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It's Never Too Late: Make the Next Act of Your Life the Best Act of Your Life
by Kathie Gifford
Learn More | Meet Kathie Gifford
How do I begin to begin again?
Breathe deep and let all the fresh clean air in?
How do I find the courage to say
I’m gonna start a brand-new life today?
—“NEW EVERYTHINGS” BY KATHIE LEE GIFFORD AND BRETT JAMES
Certain moments in life can take on a rich significance in retrospect. Take, for instance, the time I was kicked out of the Brownies. No, I’m not kidding. I actually was kicked out of the Brownies. They insisted I turn my beanie in. All because I had bought into the Join the Brownies, See the World propaganda.
I arrived at the first meeting super excited, but all I could see was the back of the beanie on the girl in front of me—who had bought into the same propaganda.
It turns out talking about the world is not the same as seeing the world.
For the first time in my young life I felt duped, disappointed that what I’d been told was not actually true. So, I started my own Brownie troop at home, and the organization took umbrage and asked me to never show up again. (I think I remember my parents giggling, but I’m not sure.) That experience has stayed with me for decades.
Disappointment can do a number on you, but only if you let it. I’m not sure where I got the drive and determination to keep moving forward, even at the ripe old age of seven, but it likely had a lot to do with my dad and mom.
I was born into a wonderful family with two parents who knew very early on that they had an unusual child in me. They always showed their love in spite of my uniqueness, encouraging my adventures, circuses, concerts, and plays in the backyard. They let me raid the family pantry to open a corner store on our street. They smiled as I started the children’s newspaper for our neighborhood. I’m eternally grateful to God for my parents.
I tried to foster the same kind of love and support in raising my own children, Cody and Cassidy. You’d have to ask them if I succeeded. Actually, please don’t. Let them write a book that can’t hurt my feelings when I’m dead. Regardless, they have turned out to be remarkable, delightful, completely unique, and imaginative individuals who are doing exactly what they were created to do—create.
Cody is an extraordinary screenwriter and producer. And Cassidy is an accomplished film and television actress. They’re fun. They’re kind. And I don’t resent them for my stretch marks at all. They were worth it.
Today, I find myself at a point in life where the labels that technically apply to me could actually define me, if I let them. I’m a widow. And I’m an empty nester. Please don’t throw in senior citizen—I already know that too. I’m basically alone for the first time in my long life. That thought by itself could either terrify me or thrill me. I’m trying very hard to be thrilled. Growing older is not for the faint of heart, but I truly believe that this next season of my life has the potential to be the best season in a life that, to this point, has been jam-packed with amazing opportunities and great adventures.
So, what’s next? After lunch, that is.
I don’t know, and that’s the point. I can make the rest of my life what I want it to be. I can fill it up with people and have a celebration, sit by the fire and write an oratorio, or sit alone and have a pathetic pity party. For the very first time, it’s my choice to make.
I moved from Connecticut to Nashville after eleven years on NBC’s TODAY show with Hoda Kotb. I could not wait to get settled in and begin a brand-new life. One thing I’ve always loved is songwriting, so it was a real joy to have the opportunity to collaborate with singer-songwriter Brett James. “New Everythings” is one of the songs we composed for a movie that I’d written for Craig Ferguson and me to shoot in Scotland. In the film the heroine, Annabelle, is widowed and sets out on an unusual adventure that takes her to Scotland, leaving her former life in Nantucket completely behind. She is childless, jobless, but not hopeless.
I loved playing Annabelle. She’s a pure spirit, doing the very best she can to find whatever joy is still available to her, perhaps hidden deep somewhere in the Highlands. As of this writing we have finally found the right distributor for the movie. It has taken over two years, but for a long time it looked like it was never going to happen. That’s the risk you take when you dare to not only dream but set out to make those dreams come true. Even if it kills you.
Some of my dreams have taken years to come true—like Scandalous,the Broadway musical that took thirteen years and fourteen million dollars to create, only to close after three weeks. Nothing I have ever dreamed has been easy. Nothing. Show business is brutal and has left many a carcass on the red carpet. I don’t intend to be one of them.
As Stephen Sondheim once said to me, “You did the work.”
Yes, I did, and I’m still doing it.
There is joy in the struggle of hard work, and there is profound pleasure in the sweat of it. I may have twenty years left in this life, or I may have twenty minutes. But I’m going to drink this life to the dregs while I can. Because it’s never too late to begin again.
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