I’ve been thinking a lot about my second Act. And I don’t really mean anything to do with screenplays. I’m talking about the second act of my life. Part 2, if you will, without actually being a sequel. Enough years have ticked by now that I’m in the danger zone for the dreaded “mid-life crisis”. And what it stirs in me is the desire for new adventures.
In the last few years I’ve taken note of a few people who have remade themselves in their late thirties, forties, and so on. And in every case I’ve marveled at how they become ageless in the change.
I know a film executive who, upon losing his high-ranking position, looked at his life and said “I want to be a chef.” At the age of 39 he enrolled into a prestigious culinary school in New York. And since then he’s cooked for a living in high-profile jobs on both coasts.
Another friend who basked in the glow of the 90s internet bubble, made a killing, and then traveled the world when the bubble burst. Early this century he asked himself “what’s next?”, and inexplicably went to grad school and became a pharmacist. He seems very happy about it, and while I didn’t think anyone actually chose to be a pharmacist, apparently they do.
A former roommate of mine dabbled in nearly everything he could find all through college before winding up in strange third world countries working in public health and crisis management. When he decided on change, this marginally dedicated student headed to medical school. He’s well on his way to becoming Dr. Smith. (Not a pseudonym… he will be Dr. Smith and his patients will think he’s kidding.)
And then there’s the relative of a friend who has systematically changed careers every five to seven years and now, in his 50s, he’s a well-respected child psychologist. At least… for a few years I suppose. With wife and kids in tow he’s lived all over and made money in the internet, been a vet, had a corporate job in traditional business, and been a paid artist. “He gets bored easily” I was told when I first heard this story. But all I could think was… “Sounds like he succeeds easily!”
And I bet he’ll live forever. Well, maybe not forever, but at least until he stops shaking things up. That’s the lesson I’m finding in all this.
I have two living grandmothers, 85 and 90 (as of this writing…). And in the last year their lives have driven this point home. The 85 year old has been fading fast. She hasn’t been able to drive for decades and her social circle and number of activities has steadily decreased at the same time. The 90 year old has outlived two husbands and seemed to be fading herself until about a year ago when she got herself a boyfriend.
I promise this is not a blog about the dating life of 90 year olds.
The lesson has been seeing the huge improvement and new life provided by change. Sameness and lack of opportunity has worn and weathered my younger grandmother. Newness and activity is pushing the other into new health and awareness.
So where does that leave me?
Well, maybe life is a screenplay, and I’m nearly 40 pages in. I’ve past the first Act break where things really turn for the intriguing. And I’m marching my way through the destination part of the story. Problem solving. Striving. Working to advance the plot.
But Act 2 needs help. Without careful planning it sputters to an unfinished halt somewhere between 60 and 80 pages. With new ideas, and maybe a twist toward the unexpected, you can launch your story strongly to a triumphant 100. Maybe you can get to 110 or more if you’re telling a really great story.
So I’m pondering Act 2. Thinking about new things. Looking for character development and a good action scene to liven the plot. I’m just not sure what it is yet.
The truth I’ve come to is that change makes you ageless. Rewrites make better stories. And apparently life, like screenplays, needs good Act 2 surprises in order to have a strong ending.