I Was Terrified to Start Over at Age 50. Here’s How I Did it Anyway

Plus, what my biggest lessons can teach you about making a change at any age, too.
how to start over at 50

I was sitting cross-legged in my Pilates studio in New York City at a life coaching workshop I’d organized—an effort to bring in revenue and hopefully even pick up some new clients. The life coach posed the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

The dozen or so of us sitting in that studio took turns answering aloud, talking about our dreams for the not-so-distant future. 

“I see myself traveling, surfing, and teaching a workout system I created for my non-surfing days called Surfilates,” I said, almost shocked that I’d voiced it out loud. 

After all, I was 47 years old and had a thriving Pilates business in Manhattan. I’d hit almost all the goals I had for myself in the Pilates business, so I should’ve been content. But I’d lost my passion for teaching Pilates, and my soul was dying of burnout. I felt trapped in a business that made me feel helpless. I felt like the walls were closing in because of the amount of work I had ahead of me. I didn’t have an investor or a business partner to help out. The road ahead was so daunting I felt like I couldn’t breathe when I thought about it. 

The room fell silent as my honest answer to where I hoped I’d be in five years seemed to echo in the studio. The workshop participants—many of whom were my students, as well as a few instructors—looked at me with a mix of shock and wonder. I hadn’t just given an answer that involved teaching in my beautiful Pilates studio, feeling joyful that I got to help so many people while doing what I loved. Nope—I’d just essentially told my clients that I felt stuffed into a box of my own making, and it was one I didn’t want to be in anymore.

In the weeks that followed, it became even more apparent that I needed to make some changes. As I started thinking of those changes, I was overcome with so many fears. At times, those fears made me feel so helpless that it seemed way easier to stay in my safe little box rather than do something different. Yet while starting over would take a huge leap of faith, I felt sure there was something better waiting for me. So, I faced my biggest fears and made some massive life changes. 

Related: It’s Never Too Late to Develop New Passions In Life. Here’s Where to Start

Now, at 53 years old, I’m in the process of writing a novel, working as a wine director at a restaurant, and studying for my next level Sommelier certification. I live in San Diego, 3,000 miles away from NYC, which has sunshine, consistent waves for surfing, and much warmer weather. Even though I have hit bumps in the road—and to be honest, I’m still learning and growing—I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. 

Here are some of the biggest (and overwhelming!) fears I faced when I decided to turn my life around in mid-life and start over. Here’s hoping that reading about how I handled them will help you pick up some tips and find the inspiration you need to make whatever changes you want to see in your life.

Fear No. 1: Will I have enough money?

No doubt making a big career or life change (or both!) will feel financially risky. In my case, I’d just signed a five-year lease on a new Pilates studio and took out a business loan to pay for it. The work hours I was pulling to keep my life and business afloat in New York City left me little time for planning my new life, but the process seemed to unfold. I think once you voice the change you want to see in your life to someone or a group of people, you embody it. The change you crave becomes part of your conscious, and you make it happen.

Related: What a High-Conflict Divorce Taught One Woman About Marriage Finances—and How to Get Smarter About Money

I was two years into my lease and the Pilates business and I were drowning. The bills were piling high; I paid everyone except me and broke even. I consulted business-savvy friends to get through all of this. I also hired a holistic business coach. She did breathwork, meditation and taught some of the principles of Louise Hay. I gathered my courage and got my emotions (energy in motion, as she would say) under control to see what I wanted to do, not what others thought I should do. 

I saved where I could, rented out my apartment on Airbnb, and miraculously saved $10,000 over the course of two years. It wasn’t the original $20,000 I wanted to save, but it was something. I also lined up two Pilates jobs in San Diego and scheduled my departure from New York City around the start date. The events lined up imperfectly, but they lined up and I made my move. 

Fear No. 2: What will everyone think of my decision? 

Some of my friends thought I was crazy to close my studio, but most encouraged me. Through the work with my holistic business coach, we found what others thought of me became a big obstacle I had to overcome. This was especially true when it came to what my parents would think. They finally had a daughter who wasn’t an artistic free spirit chasing the next hedonistic pleasure. I had a successful business in NYC, and closing it would mean the death of my stableness. What-is-wrong-with-her vibes from family were relatively strong and frequent, but I had to follow my gut.

I also began questioning everything: the guy I broke up with, the career I chose, and the state of my happiness. The only thing that made me calm and feel like myself was surfing. Surfing in New York was difficult since waves were inconsistent and the beach was not close to my apartment, but I went anyway. It cleared my head from the noise of other people’s opinions, so I decided I had to chase my happiness to a place a little warmer where there were consistent waves. I trusted that doing this could lead me to a new career and way of life. 

As you are going through a life-changing situation, I highly suggest finding something physical to calm your stress and make all the noise in your head a little quieter. It will help you think clearly and deflect any negativity flying your way from friends or family. 

Fear No. 3: Will this change make me really happy?

As I planned to close my Pilates studio and move across the country, I feared that this decision could be a complete failure. But it was part of my path to being happy, so I charged full force ahead. I didn’t want to suffocate any longer. 

If this fear pops up (and it will, from time to time), I’ve learned that you have to get silent and listen to your gut about what you want to do. Ask yourself questions about your situation, like:

What makes me really happy? 

What do I see myself doing that makes me smile? 

Then, see if your body feels light or tight. If it feels tight, that’s a hard no. If you feel light, it’s a yes. 

Adjusting to San Diego was easy, but my career path was not. I knew there would be growing pains and adjustments, but those were minor bumps in the road to my happiness and new life. I learned from this process that success is not measured by the house you live in or own, how much money you make, where you live, what designer clothes you can afford, or how you look. Most of the time, people use those as covers to mask unhappiness. For me—and I’d say for most of us—true happiness is waking up grateful for what the day might hand you and going to bed thankful for your life experiences. Remembering this gave me the strength to change my life and stay on the new path. 

The surprise of rolling with the unknown is exciting and scary at once, but so worth it. You grow as a person, and in turn, you become adaptable to what life throws at you. You feel alive. 

No matter what your fears that are holding you back, trust your inner voice—even if what you hear sounds crazy—and go after what makes your heart sing. 

Kim Kuznitz has been writing and journaling since she was a child. In her 20s, she co-wrote, produced and acted in her plays in New York City with her artistic partners, which later became KaBooM Productions. Kim is currently a Wine Director at Paon Wine Bar and Restaurant, where she is cultivating her wine knowledge and is almost finished writing her novel. 

Join the discussion! One of the best sources for women in their 40s, 50s, and beyond who are looking to start over, pivot, or look at the next phase of life through a different lens is other women! Share your experience here.

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