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Chasing Dreams & Second Acts

IMG_0130When I was 15 years old, I thought I wanted to be an Oceanographer, a female version of  Jacques Cousteau. Yes, I was a bit of a nerd. And yes, if you are a Seinfeld fan, you know that George Castanza (Marine Biologist) would be proud.

But a lot of things diverted me and with my natural penchant to go with the latest greatest thing, I entered the business world after receiving my bachelors degree. So instead of pursuing Biology, I rose to be a National Sales Manager with a Fortune 100 company and I was quite happy doing that. I was well-recognized and rewarded for my ongoing performance and life was good.

In retrospect, it actually might be a good thing that I took the business route. as I tend now, to be seasick on boats and get a little claustrophobic and very terrified when I am deep under the water. So given that wobbly health status, maybe that rise in the business world was a pretty good option. I was never seasick in the high-rise building or on the company jet, nor was I claustrophobic in the boardroom. Sometimes we make great choices without even realizing it.

But what happened to my oceanographer aspirations?  Somehow they kept surfacing in the books I read, the documentaries that interested me and there remains a vague interest in the one that got away. But no – I am not returning to school to become an oceanographer but in wishing to quiet my wondering heart, I have decided to go on a conservation trip in Belize with the Oceanic Society where I will be on board one of their research boats, working alongside people who do the job that I had aspired to do. I will be tracking and classifying the Bottlenose Dolphins in their favorite places.

And given that it is winter where I live and summer where the dolphins hang out, there seems to be some serious side benefits. Accommodations, although not exotic, are on the beach and that sounds irresistible.

The job description on the Oceanic Society site reads :

“The research will focus on dolphin behavior in the context of specific habitats. As a research assistant, you will accompany the researcher to known dolphin “hot-spots” within the atoll. Our goal is to determine habitat use and our days are spent working in small teams, recording dolphin behavior on standard data sheets, plotting location, and identifying dolphins individually through natural markings.

At locations where dolphin sightings occur, the researcher with the assistance of those volunteers comfortable with snorkeling, will conduct underwater examinations of the habitat and record prey availability while boat-based team members collect environmental data. Opportunistically and at the discretion of the researcher, we will also attempt to observe the dolphins’ behavior underwater.

Manatees are found in our study site and opportunistically we will also collect data on their distribution. All research is conducted from small boats inside the atoll. You must know how to swim but no other skills are required to participate.”

I was so excited to find this. It is another wonderful benefit of retiring early so that you are capable of fulfilling your dreams however crazy they may be.

That brings us to the point of this post. After so many years of doing what we should do, our dreams are buried beneath our responsibilities and we lose track of what they were. I ran into an old friend and she was speaking of wanting to do something, now that she was an empty-nester, but she had no idea what she would like to do. And, like all of us, she was struggling to figure it out.

After a lifetime of defining ourselves in the context of others, we no longer know who we are when we are alone. We only know who we are relative to those that we live with and care for. And having a place in your family context is good.  And these lifetime relationships are important.

But it does not override that need to see who we are when we are alone.  To realize what dreams and aspirations we had and go after them now.  It is not too late.  Your second act is only just beginning when you hear this call.  And it could be sweet and fulfilling once you start.  Trying a lot of  new things can help you to recognize the ones that make your heart sing and point you in the direction where your pathway awaits. Your second act. You don’t need to know what to do. You just need to try a few new things. It is self-propagating too, in that the first few choices open up new choices that you could not have foreseen.

Chasing dreams makes you feel like a kid again and dreaming makes you feel enthusiastic and hopeful for the future.

So start with one thing. And do one thing every day. You get bolder as you go along too. When you have fun with the little things, you move on to bigger and bolder things.

I no longer wish to be an oceanographer, but this trip will be an interesting opportunity to try something new and exciting. I actually no longer feel like I am seeking something but rather just enjoying the whole experience of trying the things that interest me.  I continue to remain open to what is next.  My second act. And I am trusting the process.  And having a great time doing it.


  1. DJan says:

    The possibility of being in close proximity to dolphins makes me excited for you! I think this is a wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to hearing how it goes. Don’t forget to take pictures! Are those your pretty toes? :-)

  2. Love your adventure dreaming! Hope you can manage to not get seasick! As you relate your adventures,I wonder about my late start at trying new things. Of course I will start a lot smaller,because I like to stay in my safety zone,but hey,still new things!
    Good luck!

    • Kelly says:

      How big or how small the new things are is not important….it is important just to keep doing something new and as a result, staying open to all that life can bring to you. It is a simple way to add spice to your life and it is never too late to do that!

  3. curvyroads says:

    Kelly, you continue to be very inspiring to me…I too, once considered a career in marine science, but ended up in the corporate world. I am working my metamorphosis slowly and with a view to making it financially sustainable to retire early, but your posts make me so excited for the future! Happy New Year! I can’t wait to read your posts about your experience in Belize.

    • Kelly says:

      How parallel our paths have been. My process of change was slow also…it took five years to realize that I could go. It was not a sudden celebration but rather a slow emerging realization.

      I am glad that I can inspire you as I go along. I wish to share though that being fully retired has never been my goal but rather a flexible, fulfilling way of working that overlaps with the things I love the most. It is kind of a combination of working at something I love when I want to, while still retaining the flexibility to go on an adventure whenever I can. It is a challenging process to achieve but it is turning out to be worth it. I never could be an idle retiree in the classic sense of being retired.

      As I evolve into my picture of retirement (an ongoing process) I think that barring a serious physical limitation, I could do this for a very long time.

      • curvyroads says:

        Kelly, you eloquently captured my dream for my future…I too could never be *retired* from everything. I want to retire from corporate life, then I want to be able to do what I love full time (motorcycling), traveling, and writing about it. I agree, it sounds fabulous and long-term! Cheers!

        • Kelly says:

          That sounds so free and exciting to be on the road, exploring, writing and going wherever the road leads….can’t wait to watch your journey!

          • curvyroads says:

            Thank you! I will be writing about previous trips and our vacations as we take them while still employed in the meantime. Keeping the dream alive!

  4. nancytex2013 says:

    Belize and dolphins? Sounds like heaven!
    Have a wonderful time and embrace this new experience as you have shown you can/do with all your recent travel. Bon Voyage!

    • Kelly says:

      It could be heaven or it could be Dramamine….not sure yet but I am going for it anyway. Belize and dolphins…what a combination. You are right it is heavenly to think about. I really feel quite nervous….I am really stepping out on this one.

      But it seems when I accomplish things like this that are challenging (like you do) my abilities are stretched, never again to return to their original size.

  5. This will be an amazing adventure. Do take non drowsy dramamine with you. I went to Tofo, Mozambique to research whale sharks and mantas….an incredible trip which showed me that although my childhood dream of being Jacques Cousteau was not possible, I can still do many of the things I have dreamed of. I have been diving all over the world, but not enough yet! I leave for Great Exuma in a week to dive with sharks, and at the end of February…I am off to Thailand to dive the Mergui Archipelago. In September I am going for two weeks to Ecuador to help with Manta research. If you love your trip (and you will), you have a fellow Jacques Cousteau to adventure with right here! I have long searched for someone who would like to do these things with me. Here is the first blog of my African adventure, taken solo! http://travelswithtam.com/blog/2013/06/30/adventures-in-mozambique-2012/

    • Kelly says:

      OMG Adventure is your superpower! You have done so much more to fulfill your Jacques Cousteau aspirations than I have. This trip is my actual first step and although I have done the online PADI I have yet to do my underwater portion. I will definitely be watching your adventures and if I can catch up with your spirit we may be in the same dive together one day. For your underwater photographs, what type of camera do you use? I love taking photos but have yet to do the underwater version.

      Very nice to connect with you.

  6. I go to Cozumel A LOT as it is our second home, and I can tell you that the waters of Cozumel and Belize are crystal clear! I would recommend waiting until you are really comfortable underwater before tackling underwater photography. It is much tougher than shooting terra! And to really shoot well, you have to be very close to the animal….at least 3 feet for a really clear shot. Belize should be perfect to do your underwater portion…there’s no such thing as claustrophobia when the visibility is close to 100 ft! I feel more comfortable under the water than I do above! Blog all about your adventures, can’t wait to hear about it!

    • Kelly says:

      I will go one step at a time…you sound so experienced and it is so fun to see someone who is just ahead of me on this journey. Your claustrophobia comment is interesting…I will hope that the visibility favors me.

      I saw your photo of the Queen Manta on your blog and that is a great shot for me to aspire to….but maybe after I get more comfortable under the water.

      • Yes, get comfortable first, I’ve been diving for 25 years…and frequently since 2000. Belize is easy diving, great visibility, beautiful fish (there’s really nothing that will hurt you, the animals just look at you, I have never had anything come “at me” so don’t be afraid, just enjoy the scenery!

  7. Kelly, this is so awesome and inspiring. Can’t wait to hear about your trip — it sounds amazing. You should talk to Ruth Curran of Cranium Crunches, who just came back from Belize on a volunteer trip. 2014 will definitely be an exciting year for you!

    • Kelly says:

      I will make sure to do that…it feels great always to connect with people who have similar paths and goals. Thanks for the idea.

      This trip is a great start to the year. Thanks for coming by my blog Lois.

  8. bohemianbabushka says:

    “Chasing dreams makes you feel like a kid again and dreaming makes you feel enthusiastic and hopeful for the future.” ESO!!! How true- and timely. Here from the MB hop and thanking you for the reminder. BB2U

    • Kelly says:

      Thanks for coming by and leaving your thoughts on my blog. Isn’t it amazing how when we were kids we could dream and scheme and then as adults we forget or don’t have time to do this very important task. So when this time of your life comes and you do get back to dreaming and scheming, it brings you back to those lazy summer days of thinking you could do or be anything!

  9. jasteck says:

    Kelly, You are an inspiration. What a fabulous opportunity! I was also interested in the ocean, but I live in Colorado and when a few doors closed, I went into law enforcement. It has been a wonderful career, but I’m so ready to work on dreams unrealized. I’ll be following your travels.

    • Thanks for coming by my blog…congratulations on moving into retirement and dreams to be realized! It is true that if you just wait and listen that you will know what is next when you retire.

      Retirement is just a series of exciting choices that you make…you try on a whole lot of things and see what you like. I think that I could keep living like this forever. I don’t think that I will ever stop experimenting with new things.

  10. I love that you are still perusing your dream & passion. (even if it’s not your REAL job)


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