Reinvention Rebels

Reinvention After 50: A Woman and Her RV | How a 12,000 Mile Solo Trek Across America Changed My Life with Michelle Fishburne

March 16, 2023 Wendy Battles/Michelle Fishburne Season 5 Episode 5
Reinvention Rebels
Reinvention After 50: A Woman and Her RV | How a 12,000 Mile Solo Trek Across America Changed My Life with Michelle Fishburne
Show Notes Transcript

What happens when a midlife woman embarks on a 12,000 mile solo RV journey across America during the pandemic?

A remarkable reinvention story that has changed her life and the lives of thousands of others.

When Michelle Fishburne found herself an empty nester without a house, a spouse and a job, she leaned into her strengths (curiosity, a sense of adventure, the willingness to "do it scared") to guide her path.

What unfolded was an adventure of a lifetime!

She tapped into her inner strength, wisdom and her ability to ask questions (including asking a publisher if her idea was book material). 

What resulted is her book, Who We Are Now:
Stories of What Americans Lost and Found during the COVID-19 Pandemic
.

On her solo journey Michelle sat down with hundreds of people across the US to find out what people had learned about themselves and life during the pandemic. What she learned was touching and profound.

Michelle also discovered new things about herself. You will love what Michelle shares about:

✅ Why being a Reinvention Rebel means getting out of your comfort zone
✅ How she developed pluck - spirited and determined courage - through her reinvention journey
✅ Why we should embrace, not resist, change
✅ How she shifted her mindset from "this part of my life is over" to a life-affirming and fun reinvention

There is so much wisdom, joy and possibility in this episode!

Connect with Michelle:

Website: https://www.whowearenow.us/
Instagram: @Happy_Nomad
Twitter: @whowearenow

Mentioned in this episode:

Kick your midlife fears and uncertainty to the curb and start your Reinvention Rebels journey today. Learn about my audio program, Midlife Reinvention From The Inside Out: 8 Essentials to Greenlight Your Life.

Midlife women ready to reinvent themselves start with being curious about what's possible. Download my free audio, 5 Questions to Spark Your Curiosity & Inspire Your Reinvention Rebel Journey to get started today. 

Support the show

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Thanks for joining me, let's reinvent and get inspired together!

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Michelle: If people just got really quiet with themselves, when they're scared and when they're worried about what they don't have. If they got super quiet and thought about, "Okay, what do I have? What do I have a lot of, and how could I use that, and how could I enjoy using that?" That leads to being unstuck in reinvention.

Wendy: Welcome to Reinvention Rebels, stories of brave and unapologetic women, 50 to 90 years young, who have boldly reimagined life on their own terms to find new purpose and possibilities. I'm your host, Wendy Battles. Ready for a dose of inspiration? Let's get to it.

Hey, everyone, welcome to another episode of the Reinvention Rebels Podcast. I am your host, Wendy. I am so happy you're here. If you are a first-time listener, welcome aboard. This is the place to come for information and a lot of inspiration about what it looks like to reinvent ourselves at any age or any stage. Reinvention Rebels is a top 2% ranked podcast globally, and I have the pleasure of interviewing the most extraordinary women, everyday women, women like you and me, and women that have taken a leap. They have reinvented themselves in interesting, juicy, often remarkable ways. And they remind us that if they can do it, we can do it in our own unique way. They remind us that they have done it scared and so can we. It's okay to be unsure and to have fears. The key thing is to get into action, to take some forward steps to make that big dream or goal of yours happen. 

I'm so glad you're here today. I have a fantastic episode just waiting for you with a really remarkable woman, Michelle Fishburne. I'll introduce her in just a moment, but you're going to love what she's up to. She embodies this idea of doing it scared, which, by the way, did you listen to last week's episode where I talked about doing it scared, doing it anyway, and how we can actually go about doing it? It's a great episode. All kinds of really great information, plus my three strategies to get you into action to do it scared, plus I have a super cool downloadable cheat sheet. It will help you take some notes and begin to think about your own reinvention journey and how you can do it scared. So, all the details, of course, are in the show notes. I am really excited about Michelle. She is such a reinvention rebel. Let me take a moment and introduce you to her.

[Reinvention Rebels Theme]

At 60 years young, Michelle Fishburne has a fabulous reinvention story about finding new possibilities amid loss. The beautiful thing, her reinvention allowed others to share their stories too. This reinvention rebel's life turned upside down during the 2020 COVID spring when she lost her job and could not find another, notwithstanding months of trying. At the end of July 2020, when the lease on her post-divorce house was up and her youngest was going off to college, Michelle found herself without a house, a spouse, a job, or a kid to take care of. That is what she did not have. What she did have was a 2006 motorhome, tons of curiosity, the number one quality for becoming a Reinvention Rebel in my book, and a lot of experience RV-ing all over the country. She combined all of these into a cross-country project, interviewing people about their lives during the pandemic. She RV'ed 12,000 miles and interviewed hundreds of people.

Now, a hundred of those first-person stories are being published by UNC Press and the Duke Center for Documentary studies in Who We Are Now: Stories of What Americans Lost and Found During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Michelle continues to be a full-time nomad, living and working in her motor home, Airbnb's and the occasional house-sitting gig. Her favorite thing about aging is that it gives us each an opportunity to change and see the many facets of ourselves reassembled each time in different ways, like, a kaleidoscope. I am so excited about this conversation. Michelle Fishburne, welcome to the Reinvention Rebels guest chair.

Michelle: Wendy, I am so excited too about this conversation.

Wendy: We are going to have fun. I am delighted you're here. I bet you could imagine I have a lot of questions for you about-- you are rather fascinating reinvention. I'd like to start off by talking about the idea of how reinvention shows up in different ways. Often, it's by choice. We consciously decide, "I want to reinvent myself." But in your case, you were faced with what I call rise to the occasion, reinvention. [chuckles] You had to do something. I'd love for you to describe what that feeling of loss was like and how it motivated you to go on this cross-country trek.

Michelle: Well, once again, thanks again for having me, Wendy, and what a great first question. When July 2020 occurred, and I still did not have a job, after finding myself unemployed in March and looking all over the place, all over the country, I even offered my services for free. The sense of bewilderment actually underscored the sense of loss, because I have a law degree from the University of Virginia, which is a top 10 law school. I have years of experience in many different fields. I just had so much to offer and it didn't occur to me when I was laid off in the COVID spring, because what I was doing, which was national partnerships and events, couldn't be done during the pandemic.

The layoff made a lot of sense for this non-profit. But I assumed with all of the skills I had developed over the years. I have half of an MBA, I got pregnant in the middle of it. So, I didn't finish the second here. But I have half of an MBA, a law degree, so many years of experience, one would have thought I would have gotten a job. I think bewilderment and kind of shock were probably the predominant emotions. I never expected to be where I was at 57. I thought my trajectory was going to be very different. 

At the same time that was all happening, of course, my youngest was going off to college. That's, I think, when the sense of loss really set in. I was right after I had to put all my stuff in storage when the movers came, that last day that I was in my house, I took my daughter. We went down to Hilton Head. So nice, pretty place to be. We were by the beach. It was on the way to her college, because I was taking her to college, and I sat by the beach. It was a beautiful day, but everything felt gray. I thought, "Well, this is it. The best part of my life is over. I'm just going to get a job apparently. I'm not going to have a career again. It's going to be a job, and it's just going to be a job for money and not for anything more than that." And then I said to myself, "You know, I can see why some people decide they're done with life," because I really felt on a very deep level that I didn't really have that much more to live for other than to be there from my kids. 

I did hit a really, really low point. I wasn't planning to do anything about it. I just had that sense of, "Okay, the rest of my life is going to be very, very gray. Now, the weird thing-- [crosstalk]

Wendy: [crosstalk] just that thought that we can kind of come to that place sometimes, right? We end up unexpectedly in places where it's like, "Huh, this does not seem right."

Michelle: It seemed just so far from right. The interesting thing is, in my story, I had already found the key to what I was going to do, but it hadn't played out yet. So, I didn't have that vision. Fortunately for me, when I was sitting in a Target parking lot on July 15th, so basically, 15 days before the lease was up, I said to myself out loud, "Okay, you have to figure out, where you're going to tell the movers to put your stuff when they come." Sometimes, it's those small moments where you have to make a decision about something very practical that you change where your life is heading.

Wendy: Yeah.

Michelle: So, I said, "Okay, well, since nobody wants me and since they won't even take me--" I can't rent a place because I don't know where I need to go. I tried everything. Like I said, I offered my services to free. I had no idea where I was going to have to go to get a job. Anyway, out of the blue, I thought, "Okay, all right, so I'm moving to the motor home. That's the only thing that makes sense, but then what do I do?" I thought, "Well, I can sit by the ocean and try to consult my way to a new job." But that's what everybody was doing back at that time, and that seemed scary to me. And then I thought, "Well, I'll start driving. I'll drive out to Yellowstone," where I had been in many times with my kids." And then I thought, "Oh, yeah, that'll be depressing, because my littles aren't with me anymore. It'll just be me and the dog in the motorhome at Yellowstone, and all I'll do is cry," because I'd been a home school mom for about 20 years.

Wendy: Okay. [crosstalk]. Yeah.

Michelle: I was true like a super empty nester because--

Wendy: Oh, yes, you were.

Michelle: Yeah. So, then I thought, "Okay, well, what am I going to do on the way out? I can't just go see national parks because I'll just cry the whole way." And I thought, "All right, well, I'm really curious about how people are doing out there." Then, a bolt of lightning, the idea of Humans of New York came to me, that Brandon Stanton had put together, who had gone all over New York City and taken photographs of thousands of people and got to learn their stories along the way. And he started to share them out. And I thought, "Well, I'll do that. I'll do Americans of the pandemic, and I'll build a website, and I will do blogs and articles and talk to the press." Then by Christmas time, I'll be able to say, "See what I can do. Hire me." But what ended up happening-- [Wendy laughs] 

So, that's really how this whole thing came down was, it was just to be a project, so I could get a job. I still had no idea that this was going to take my life in a very, very different direction.

Wendy: Oh. Isn't that interesting too, how you thought of it as a means to an end? Sometimes, I think, one, we think small. Well, it's just this little thing I'm going to do to get to this other thing that I think I want, as opposed to something that could be even bigger that could have more impact as you'll talk about. So, I love the beginnings of this.

Michelle: You know that saying, do what you love?

Wendy: Yes.

Michelle: Well, this is such a great example of that, because what I loved was driving all over the country, meeting brand new people, and hearing their stories, and giving them the space to tell their stories. So, for example, the one and only one question I asked people when I interviewed them was "It's January 1st, 2020? What was your 2020 supposed to be like and what did it end up being like through to the present?" Then I would tell them, "Don't wait for a follow-up question. Just talk for as long as you want." And then I tell them, "Most people talk for 30 or 45 minutes and then they breathe." And they laugh and they think that won't be them. Sure enough, at the end, they'll be like, "How long did I go?" So, I did what I loved, which was finding out how other people were doing. 

So, people kept saying, "This is a book. This is history. This has to be somehow recorded for posterity. You can't just have this be a project." So, I sent an email to UNC Press at Christmas time 2020 and said, "Is this a book?" And they said, yes. And so, now it's a book-- [crosstalk] 

Wendy: Just like that. 

Michelle: Just like that. And now it's a book. And so, I continued on. The interviews were collected over a year. It really is something I love. I have this story. You know how sometimes you have a story or a moment in your life that sits with you really deep and you don't know why?

Wendy: Yes.

Michelle: When I was very young, in my late 20s, I was in a hot tub in Palm Springs at sunset. In the hot tub was a gentleman who was about probably 65, who'd spent his career trying to find the cure for cancer, and a young woman from San Francisco who was dating an artist of the day. So, the three of us. It was very, very quiet and he said, "I'd like to tell you guys a story. There was this young couple and they were deeply in love, and they were on this wonderful trip, and they ended up on this cliff. Just think cliffs of Moore or something like that in Ireland or the UK. Out on this cliff is a rock garden, a famous rock garden. There are all these tourist buses that have come up, and the scenery is sweeping and beautiful, dramatic. "They're all these rocks." And so, they walk around, hand in hand, around the rock garden. They're like, "Yeah, they're pretty, but--" 

The scene is pretty, not the rocks. They go over to the rock garden keeper and they say, "What's so special about this place?" He says, "Well, no matter where you stand, you can't see all the rocks." So, they walked around some more hand in hand and sure enough, you couldn't see all of them. Then by and by, they dropped hands and they each meandered. Then at one point, they were at opposite ends of the rock garden. Then when they looked in each other's eyes from across the garden, they realized that between the two of them they could see all the rocks. One of the days toward the very end of my journey, I called one of my kids and I said, "I don't believe this. I can't believe this. I'm doing my rock garden."

Wendy: Yeah.

Michelle: She said, "Yeah, mom, didn't you realize that?"

[laughter]

Michelle: So, I think sometimes when we reinvent ourselves, it was actually already in ourselves.

Wendy: Yes.

Michelle: And we are calling forth this part of us that wanted to be expressed anyway and given an opportunity to rise. So, not only are we rising to the occasion, we're like, "This is a great opportunity just to see this part of yourself that's always been there."

Wendy: I completely agree that sometimes circumstances unfold before us in ways that we don't anticipate. Because we can't see that bigger perspective of all the rocks, because we're so often focused on this small little area like, "I need a project to get this job." Not I could do something really amazing that I love that could lead to something else. So, I love that you had that perspective shift. You said some other things that I thought were really impactful. You said you focused on things that you love, something that you love doing, but you love traveling, you love the RV, you love talking to people. So, you leaned into the things that you enjoy, which I think is so important in reinvention.

You also asked questions. You're a curious person and that is evident in talking to hundreds of people, right? So, you also leaned into, "I like to understand people's lives." I want to know your story. Not me just asking all these questions, but just tell me your story. I love how you approach that and I love how you asked. You said, "Hmm, people said, this could be a book. Let me go ask someone, 'Could this be a book?' Would you publish this book?" And they said "Yes." Because so often, I think as women especially, we play small. We don't always ask for what we want. We want those things, but sometimes, we're afraid to ask. We don't have the confidence to ask. I love how you got out there. You, reinvention rebel you right. That's part of it [Michelle laughs] is that you're curious, you're courageous, you're getting out of sometimes our comfort zone. But when we do that, there's so much potential as you just express to really grow and expand.

Michelle: I think sometimes though being a rebel means you're a little bit on the outside, sometimes. I remember coming back to where I had raised my kids for 20 years in a normal house, and all my friends still had normal houses and spouses.

[laughter]

Michelle: There I was in my motor home with a book coming out without a house and it felt really weird. Sometimes, it feels very weird. So, sometimes when you're a rebel and you get out of your comfort zone, it doesn't mean that in this new reinvention, you will be back in a complete comfort zone again.

Wendy: Yeah.

Michelle: I am glad that I shook it up or was shaken up. I was shaken up.

[laughter]

Michelle: I'm glad that I was shaken up, because I get to see these new versions of myself. But at the same time, it's not like complete in that. It doesn't mean that there's a part of you that doesn't still wonder, what if I had just stayed on that same path that everybody else is on? One has to give oneself grace. Then you sit down and you are very intentional, and you remind yourself, "Oh, but you got to do the rock garden. If the rug hadn't been pulled out from under you and if you hadn't been creative and you hadn't been resourceful, you never would have seen the rock garden." Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. So, it's fleeting.

Wendy: It is.

Michelle: You're like, "Oh, yeah, I wouldn't want to be still staying in a house, for me, because I would have missed the rock garden."

Wendy: Right. Yeah, I think that's right.

Michelle: Sometimes, I think it has to be a little bit of a dialogue, a self-dialogue.

Wendy: Absolutely. I think it's completely a self-dialogue, and I think we're giving and taking. To be able to create often this reinvention, we have to give up some other things, like, our time. Or, we need to put our intention around this thing that we are trying to birth. I can relate to that completely with the podcast. I used to see my friends so much more. I have a full-time job, and I do the podcast, and I take care of my aging mom, and do all these other things. My life is different. I'm in a different season and it's been hard to-- Sometimes accept that that some of these choices I've made intentionally like, "I want to do this. I feel I feel called to you to have this podcast. I feel called to inspire people around the world." But you have to weigh it sometimes. 

So, I think you're right that it takes a lot of self-work to understand where I am, to understand your why, to use that why to keep motivating you, and sometimes you're just like, "I don't know about this," because we all also can have doubts in the midst of reinventing ourselves. I think that's very normal. It's not like every day you're like, "Oh, my gosh, this is the best thing and I feel so confident." It's like an ebb and flow. So, I think you're totally onto something with that.

[music]

Wendy: Rebels, this conversation that I'm having with Michelle, it's all about the inside internal work that we're both doing as we're working on reinventing ourselves. That is so key to your evolution. That's one of the reasons why I appreciate meditation, and I do it on a regular basis. Many of you have heard this story about how the Reinvention Rebels Podcast was birthed. It was actually when I was meditating that I heard those two tiny words, "Reinvention Rebels." I love a meditation because it helps me go inside, get grounded, and will to be present to be my best self.

It helps me tune in, quiet down, and listen to the wisdom that bubbles up from my soul. I want to tell you about a resource that I think you're going to love. It's called the Women's Meditation Network. It's a series of podcasts for women to help you meditate. Some of them are daily, a few of them are weekly. They're all designed to help you tune in, slow down, and be your best self. Currently, I'm listening to sleep meditation for women. Why? Because I'm having a hard time sleeping. It's a combination of perimenopause and a lot of different stressors in my life right now. That means that I often go to sleep, but I wake up in the middle of the night. So, I started listening to the Sleep Meditation for Women on those nights when I do wake up and I can't go back to sleep easily, and it helps me ease back into sleep in a really wonderful way.

These podcasts are so helpful. I encourage you to go follow the Sleep Meditation for Women Podcast. Wherever you listen to podcasts and start listening for free today, just search Sleep Meditation Podcast for Women on your favorite podcast app, and follow or visit womensmeditationnetwork.com to hear about the whole network of meditations that are available to you.

I am interested, Michelle, in hearing about one or two of your favorite, maybe favorite is not the right word, but you interviewed hundreds of people. So, what are two stories that really stood out to you and spoke to you in some way?

Michelle: Okay. So, with the Reinvention Rebel framework in the back of my mind, one of the most memorable rebels, her name is Kristina Wong. I'm going to spell it because people should Google her. K-R-I-S-T-I-N-A, Wong, W-O-N-G. Now, Kristina was a comedian in LA when the pandemic hit. She had just started her national tour of a one woman show that had received a standing ovation right before COVID happened, and the LA Times wrote up this great review of it.

Wendy: So, that alone is hard to do, I'm sure, under any circumstances. Now you're thinking, "Ahh." This is so great.

Michelle: It's just like, "I'm [unintelligible [00:23:35] the LA Times," and then boom, no tour.

Wendy: Ah, which must have been devastating, just like it was devastating to finally lost your job. We all have our own form of devastation that is like, "How can this be?"

Michelle: How can this be? The timing was so hard for her. She was angered by the thought that she was not considered an essential worker, because she regards people who can make other people emote, and be happy, and explore things in creative ways. Those people are essential to us.

Wendy: You could argue that, essential to our wellbeing. Our health and wellbeing.

Michelle: Right. Exactly.

Wendy: Especially in these times.

Michelle: So, she was seeking purpose and she saw that people needed face masks. She looked at her Hello Kitty sewing machine and said, "Well, I can make face masks. I can be essential." So, she put out on Facebook that she would make face masks for people. Well, she got so many takers that she then had to get friends to make some more, and make some more, and it ballooned into a nationwide effort. They made this group of mostly out-of-work theater people made over 300,000 face masks and gave them to vulnerable communities. Kristina considered herself the "The overlord of The Auntie Sewing Squad."

[laughter]

Kristina is Asian, and in Asian culture, a beloved older female is called an "Auntie." So, it started off with a bunch of Asian women, and so they called themselves The Auntie Sewing Squad. Anyway, so, they did something remarkable, number one. Number two, when it was done, Kristina did a one-woman show on off-Broadway, when Broadway reopened in the fall of 2021. I actually was in New York City when it reopened, and I got to see Kristina.

Wendy: Wow.

Michelle: And she said, "I still have so much of this to write. Oh, my gosh. Opening night is only a month away or something." I got to talk to her when it was still fresh. Well, wouldn't you believe it? The New York Times wrote her up for this glowing review, and she got a Pulitzer Prize finalist award for Drama, [laughs] and now she's on tour with her Pulitzer Prize Drama finalist one-woman show about all these women in the pandemic, mostly women trying to do something that gave them purpose.

Wendy: I love that story. I love that story, too, because when we lean in and we're open to what's possible. It's often much bigger than ourselves, as in this case. I think that it's so easy for me to get disappointed about things, when things don't go the way I want them to go. At this age, in my late 50s, but certainly when I was younger, it would just be soul-crushing, when it didn't work out.

I try to come from the mindset of this or something better. So, when something happens that's really disappointing like that like, "Oh, my gosh, I'm just about to go out and do this tour, and then I can't do it." I try to remind myself that means that something else is coming that I'm truly meant to do. When I can trust that feeling, it's so much easier. I feel like to offer myself grace and to navigate that. I think that's so, as you mentioned grace before, that's so important as we're reinventing ourselves.

Michelle: Well, sometimes, when you tell the same stories to your kids over and over, they come back and they say something to you that relates to the story and the lesson you've been trying to teach them. When things were very difficult for me, one of my kids repeated a story back to me that I had told them many times, when they had been disappointed. It's the story of the old man and the ancient little village. Have you heard the story?

Wendy: I haven't.

Michelle: Okay. It's one of my favorites. So, this very, very old man lived in a tiny little cottage outside of a village, and he lived with his son. They had one horse and they had a field. They were really in deep poverty and everything that they ate came out of that field or that they could trade. One day, the horse runs away. The people come from the village, come out to him, and they say, "Old man, we are so sorry. This is terrible news. Your horse ran away. Now you won't be able to plow your fields and you will starve." He said, "Well, it could be good news or it could be bad news." They're like, "What's wrong with him?" So, they leave.

[laughs]

Michelle: The next day, the son goes out to try to find the horse and he brings back a stallion in addition to the horse. And now the stallion is a beautiful horse. The people come out and they say, "Wow, you have to admit, this is great news." And he says, "I don't know, it could be good or it could be bad." So, they're all scratching their head and they're saying, "Yeah, he's really lost it, now." The son keeps going. The next day, the son tries to tame the stallion, and he falls off the stallion, and he breaks his arm. People come out, "This is terrible news because now your son can't push the plow. You'll starve." He says, "I don't know, it could be good news."

Now, they're done with him. [Wendy laughs] So, he's got this broken arm. The next day, the government sends out the military to round up every able-bodied man in the village to go off to war that none of the men will come back from, but they don't take the young man with the broken arm. And so, when I was really down and feeling like I just don't know, one of my kids said to me, "Remember the story, mom, of the old man in the village? You don't know if it's good or bad until it plays out."

Wendy: That's such good wisdom, and you taught your daughters that and then that they could remind you of that. It just [crosstalk] a moment. [Michelle laughs] When you needed to hear that message to be reminded you know it. 

Michelle: Sometimes, if you've taught them well, they remind you of your teaching as you get older. [laughs]

Wendy: Right. Exactly, exactly. So, I think that's really telling. It sounds like you've had so many different experiences, and you've grown so much from this project that turned into a book that is so much bigger than you thought. Now you've talked to hundreds of people and really experienced the country first-hand in a way that most of us just would read about or hear about from a distance. So, I love the proximity that you had and to really hear these stories. What would you say is the most impactful lesson that has come from this experience, as you think about this journey of reinvention, from where it started to now where you are right now about to launch the book? What's that lesson that resonates with you?

Michelle: Well, it just came to my head because I just learned this lesson when you asked that question, [giggles] believe it or not. I think what I learned from really listening to hundreds of people is that everybody wants to see all the rocks in the rock garden. It's just not me. It's not just me. That's why we listen to each other. That's why we have podcasts. That's why we have books. That's why people get together for potlucks at church. It's why moms or dads sit and talk to each other on the side-lines of soccer games. It's because we all want to see lots of rocks and not just our own. 

So, I think that's what I really got from going all over the country, because when I would talk to people at the end of each of the interviews, almost everybody said to me, "How's everybody doing out there?" Can you tell me one story, like, of somebody who lives maybe in a city, the person's in the country, or vice versa?" If I try to answer it superficially, they'd say, "No, I'd really want to know. Do you have a few extra moments? Could you really tell me how people are doing out there?"

Wendy: That's the powerful revelation about that experience, the interconnectedness, and that we're seeking that-- Most of us are seeking something often bigger than ourselves. Maybe we don't always start out with that intention or think of it that way. So, theoretically, I want to be more connected or I want to see all my rocks. A lot of people don't think that way, but I see how it can be uncovered in this process of growing, this personal development, and the things that we do. And I love that.

Michelle: I think that it does relate to reinvention, because if you go to the same place every day or you have the same existence every day, none of us is happy in an extended life. That's the same every day. We all seek out opportunities to learn about each other, and through each other, learn about ourselves, and to experiment with different things. So, sometimes, those of us who really reinvent in a big way, [laughs] it was scary.

Wendy: Yeah, it is scary. I agree.

Michelle: But it makes you feel super alive. You don't doubt for a moment, you're not sleepwalking anymore. You are wide awake. Something just happened in my life over the weekend that is going to require me to reinvent myself yet again. So, you are catching me on the heels of recognizing that things have shifted again for me without me having any control over it. If you had asked me next last week, "So, what are you going to do next?" I would have given you a completely different answer than I'm going to give you now, which is, "I have no idea. I'm turning 60, this month, and I have no idea. As of last week, I thought I knew it all, and now, I don't again."

Wendy: Yeah. I think that's really interesting, because we often have this certainty about things like, "Well, you said earlier. Well, I pretty much have done everything, etc." And yet, there is so much possibility. What you're telling me about both your past experience with the interviews, and the book, and now is that, it could be good or it could be bad. [Michelle laughs] It could be basically anything we create it to be. We can create what we want our future to be. That's what this tells me that-- It tells me this is an opportunity. Even though it feels uncertain and it can feel scary, I think anytime, whether it's reinvention by choice or reinvention when we're rising education and we have to do it, there's always an opportunity to grow. 

Michelle: We just have to decide. Like, we create our own lives.

Wendy: Yes.

Michelle: My dad recently passed and one of his last sentences was, "It's my life, I get to decide. It's my life, I get to decide." I heard him say it. He was actually negotiating with somebody that I could not see when he said that. But it's powerful. We're often not told that. If we continue to tell ourselves, "It's my life, I get to decide, I get to create. I'm the creator of my own life. Even though, I can sit here and tell you "I have no idea what's next, I have no idea where I'm going to be in September, let alone August or July of this year. I'm not afraid,, because I know that I just get to create now. I've just got a blank slate again and it's exciting.

Wendy: It is exciting. I think if more of us can come from that perspective when change happens. Things happen to all of us at different times that we don't like or we didn't expect that we might be saying, "Why me?" It could be anything, big or small. But when we have that open mindset and we can begin to find something interesting or exciting about it, it really does shift how we approach it, what the outcomes can even be.

Michelle: Well, on Sunday-- I'll even be very transparent. What happened over the weekend was, my little buddy, the little puppy dog that I went all over the country with for 12,000 miles, he passed away suddenly.

Wendy: Aww. I'm sorry.

Michelle: I didn't know he was sick. 

Wendy: Oh, no.

Michelle: I know. And so, I was in the motorhome in part, because he and I were buddies together traveling the country. And now I don't know if I want to do that without him.

Wendy: Yeah.

Michelle: And now, because I don't have a little guy to come home to, I actually could get on a plane and go across the world for a month. Everything's changed about what's an option. But when I was seeking comfort this weekend, I went to go look at Dao's saints, and Lao-tse or Lao Tzu said, "Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them. That only creates sorrow. Let things flow naturally forward."

Wendy: That is such a powerful quote, because I think it's our natural tendency to want to resist, to just go right there and not let go or trust because it's hard. It's scary, but also, possibility.

Michelle: Yeah, possibility. I think it's so neat that as we age, we get to see these different versions of ourselves.

Wendy: I do too,

Michelle: I think that's one of the greatest things about being alive.

Wendy: I agree. I agree. I do think that wisdom and aging helps us. I know that some people are resistant to it. They don't want that to happen, but I see it as such a gift.

Michelle: Well. think about Bonnie Raitt, who just won a Grammy. Now, people are so surprised. "Oh, an older person won." [Wendy laughs] No, you crazy people. That was just an extremely talented person with years and years more experience than somebody who's in their 20s. Why wouldn't, like, almost all the awards been going to the older people? They're like-- [laughs].

Wendy: Right.

Michelle: Willie Nelson, won country album of the year and people are like-

Wendy: Yeah.

Michelle: -"Oh, my God, how could that possibly happen? Look how old he is." Yes. Look how much experience he has. Look at how many skills he has. I don't know why we keep being surprised when older people knock the ball right out of the park.

Wendy: Exactly.

Michelle: We should be. This is it. We've got all of these skills and this experience and wisdom. We may not be as pretty as we used to be, but that doesn't really count for all that much anyway.

Wendy: No, it doesn't. Not at all. This, to me, what's in the inside, and I hope that we'll start to see more of a shift. Instead of people being so surprised, I hope 5 years, 10 years from now, people are like, "Yep, there they go. There goes that person again, shining, living their best life, showing up and showing out and doing amazing things." That's what I want to see. I want to see more of that. I love it.

Michelle: Well, and that's why your podcast is so important to help people see that reinvention is a natural part of life, is something that as you were saying, we should lean into and celebrate and get excited about. You know what? We all have what it takes to find ourselves back on our own 2ft every time we need to reinvent ourselves. We all have it. We just need to-- So, what I would say to anybody who thinks, "Well, you sound like this was so easy for you." Hopefully, I have not conveyed that, because it really wasn't. But I think the key is, when you have scarcity, when you're stuck, when there is something that's not working or something has been taken from you and you're going to have to change your life, you can focus on what the scarcity is. In my case, I didn't have a job, but whenever there is scarcity, there is something else that is abundant.

That's what I did was I said, "Okay, don't have a job but what I do have?" I do have the motor home. and all this curiosity experience driving it. So, the scarcity and the abundance. If people just got really quiet with themselves, and when they're scared, and when they're worried about what they don't have, if they got super quiet and thought about, "Okay, what do I have, and what do I have a lot of, and how could I use that, and how could I enjoy using that?" That leads to being unstuck in reinvention and joy.

Wendy: It does in such a profound way, in my estimation. I completely agree. Getting quiet to me is the key in addition to being curious, but being curious and then just getting quiet and seeing what bubbles up, because I believe we already have all the answers. But we're often so busy running around, and multitasking, and doing all the things we do, and taking care of other people, and not making our dreams a priority that it's hard to uncover often what those nuggets are that you're talking about that can naturally emerge. I see that so clearly in your story that it created this amazing opportunity for you to uncover from the inside this greater purpose, because people need to feel hopeful. They need to be encouraged; they benefit from hearing other people's stories. That's what you're doing. You're sharing these amazing, powerful stories like Kristina Wong, and I'm sure many, many other people that are featured can give us all hope. "Oh, I see possibility in Kristina's story, and that means that I could have my own version of that, and I might not even know what it is yet," but I think it's great.

Michelle: Then I think that a lot of [crosstalk] in the pandemic didn't know what it was. I think so many people had to pivot and reinvent, and down when you talk to them, and ask them if they gave up that thing they discovered in the pandemic. And they say, "Oh, no, I just incorporated it into what I do now." So many of us have brought forward our learnings from the pandemic. Even something as simple as I interviewed this young woman who had a rock band. They only had a certain number of people who had come out to hear their band. They only had a very limited group of followers. 

But then during the pandemic, they had to go online and do virtual concerts, and they ended up picking up followers in Australia, and Germany, and Brazil. So, I said to her, "So, going forward, are you just going to go back to in-person events?" She's like, "Are you kidding me? Of course not." This was so much fun to have followers in countries where people would never come and see us in person. And life is that way too, when you reinvent yourself.

Wendy: Right.

Michelle: You get all these additional opportunities and it all just builds like Legos. [laughs]

Wendy: It does. That's a great way to put it. It all just builds. Michelle, I love this conversation we're having. I want to ask you a final question, which is, if you had to give your reinvention journey a theme, this amazing adventure that you've been on for the last couple of years, what would that be?

Michelle: The theme would be the same that I think I got from interviewing all the people in the book. The theme would be pluck. P-L U-C-K. We don't use that word very much anymore, but it means spirited and determined courage. So, the theme for me is, there are going to be times when changes happen to us that scare the heck out of us. One of the things that humans are really, really, really good at is spirited and determined courage. Even thousands and thousands of years ago, if you were in a cave and a saber-toothed tiger came in and took out half your clan, you still the next day made sure the kids were fed, make sure that you found a new place to be safe, found water, found food. You just keep going. You have spirited and determined courage. That's how I see how our world got through the pandemic and that's how I see my own internal strength. But it's not mine alone. I share it with all the rest of the people on this planet.

Wendy: It's beautiful. I love it. Pluck. Such a beautiful way to describe that. This has been such a pleasure talking to you about your reinvention journey. I appreciate all that you shared, and I know that it's going to inspire a lot of people. The compelling question people really want to know is, how can I connect with Michelle and [Michelle laughs] how can I find her book?

Michelle: So, it's super simple. You go to my website whowearenow.us. whowearenow.us. It tells my story, it tells you how you can find me, and it tells you how you can find the book. The book is called Who We Are Now: Stories of What Americans Lost and Found During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Wendy: That is in the show notes. So, you can easily find her website and also other ways to connect with Michelle on social media, because she is so interesting. You can follow Michelle on Instagram and see all the adventures she's up to. You will not be disappointed. Michelle Fishburne, it has been an absolute pleasure to be in conversation with you today. Thank you so much for gracing me with your presence in the Reinvention Rebels guest chair.

Michelle: Wendy, thank you so much. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make new discoveries, even about myself, as we talked.

[music]

Wendy: Wow, what an episode. I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Michelle as much as I did. I loved it. She's wise, she is full of ideas, and this woman is fearless. But you probably heard that she was doing it scared. She embodies this idea of doing it scared and doing it anyway. To me, she looks like she's fearless. To her, she did it with fear, but she made it happen. And now, look, she took this kernel of an idea that unfolded when she got quiet. She leaned into it. She asked someone, and it's now become a book. She interviewed amazing people around the US telling their stories, and it's all in this fantastic book. So, I hope you found it enriching. I hope it filled your soul. If you really loved it, I'm going to ask you a small favor to just pop over to Apple Podcasts and leave a brief review. Rate the podcast.

When people review it and rate it, it makes it easier for other people to find it, and I truly appreciate that. I cannot wait to see you back here for another episode. And remember, keep shining your light. The world needs you and everything you have to offer.

Hey, Rebel, if this episode inspired you to think about what's possible in your life, I'll share a little secret. Any of us can reinvent ourselves, no matter where we are in our lives. Any age, any stage, we just have to decide to get started. Here's a super simple way for you to get going with your reinvention dreams. Download my audio, 5 Questions to Spark Your Curiosity and Inspire Your Reinvention Journey. I share five key questions that will spur your thinking, help you uncover your dreams, and motivate you to take action. Because if not now, when? Details in the show notes. Let's get inspired together.

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