Sandy Demarest and her husband built their life in a small, quintessentially New England city that is objectively lovely, but it never felt like “home” to Sandy. Despite her best efforts over the course of a decade to make it work, she became unhappy enough that her state of mind was affecting her family. She and her husband decided to uproot themselves and start over again three hours away. And as she was driving the U-Haul to the new house, Sandy found herself wondering, and worrying, “what if it’s not better there?”
For more than 25 years, Sandy has worked in career development, coaching and training with leaders and professionals embarking on their next life and work role. Her focus is supporting people midlife and beyond to proactively chart their future to envision a fulfilling destination beyond full time work and family responsibilities. Bringing people together to create a meaningful next chapter is a large part of Sandy’s work. Whether clients need a trusted partner, a group dedicated to each person’s success or a community of like-minded seekers, she creates the right environment, so you don’t have to do this alone She truly believes in living with intention and purpose; helping her clients to discover their purpose, connect with values and bring their dreams to center stage. As the founder of Demarest Directions, a coaching and training business, Sandy is a Certified Career Management, Executive Leadership, A Strengths Based Coach and Retirement Options Coach with a focus on transitions, retirement lifestyle coaching, and aging well with purpose and vitality!
On the personal side, Sandy lives in Amherst, NH with her husband of 38 years and chocolate lab pup, Shelby. She loves spending family time with her three grown daughters and granddaughter!
Turning 40 and Learning the Importance of Place
Sandy Demarest was newly married in the late 1980s in southern Connecticut where the average cost of a home was $1 million. The young newlyweds weren’t sure how they would ever get to own their own home, so they started looking elsewhere. After a weekend visit to Burlington, Vermont, they wondered if that would be a nice place to set down their roots.
They moved to a neighboring small town with a sense of adventure and the will to make things work. She found out she was pregnant. They survived some financially lean years. They bought a condo, had twins and finally bought that house they had talked about years before.
Busy with kids and settling into their first home, Sandy started to get a very quiet nagging feeling that, much as she loved her house, it didn’t feel like home. Winters were long and very dark. Burlington is one of the cloudiest cities in the country. She felt isolated and had trouble making friends, despite having little kids and plenty of opportunity to connect with other young moms. She didn’t feel the sense of community. But she thought, “I’m in this really cool, hip palace. I should like it. What’s wrong with me?”
Over the next three to four years, Sandy poured herself into different activities and different ways to connect with people and the community, but nothing quite worked. She started to think – and occasionally talk to her husband – about moving, but that felt impossible since he had built his business there. She tried hard to make it work, but the disconnection started to create some real problems for her. Usually a positive person, she became very unhappy and her state of mind started to affect the family.
Sandy and her husband made a plan. Her husband looked at different opportunities in his industry within driving distance of Burlington so he could build new clientele but continue to service the business he had worked so hard to grow. They knew the transition would be challenging financially while her husband built up a new local clientele, but they decided to go for it. They moved to Southern New Hampshire and, while Sandy was driving the U-Haul to the new house, she wondered, “what if it’s not better there?”
Within six months, though, she started to feel at home – more so than she had in 10+ years in Burlington. She felt connected and a part of the community in ways she had never been able to achieve in Burlington. She made friends easily. She wasn’t feeling isolated. She finally felt like she fit in.
One of the reasons that Sandy had such a clear sense that Burlington didn’t fit for her was because she had worked to identify her purpose during her first job out of college with the guidance of a beloved mentor. She knew that helping people and creating community were important to her. So when she couldn’t find or build a community in Burlington, that was a clear indication to her that the place didn’t fit, despite all its objectively wonderful qualities.
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Stephanie: Hi Sandy. Thanks for joining me on the 40 Drinks Podcast.
Sandy: Hi Stephanie. Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
Stephanie: It's my pleasure to have you here because it's not often I get to talk to another New Hampshirite.
Sandy: Oh, okay.
Stephanie: You're right here with me in New Hampshire, and I read somewhere recently that there are people in the country, parts of the country that think that New Hampshire is a made up place. I don't know what kind of article that was, but I, of course I had to guffaw.
Sandy: Yeah, I don't know. One time I said I was from New Hampshire and they're like, is that a state? I'm like, yes.
Stephanie: Just cuz we're little doesn't mean you can count us out.
Stephanie: I'm also thrilled to have you here because you are a friend of my previous guest, Emily, who is also a fellow New Hampshirite and she connected us. So I'm thrilled to make this connection.
Sandy: Thank you. I love Emily. Yes. I'm really excited that she connected us. Yep.
Stephanie: Me too. You have a very interesting story that we're gonna get right into. Although I +focus on that 35 to 45 kind of range and the big transition, I find that we have to take a few steps back to set up where you were. So I like to call it your formative adult years. Take us back to your late twenties and where were you then?
Sandy: Perfect place to start. I was in Connecticut, in Fairfield County, Connecticut. I was newly married, happy, blissful, all was good with my husband, except, we were renting and we're like, "Ooh, it might be fun to buy a house someday." And that started the conversation because at that point, in the late eighties, the average price of a house was a million dollars. And, we're like, "Okay, I'm not sure this is going to work." And then we just, yeah, we just started thinking about it. We both grew up there. We didn't know each other growing up. We had met, you know, a few years prior to that, but we thought, what if there's another place, maybe we could try something new. We sort of had this sense of adventure. We weren't at that time sure where that was going to be. But, we had recently gone up to Burlington, Vermont to visit high school friends of mine who lived there and we had so much fun. It was winter, we cross-country skied, they showed us all around. We had a ball and we came home and we're like, "Wow, what if we could live there?" And that's what started sort of our conversation to move to the Burlington, Vermont area. And so we did. We didn't go that day, that week. We thought about it a little bit, we talked it through some. We both love New England. We like winter, my husband likes winter a little more than I do, but I thought this would be fun, it'd be an adventure. So he found a job. I didn't, but I thought "I can find a job super easily. When we get up there, I will find a job." Up we went in January and it was two feet of snow the day after we moved in and it was really winter and I'm thinking, "Whoa, what are we doing?" Not really, but it was challenging. So, yes, we moved into a small town outside of Burlington. We rented an apartment, it was the upstairs of a Cape Cod house. It was very small, but we were like, oh, this is awesome. So we were really energized. We were super excited. We didn't have much of a plan. My husband did have a job, but it was a hundred percent commission job. And I had no job, so we had very little money. We had some savings, but not a lot. We just thought, "We can do this. We'll just make this work." And so we did, I started looking for work. My husband is very determined and he was a financial advisor. So every single night I could hear him on the phone - long ago, you know, no computers - he wasn't out networking, he was cold calling. And I was like, wow. I couldn't even stand to listen, cause I'd hear him on the phone and I'd hear him hang up. Anyways, he survived that and he started to slowly build his clientele. I was looking for a job. I was super tired. I thought it was from the move. Ding, ding, ding. And then I found out, ooh, I'm pregnant. I won't go into all the details except that my doctor in Connecticut said it may take me a while to get pregnant. Well, apparently it didn't. So I then was pregnant. I got a part-time job and we were enjoying life, but there were definitely some financial stresses. But we thought it's beautiful up here. We were right near Lake Champlain. It was gorgeous. And so we slowly made a transition from an apartment, then we bought a condo, then we bought a house, and in between all of that I got pregnant again and we had twins. So, I didn't go into the middle part. I also had a couple miscarriages in between. There was a lot happening there. And I was pretty busy with kids, as you can imagine, so when we moved into our house, I was excited. It was our first home and I was really proud of it. I started getting this little nagging feeling like, Hmm, this is fun up here, but there was something about it, I just never felt at home. So I think the novelty maybe wore off. I was busy with kids and then I just felt the winters were long, it was dark. It's one of the cloudiest cities in the country, which I didn't know. I felt really isolated. We were 50 minutes outside of New York City, so I wanted to move but I started, all these things were coming together. I just had a really hard time making friends. I've never had that my entire life. I feel like I make friends quite easily. I would meet a few people and I did eventually make a couple really good friends, but I just didn't feel like I really clicked with people. I didn't feel like the sense of community, there was a lot missing for me, and so I just really wasn't sure. I started thinking, is this really where I wanna be for the rest of my life?
Stephanie: Wow. That's tough. So for those who aren't familiar with the area Burlington, Vermont is as quintessentially adorable and New England as you can get. It's a funky little city in the middle of a rural state. It's on a lake. Then it's got this cool little downtown with shops and restaurants and bars and breweries, like it's a hip place to be and I think even back then it was pretty hip. Right?
Sandy: It was hip.
Stephanie: It was always progressive,
Sandy: Yeah. It was very progressive. It was also a college town. I actually ended up working at one of the colleges later on, so it was. So that's what went through my head. I'm like, "Ooh, I'm this really cool hip place. I should like it."
Sandy: What's wrong with me?
Sandy: That did go through my mind.
Stephanie: And the other thing too, and I laughed right at the beginning of the story. You said you went up to visit some friends in the winter and you had this glorious time, and then you moved in and the day after it snowed two feet. Where I am in New Hampshire and I think where you are, we're not on a big lake, so we don't have that lake effect snow, but there is a difference between a visit to New England in the winter, which can be so magical and glorious and just uh, quaint and all of the things that you think it's gonna be. And living here, the reality of it is so different and, and winter is long. Whether it's a winter with a ton of snow or whether it's a winter with no snow and just brutal cold. I mean, we get a solid six months of winter around here. Whereas in Connecticut it's a little bit more moderate. You're further south by a couple hundred miles. Yeah.
Sandy: It was definitely more moderate and actually here in New Hampshire, Southern New Hampshire is, I don't know if you might not call it moderate, but there was a difference between here in Burlington, Vermont. A huge, difference. Yes, yes. So,
Stephanie: I have family just north of Burlington, and I know for a fact the difference. As a matter of fact, my aunt and my cousin, whenever they're making a trip in those six months of the year, and they never would come this way in the middle of the winter, but you always have to worry about the weather in the mountains.
Stephanie: between here and there. So yes, compared to Burlington, I suppose we do have it moderate. Although you're right, I would not call it moderate.
Sandy: Right, right. Well, I laugh cuz my next door neighbor who, when we actually, well, I'm sort of jumping ahead, but when we moved to this area, she was from New Jersey and we walkour kids up to the bus stop and I'd be like, "Oh my gosh, I feel like we're living in the tropics." She's like, "What are you talking about?"
Sandy: It's not quite like that, but it felt sunnier there, it felt like there was definitely more light for me and that was a big piece for me, too.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. Well and truly, it's funny, and we're sort of going off on a bit of a winter in New England tangent, but you definitely see people around here in Southern New Hampshire who, you know, it just snowed and they're out in shorts and they're drinking their iced coffees. I know those things are memes, but they are the truth.
Sandy: Oh, they are the truth, they They, definitely are. Yes. Yes,
Stephanie: Okay, so let's go back. We're in Burlington, you're now in your early thirties and you've got, surprise! three kids, and winter is longer than you had anticipated. It's more intense than you had anticipated. It's darker than you had anticipated. And tell me about how you're feeling about settling into the Burlington area. You've touched on it, but, go a little deeper.
Sandy: I actually felt pretty lonely there. I mean, I saw people, I, you know, took the kids to school. I chatted with people. I don't know. I just didn't feel, for whatever reason, I did not feel that I fit in. And I felt like I met a lot of people that actually moved up there from similar places to where I did, and I thought, well, that's really, that'll be kind of cool. But a lot of the people moved up there to get away from everything.
I'm very social. I wanted to sort of have a group of friends and so I just felt a bit lost. And I also did have three kids, so there probably was that cabin fever effect, which I guess I could have had that in New Hampshire as well. But I think when you put all that together, I didn't feel like it was the place for me. If I had a crystal ball and I said I need to be here for five years and then we're gonna move someplace else, that would've been okay with me. A couple of my sort of strengths are positivity and futuristics, so I'm always kind of looking to sort of the what's next and when I thought there isn't one, and this is where we're gonna be for the next however many years, I really sort of became depressed about it and the darkness didn't help. So, and again, never had any of these feelings before. They were like new feelings for me, and I was concerned. And my husband, great guy, very sort of happy-go-lucky, but here is three kids, a wife, a house, a job, a hundred percent commission. So his whole goal was just to work as hard as I can and support my family. Which he did, he worked two jobs. He worked like crazy. He did really well with it. So, he sort of understood how I felt, but then not really. He was out and about. He was around people and doing his thing, and I was not really in my happy place.
Stephanie: You could have cabin fever 12 months of the year because of the little kids, right?
Sandy: And I like loved having the kids and I loved a mom. Yeah. But there was always like think of a puzzle, there was always a couple pieces missing outta that puzzle. And I think, think for me, the isolation piece was probably the hardest for me.
Sandy: I started thinking I had this gnawing feeling, and actually then it became a loud voice in my head. I have this a lot. I'm very in tune to feelings that I have and it would be like, "Why are you here? You need to move." And I'd start thinking these thoughts and I thought, "Oh my gosh. Russ, he's finally starting to get clients and things are going well. He'd have to start over. I don't know how this would happen." So I have these feelings, we'd have a conversation, he'd sort of understand, but be like, "Yeah, I just don't know. That would be almost impossible." And I'd go, "I know." I was very conflicted. I said, "I know you're right." So then I'd say, "Okay." So I'd get sort of going and find some things to do and I would try new things and I started doing different activities, thinking, okay, this'll be it. And it was sort of it for a few months, um, maybe a year. This went on for like three or four years, this internal struggle that had and it was really difficult and so I thought, I'll just make it work, but I couldn't, I just felt like a huge disconnection and it was really creating sort of some unhappy feelings for me.
Stephanie: Well, I think at some point your husband kind of stepped in because he said that your state of mind was kind of affecting the family,
Sandy: It was, it definitely was.
I think early on when I first started having these feelings, I could sort of just go through it and be like, "Oh, okay. Yay. Let's just do this." But yeah, then eventually I did, I became very unhappy. Every day he'd come home and I tend to be a quite a positive person, and he'd come home at the end of the day and I would just be like withdrawn, just not myself. Some days I'd be crying, and then I'm like, "but it's okay. It's okay." But no, really it wasn't, and I think it just started impacting our whole family. You know, if I'm not happy and I'm taking care of the kids, it impacts everybody. It impacts every part of your life. So I just knew that I couldn't be there, and I think he finally said, "Yeah, I agree, but this is what has to happen. We can't just pick up and go anywhere." And I love New England, I wanted to still be in New England. I didn't really know where. He said "It needs to be within driving distance from Burlington and it's gonna take some time. Cause I need to slowly at least get some clients. And then I would also wanna be able to come back up to Burlington because I now have these clients and I still wanna take care of them." So, initially we thought Boston, Boston area. That was the initial plan. And then he started going down there, or he worked for a company where they had many locations. So he went down to the outside of Boston and he came back to Burlington, like totally depressed.
He goes, "Those were like all the reasons, like really fun place to go, but it's too congested. Too many people. That's why we left Connecticut." So then he found an office in Bedford, New Hampshire, and he started feeling a bit more optimistic. He was still a little skeptical, but he was working it and started to build his clientele and that probably took about a year. And then we decided, "Okay, we're gonna do it. It's not gonna be easy. It's gonna be hard. Financially, it's gonna be difficult." We have three kids, the younger two are twins, and they were young enough where I don't think it really mattered that much to them, but my older daughter was nine and she had friends in our neighborhood in Vermont that she had a great time with. So she was feeling like, "Oh, this is not gonna be great." And my husband though, he did go for it, I still worried. I kind of thought, okay, here I'm like, yes, I'm moving the family to New Hampshire. And I wasn't really moving them but it, I was really pretty instrumental in this decision.
Stephanie: You were kind of driving the bus there.
Sandy: I was driving the bus and actually as we were driving the U-Haul, not the bus, I was thinking that, in my mind I'm thinking, "Okay, what if it's not better there? What if it takes five years to build this business and we're barely surviving? What if my daughter can't make friends?" And so I had a lot of what ifs, but then I also had the, I don't know why, I just believe it's gonna be better for us. I guess I go, I think it's gonna be better for me perhaps, and I feel like I'm gonna be happier. cuz I had explored the area. We did a lot more researching and planning and talking to people. I actually knew a few people who were living in the Southern New Hampshire area, so that I think was also helpful. We did not really do a whole lot of that when we moved to Burlington. So we moved on down and I truly feel like it was about six months and I started to feel like really at home. I had met some people and it wasn't like everything was fitting perfectly in place, but it was just a different feeling. I felt like much more alive. I felt more energized. I was feeling like I was getting the Sandy positivity back and my kids were in school and there were some challenges like getting my older daughter sort of transitioned in and meeting people. She was very shy. So there were some challenges. My husband, definitely there were some financial challenges, but he actually started to feel like there is so much more as far as business down this way than there was in Burlington, Vermont. It is, it's quaint, it's adorable, it's a nice little city, but business-wise, there's not nearly as much up there. So he started feeling that same feeling of positive energy as well, which was awesome.
Stephanie: How long would it take you to drive between your new house and your old house?
Sandy: Three hours.
Stephanie: Three hours. So they're not wildly that far away from other. They're not wildly that different in character. We're still in New England. It's still the same broad culture, let's call it. You didn't move from Manhattan to a farm. So how can you describe the difference between point A and point B for you. I'm just trying to explore this for people who are listening who might be feeling maybe some of the things you did when you were living in Burlington, but second guessing themselves or telling themselves, like you did for many years, "No, no, no. I'll just try the next event, activity, sport, group, meeting,"
Sandy: Yes. What else can I try?
Stephanie: Right, right, right, right. How would you describe the difference for you in feeling between Burlington and your home Hampshire?
Sandy: The change for me was sense of community. Now I'm not saying maybe you live in the Burlington area and you could find that, I don't why I couldn't. We live in a town called Amherst, New Hampshire, and just in a very short period of time,I just felt very connected. I felt a part of the community, which I know for me is something that's really important. When I don't have that it really impacts me. I guess I always knew that, but it became abundantly clear with this whole experience. I just met a lot of friends. There was just something about it. Maybe it was, well, I lived in a small town outside of Burlington as well, but it was that very like small town feel that community and accessibility to so much more. So I always thought, in an hour, we could go to Boston. In an hour, we could go to the beach. In an hour, we could go to the mountains. Burlington, it's a nice little city. I did sort of miss sort of the downtown piece at times, I have say, but it was sort of those two pieces, and I guess it all comes down to I didn't feel as isolated. I felt more connected. I felt a part of the community. Those to me, had friends, met people easily just felt like I fit in andlike I said, I like winter. My husband loves winter, so that might have been one of the other things. I like winter until March. March in Burlington was a terrible month for me. March in New Hampshire isn't perfect either, but
Stephanie: I was gonna say March in New England is pretty tough.
Sandy: March is never great. Yeah, because it's like, it should not be winter anymore, but it still is. But I wouldn't say it was just the weather piece. I mean that added to it. It was that feeling. I'm a person that connection and relationships is pretty much everything for me, and I just didn't have that. So there was a lot of, I'd be around people and I still felt lonely.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. There's something in my brain, it's an imperfect connection, but I always say, when you walk into like a Marshall's, or any one of their stores, you can go ahead and try and force it and just buy stuff, but for me, there's some days when you walk in and you're like, oh, they had my stuff today. They had, the clothes that fit me, they wear the right style. Right. Whatever truck came in last Tuesday, it had my stuff on it.
Sandy: Right. Right. Yes.
Stephanie: It's a lot like you're saying, right? It's a great place and there's great stuff for other people, but it just wasn't a good fit for you.
Sandy: I think that's it. And it's so funny, I still come across people down here, way down here in Southern New Hampshire that I say, "I used to live in Burlington." "Oh my gosh, you're so lucky. I've always wanted to live there. Why did you move?" Then it's like, "Well, I don't know. Do you really wanna know the whole story?" But yes. Mm. Yes. So it's just like a preference and then, you know, probably because I did have three young kids and you start thinking about where do I wanna raise my family? And it wasn't there.
Sandy: Not that I thought it was a bad place for the kids, it was just I would not be happy there.
Stephanie: I'm sure it was a great place for the kids. Well, I'm also reminded of the advice that one of his uncles gave my husband, which was, and I've seen this on one of these little plaques in people's kitchens, but it's like, if mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.
Sandy: Oh yes. Yeah. Yes.
Stephanie: And I know that's always meant tongue in cheek, but there is some wisdom there, right? If you are the driving heart of the household and you're miserable, then how successful and happy can the household be?
Sandy: Right. "Happy wife, happy life" was something else, long ago I used to hear, but yes, and I think my husband, he might have said similar words to that one day when he finally decided that we need to do something about this, and it needs to be a big thing. Like a move.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. But that's the messy part, really, because, I can imagine there must have been just downright fear of, "Well, what if we move and nothing changes?"
Sandy: I There was that part of me that thought that, there was a bigger part of me that it was gonna be different, but I didn't know, it was the unknown. And you're right, it was messy. And transitions, they're always messy.
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. And they're not, they're not quick either. It's not just today I'm here and I'm X and tomorrow I'm there and I'm Y. There's a process, there's a pathway you gotta get through to get from one side.
Sandy: It's, rarely, I don't wanna say never, I believe it's rarely a straight line. There's twists and turns and curves and hills and potholes. And so the end result, it's been great, but it took a while to really get to the place physically and emotionally.
Stephanie: Yeah. What gave you the courage to make the move?
Sandy: Just knowing, I mean, this sounds sort of dramatic, but knowing that I tried everything for me and I wasn't gonna be happy there, and I felt like for me, there really wasn't another option. So I think just knowing that there's someplace else for us, and I knew I could be happy, I'm not an unhappy person, so I just knew that if it had some of those right ingredients that I'd be happy. But it took a while, it wasn't like I had the courage immediately. Because I felt bad for my husband, too. I felt this is gonna be hard for him and I mean, it could be hard for me, but it's gonna be harder for him. So then I thought, maybe we shouldn't do this. So, yeah. So there was a lot of back and forth. I mean, we were in counseling about it too.
Sandy: There was a lot to it.
Stephanie: What happens if you move to New Hampshire and you're happy, but he's not, or he can't find a way to build a business here enough to sustain a family. I mean, yeah, there's a lot of unknown there.
Sandy: 'Cause houses are more expensive and we bought a house and there was that worry. For sure. Ironically, I don't think he'll ever leave the state of New Hampshire. all.
Stephanie: Does he still go back to Burlington for business at all or has he shed most of those clients?
Sandy: He still goes back, it's more virtual now. He has shed a lot of the clients. There's a younger advisor who lives in the Burlington area, but for a long time he would go every couple months and he loves to go back to visit there, but he definitely loves living here more.
Stephanie: That's great. So it turned out that it took a lot of courage, a lot of gumption, and probably a lot of ready, aim before you fired, but it turned out that it was the right move for your family.
Sandy: It definitely was the right move for our family. Yes, yes. But it took a lot of work, took some time. And it's funny you say courage cuz I don't know if I thought of it as that way, but you're right. It did take courage for sure.
Stephanie: And just to tie in the whole timetable here, you moved to New Hampshire when you were 40, right?
Stephanie: So it was exactly during this period of transition.
Sandy: Right. Yes. 40. Big things happen at 40.
Stephanie: Life is filled with change and transition. Some of the other things wereI did get back into working and career around 40 when we moved to New Hampshire. Everything just brightened up for me, everything was brighter. I was excited to go find a job. At this point, my three kids, all of them were in school full-time. Didn't have cabin fever. Yeah. Just a lot of things opened up, but I do think the whole move was the big piece of it.
Yeah, yeah. Well then you did step into a career in higher ed. Is that right?
Sandy: Secondary ed. Actually yes. I was in higher ed in Burlington for a while too, but yeah.
Stephanie: All right. Because that was another transition for you, although it was a little bit later. You had been working in education for a while and then you decided that that also was not a happy place for you.
Sandy: There's a theme here, huh?
Stephanie: Well, there is, and actually I'm interested in the theme and what you've done in your life. What choices you've made, things you had to do to continue to find happy.
Sandy: Yes. And so some of my unhappiness with, it wasn't necessarily education, it was more the situation and the place where I was and some dysfunction in the organization. And I also probably somewhere really deep down, had a very entrepreneurial spirit, which I don't know if I knew when I was younger. So that was after 40 but in my forties, I just decided that I wanted to leave the comfort and the frustration and the complications
Stephanie: And the safety.
Sandy: and the safety. Oh yes, absolutely yes. And so then I went off on my own.
Sandy: I've had a lot of transitions in life. I am sort of a creature of change, I will say that. I'm very tied to purpose and values and so I think that's probably a common thread in all of this, in where I wanna live, who I wanna be with, being connected, how I wanna spend my time at work. I have of strong purpose and value-oriented way about me that if there's a misalignment, I am misaligned.
Stephanie: Mmmmmm. And you feel it.
Sandy: I feel it really strongly. Yes. Yeah, that is definitely a common thread with me.
Sandy: And interestingly enough, you know you learn things after it happens, when you make the change. I thought, "Oh, education, I love helping students." And I did. I love that part, but I found I was really, I've never really made this connection, I almost had cabin fever in the workplace because I felt like I couldn't get out and do what I really wanted to do. My creativity was a bit stifled, so I wanted to break free, whether in the place, in the house, in the job, and just get out and really be able to use all those, I guess, the gifts that I think I have that I want to explore more.
Stephanie: Mm, mm-hmm. When did you know you had a purpose and when did you identify what that purpose was? Is this something you've always known?
Sandy: Very interesting. I think I learned it in my very first job when I was 22 years old. My first career focused job after college. I had an amazing boss and mentor who I just learned a great deal from. He was 71, I was 22. There was clearly a huge age difference and we had, a lot of deep conversation. He started a new career at 71. That didn't happen at all in the eighties especially.
Stephanie: No. No, it didn't.
Sandy: And somehow he inspired me and through our conversations and what I was doing, I was in a nonprofit at that point and it was just that clear sense of helping people move forward and figure out what they really want and make their life better. And that sort of has been my purpose as well as creating community. His name was Ray. I call him my Ray of sunshine. And, um, yeah, so he, he's very important to me. He's no longer here, but I often hear in my head, what would, what would Ray say? What would Ray do?
Sandy: Yeah. So I think that purpose, it started at a fairly young age. Not as a child, but it's always been there and that was the beginning. The foundation of when I discovered my purpose.
Stephanie: Interesting. That's for me one of those things that I wonder if discovering your purpose that early is common. Because I think a lot of us just sort of put our heads down and keep doing the things we're supposed to be doing and following the path we're supposed to be on and doing all the things that should make us successful. Right. I know for me that wasn't until my thirties somewhere that I really started wondering what is my purpose? And started looking for that and talking to different people, whether it be psychics or there was some gal I spent some time with who was a very talented tarot reader, cuz I wasn't finding it inside of me, so I kept looking for people to give me signs as what it was. I think the anecdotal evidence I've seen is that it's sometime in their thirties or forties people sort of wake up and realize they have a purpose and pick their head up off the path and kind of see the bigger picture
Sandy: I think that's really true. I think in our younger years, often, it's almost like we're an autopilot, we're just kind of going through it, doing it, and then you get to that point where you start really wondering, you know, what's my purpose? And we need to disable autopilot and get more intentional about what really is most meaningful and important to me.
Stephanie: Yeah. So I wanted to dig into that around your experience because I could envision so many people feeling what you felt in Burlington.
Stephanie: And not knowing, right? Because at least you knew you had a purpose. At least you knew that community was important to you and you weren't finding community there. And for years you looked for it. You tried every gosh darn thing.
Stephanie: So somebody else who is feeling the way you were feeling but isn't connected to their own purpose or their own vision, how would they find their way out of that box?
Sandy: Yeah. Definitely challenging cuz I think, even though part of me said I should like it here, I felt I did have a purpose and I knew the pieces that were missing and so I think that would be helpful. But yeah, if you don't have that, and not that you can't find it, and we find it in so many different ways and sometimes even at your most sort of lost, kind of adrift place. I sort of was laughing, not laughing at you, but laughing, when I was like, "It didn't come internally. I was out there trying to find my purpose." Like someone's gonna hand you a box. Open it up. This will have your purpose inside.
Stephanie: Oh yeah.
Sandy: Yeah. But I think it's one of those questions that people struggle with, I think, because sometimes we think it has to be something really big, like purpose. And I guess for me what's most important, what's most meaningful? And so I think it's through those maybe times when you feel a bit adrift that you can start going inside and sort of really reflecting, I guess.
Stephanie: There are people I know who, and I don't know if they would describe this as their purpose or not, but I know someone whose sort of main goal was I want to be wealthy. And I don't know if that was, uh, a reaction to a childhood experience or whatever, it doesn't matter. But for me, I look at that person and I say, oh my God, that would be wonderful. To know that clearly, because then it's like being at the racetrack and just chasing the bunny. It's like every decision, there's a clear answer. Does that take me closer to it or further away? Right. And so oh, I,was envious of that goal, even though it's not something that resonated for me at all. Where I feel like mine is so much messier and I never know if I'm getting closer or further away. So, yeah, you can find a purpose by accident,
Sandy: Oh, totally.
Stephanie: By just realizing what are the things that you like, it doesn't have to be profound. If you love volunteering at the animal shelter your purpose may be something about animals or animal welfare, right? Like, it could be that obvious. I've loved to walk the dogs since I was a kid.
Sandy: Absolutely. They say like big P and little p and the big P might be the really profound one, like this huge cause. And the smaller one might just be, yeah, I love animals and I wanna do something with animals, or whatever that might be. I wanna create community and be part of community. I always say, "What is it that's gonna get you up and out of bed and excited on a Monday morning?" There was nothing doing that for me in Burlington. No, it was my children. I shouldn't say it.My children got me up and outta bed in the morning, but yes. Mm-hmm.
Stephanie: Right, right. But beyond your children. Right. Because you need to have something beyond your children, otherwise, your whole life is your children, and that's a lot of pressure to put on them.
Sandy: Oh, totally. Yeah. And I love working and using all these other skills and I have all these other interests outside of my children. That's important to me.
Stephanie: So you ultimately ended up starting your own business?
Sandy: I did. Mm-hmm.
I support people midlife and beyond, so around 40 ish and up. Help them to really figure out what's next, how to navigate your next most meaningful chapter. My business started more specifically as career coaching in 2009. There's been many evolutions, which of course would be true with me, as we've learned.
Sandy: It was strictly career coaching, now it's a bit more a combination of career and life. You know, what are you looking for next? What's missing? What is something that's going to energize you? How are you gonna make the most of the years ahead in a way that feels really aligned with who you are and your values at this point? Because that might be completely different now than it was 10 years ago. So that's through coaching and retreats. And I am co-authoring a book, Midlife New Life, Living Consciously in the Second Half. It's something I love cuz I do, I feel like I can relate, number one, and I have people come in who feel, I used the word a drift before cuz one woman recently said that to me and she goes, "I know I have more to give and more to do, but I just don't know what that is. I don't have that purpose. I'm not sure what the purpose is." So I love helping people, we do a lot of self-discovery and you kind of see them light up when they figure it out and I just find it very satisfying. Cause I feel we've all experienced loss and difficult times. Life is short, so let's make the most of whatever that time is, you know, let's make the most of it. It's really important to me.
Stephanie: Yeah. So this same period of transition that I like to focus on, you are helping people through that and beyond. Can you share with the listeners some ideas for how to do some of that self-discovery? What kind tips or exercises or thought exercises might you suggest for somebody who is lost?
Sandy: Mm. Wow. Okay. That could go in all different directions, but,
Stephanie: Pick one. Pick your favorite.
Sandy: Well there's two that come to mind. Number one would be on a piece of paper, draw a line down the middle um, vertically and on one side is what do I wanna move away from? And the other one is what do I wanna move towards? You don't need a purpose statement, but it just, I think helps like maybe that autopilot, like, these are the things I'm doing because, I should be doing and these are more the things that maybe I want more of or I don't have. And it's more of the wants, this is what I wanna move towards. And there's always a little bit of that reality check with that. So I think that can be a great starting point.
And then I also think people, whatever age you are, just start taking each decade, twenties, thirties, forties, wherever you are, fifties and what was a dream that you had in that decade and then have you achieved that, or where are you in that? Because I think it just, sometimes it's that writing things down in that visual where you think, oh gosh, remember when I was 30, I really wanted this thing to happen and didn't, and now I'm 45, let me think, could that still happen or do I still want that to happen? It's a lot of taking sort of those dreams or those thoughts or things that you wanted that have been pushed to the very back burner and start bringing them to the front. And then there's always that reality - is this something that I still really want? And what would it take to make it happen?
Stephanie: Okay, I'm gonna press further, and this is from my own experience. What if you don't know even what you want?
Stephanie: What if you're so mired in the should or mired in the autopilot or closed down, you know, spiritually that you don't know what you want, how do you even start, you know, cuz it's like, ah, I want, you know, I want a great house. I wanna make a ton of money. I want, I want things to be easy, right?
Sandy: I would start, and it's hard to do in this format, but I would have somebody go through some values work. And some of that's just a list of values. And then go through and don't even relate it to like what you're doing. Like just say, "Okay, this is like a deal breaker. This is most important for me." I need to be helping other people. I need to be connected. Um, I have to be intellectually stimulated. I'm just pulling things out of the hat. Um, health is like the most important thing. So those become those pieces that you value more than anything. So once we do that, we can look at what does that mean to you? Define that to me.
My idea of helping other people could be completely different than yours and so what does that look like? It becomes a process. It's hard just to say, in the next five minutes, this is what you can do. But it's starting togo a little bit deeper into what is most important, what matters to me the most. And then we can look at how might that sort of translate into a something, an activity or a job or a part of your life. It's that whole importance and meaning piece because I think that's what we really all want, we wanna know that things matter and that we're doing those things that matter.
Stephanie: Yeah, I think there's one other thing I would add to that. Again, from my own experience of not knowing the what I wants, and I'm gonna go back to an old coach I worked with a million years ago. There was an exercise that he would say, "If I asked you to drive from here to San Francisco, could you do it?" Sure. Yeah. And he said, "Well, what about if I asked you to do it at night?" Well, sure. Okay. "But the thing about doing it at night is that all you can see is the 200 feet illuminated by your headlights."
And while you can have a plan, I could have a route mapped out. I won't know until I get to St. Louis, whether there's construction, whether there's traffic, whether I need to go around the city north or around the city south. I won't know until I get to Route 66 that this part of it's closed and I'm gonna have to take a detour. So, when you're on a journey, there are broad goals you can start with, and then as you move toward them, things come into focus along the way help you elaborate on the picture, the route, the path, whatever you want to call it. So, you may not know, especially if you're someone who, like me, couldn't have said, "I want X," other than real obvious markers of success, I couldn't have enunciated anything internal. It's a process.
Sandy: It's totally a process. I think for everybody and that's the perfect example that you just gave because as you go through each piece of this process, it's like the peeling of the onion. You peel off a layer and then this little aha comes up, something that you hadn't envisioned initially. And then you might go through another few weeks and when I start helping people, they start noticing just little things that they weren't noticing before. And as you continue on the journey and you learn more about yourself, there's more clarity and a little bit more and more focus. That whole driving across the country was a perfect way to say that. I love it.
Stephanie: Thanks. I've co-opted it as my own from a coach I no longer work with. One of the last things that you just touched on that I've talked about before is awareness
Stephanie: Becoming aware. Once you start asking the questions, you start becoming aware of answers that maybe you had glossed over or driven right by in the past. And as you have a broad word or term or feeling you wanna work towards and you've got that in your mind, you then start becoming aware of the things that are taking you closer to it or moving you further away from it.
Sandy: Right. And so, yeah, so when you're on in that autopilot mode, because you're so busy just doing all the things you're supposed to be doing, we tend to not be as aware.
Stephanie: Yeah, you just follow the map was laid out in front of you.
Sandy: Yeah. So I think that awareness and noticing is yeah, a very important step.
Well, Sandy, Before we go, I know as you and I talk today, you are tucked away working diligently on your book. Do you know when it will be out?
Sandy: Hopefully fall of this year. Fall 2023, October, maybe November. I'm co-authoring with two other people. Speaking of journeys and process, it's been a long one. It started in 2019, so I am quite excited and happy for this to be published. So yes.
Stephanie: Wonderful and it's called Midlife New Life.
Sandy: Yes. Mm-hmm.
Stephanie: Wonderful. Well, I thank you so much for being with me today and for, being so generous with your story.
Sandy: Oh, well, thank you. It was very fun. It was really nice to talk to you.
Sandy: Take care.
Stephanie: You too.