Natalie Y. Wester
I’m a retired second-grade reading teacher who once stood with the President of the United States in the Oval Office of the White House as a state Teacher of the Year. And yet, ultimately I was not happy. Something was missing and I needed to figure it out. But first I needed to give myself permission to figure it out, and stop making decisions based on what I thought I should do, or what other people wanted me to do.
Teaching was my second career for 14 years. Prior to that I’d spent more than two decades in business, 14 years of which running my own consulting practice. (Is there such a thing as a 14-year itch?) I hadn’t planned on switching careers. I went back to school to get a second master’s degree because I wanted to understand how children learn to read, after my son had been diagnosed with dyslexia. The decision to take a more than 60-percent pay cut to become a teacher was not even on my radar. Until it was.
Someone once told me “you can’t burn out if you’ve never been on fire,” but being previously “on fire” was little comfort as I began to admit, after 14 years, I was no longer happy teaching. Believe me, there’s a lot of guilt, brutal self-criticism, and a feeling of failure that go into that realization.
I decided in 2018 that I would retire the following year, three years ahead of my financial plan. At 59 and single, I retired from my second career in June of 2019. Then, as a first-time solo traveler, I wandered around the world by myself for 70 days with only one carry-on bag. Afterward, I celebrated turning 60 in Colombia, where this photo was shot.
My solo travels taught me a lot about myself, and these lessons have changed the way I live, date, handle money, and view the world. My journey to authenticity is unfolding, and I’m writing about it here. I’m still spreading my wings, finding my joy, and having the time of my life while I create an authentic life I love.
I hope by sharing my stories of personal transformation — some funny, some painful, all raw and unfiltered — I can inspire other solo women over 50 to give themselves permission to change the life they’re living so they can live a life they love.