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A respected American broadcast journalist unknown to most viewers under the age of 40 or 50 has written a Baby Boomer’s guide to confronting the age-old question that comes with retirement: “Is that all there is?”
The question must mean something different to Pauley than the rest of us. Her life — at least her public life — has not been likes yours or mine. She co-hosted the Today show from 1976 to 1989, an astonishing run in that era, and an impossible one now when television personalities and prime time shows come and go every few years. She then anchored Dateline NBC for 11 more years. That’s a nearly 25-year run on television screens in our living rooms, back when everyone had a television screen in their living room and network television still ruled.
In 2004, Pauley wrote her first book, a best-selling memoir, “Skywriting: a Life our of the Blue.” Oh, by the way, she is married to Gary Trudeau, the award-winning Doonesbury cartoonist. They have three children, and unlike many celebrity couples, a seemingly stable and long-running marriage
Is that all there is?
Every handsome or pretty television personality eventually confronts the reality of aging and the way television bigwigs discard so many of the most credible, but aging personalities. The quality of one’s mind matters far less than the smoothness of one’s skin in that world.
That need to give way to a younger generation before the camera undoubtedly prompted Pauley to develop a special interest in reinvention. As she and all of us consider the ramifications of living longer and longer, that seems to have inspired her special interest in staying active, exploring new passions, and developing new pursuits.
The author explores the lives of retired Boomers who have redefined their lives in a variety of ways. Pauley writes about her own journey, and concludes that life is a perpetual work in progress. Less privileged readers will find it hard to see themselves in her select stories of reinvention. Most of the case studies are about people who were high income earners with secure retirements. They could afford to leave one career and try another.
Most Boomers probably do not enjoy such options. I’m in my 80s and much older than the Baby Boomers, and while I enjoy watching celebrities from the comfort of my own living room, I simply could not relate to Pauley’s stories. I am a senior citizen and it so happens I also am an immigrant. Reinvention for me meant struggling for survival in the wake of World War II, coming to the United States and learning a new language, a new culture and embracing our only path forward: years of long, hard work. I have no complaints.
I do recommend younger people read the book. It offers several valuable lessons. One is that you won’t be young forever. The sooner you plan for life and career changes, the more safely you will navigate them. Two, beauty doesn’t last forever, and when it goes, a career based in no small part on your photogenic looks is at serious risk. Three, no matter what happens in life, no matter how unexpected a career crash or life reversal may be, there is always a way forward. It takes strength and resolve to survive.
In Pauley’s case, one imagines the very strength and talent that took her to the top of network television and made her rich and famous is the same strength that she drew upon to find a new path in later life. She might not be as highly paid or as famous as she once was, but she has another good book to her credit and will surely draw one of the biggest audiences of the San Antonio Book Festival. Get there early if you want to get a seat and hear her stories in person.
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