bank, managing two software development departments, then subsequently triaged myself out during a bank merger along with several of my employees. While spending quality time home with my two children and teaching part-time, as well as volunteering for a variety of positions for various community boards and religious organizations, I finally had time to follow an early passion of mine – understanding how the mind works and how it influences the lives we lead.
I began by reading as many lay books as I could get my hands on: books by Dawkins, Wilson, Ridley, De Waal, Dennett, Gould to name just a few of the authors. But when I tried reading some of the background science papers, it was all Greek to me! I couldn’t understand anything! So I registered for Intro Biology at Columbia University in NYC. On the first evening before class, another waiting student came up to me and asked, “Are you the professor for this class?” I thought, this is going to be interesting! I was 52 years old!
There were times I cried. There were times I thought this is insane! But I persevered because I LOVED what I was learning. Finally, here was a course that started literally, at the atomic level moving through the molecular to the cellular level, and ending with physiology. I was in heaven! I would sit at the kitchen table in the evenings, doing homework with my high-schooler. Two years later Columbia started a Masters program in Biotechnology and I was in the first class. Through two hand surgeries, it took me four years, concentrating in neuroscience, to finish a one and a half year program. But I did it! I was 58 years old.
I was thrilled just to have had the opportunity to learn all I did, but the thrill was continued when I actually got a job as Lab Manager in a research lab associated with Columbia, doing work on schizophrenia. I have worked there for over 4 years now – loving every minute of it, learning continuously, being challenged, and being invigorated by the young graduate students and post-docs in the lab. It’s been the most rewarding and satisfying of my careers. So for me, life began after 50! And the moral of the story is, you are never too old to learn.