Pia Savage

Odd Girl In

Wiser After 40

I recently realized that many of my accomplishments happened after I was 40.

Posted May 11, 2016

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Next week it will be 20 years since I graduated from Fordham University's Graduate School of Social Services with an almost perfect GPA, an all "outstanding" final field evaluation, and certification——now it would be a license. I took the test while in school as a practice exam without having studied specifically for the exam, changed answers to ones I liked better than the ones I knew were "right," finished in 40 minutes out of four hours, and still got an 88.

I'm not particularly brilliant but I was 45: I knew how to study; how to coordinate and supervise a presentation; how to research and write up the research most effectively; how to interview, assess and counsel clients. There's a lot to be said for life experience.

Five years later I decided I wanted to pursue my life—time dream of writing for publications. Luck played a big role in my getting a free—lance job as a reporter for a weekly start up that was going to become of the country's last major weeklies.

I saw a documentary about a family of pedophiles on Long Island; the newspaper was Long Island-—centric, and I knew I had found the perfect summer story. I didn't know that the story would lead to three cover stories over the period of a year, and a lot of nominations including one that means a great deal as it was peer–nominated, and the staff was only allowed to nominate three articles for the year.

My editor was incredible. Because I was mature enough to know my limitations, I was mature enough to soak in the knowledge he taught me.

Several years later a friend asked if I wanted to start blogs. I resisted asking: "aren't blogs all political?" and began one. Mine took off, and was one of the highest ranked personal blogs, and the highest ranked baby boomer blogs for several years.

I learned some rudimentary HTML as blogs went down a lot then. It was almost impossible for me to learn, but if I wanted a blog that was working, I had to spend too many weekends crying.

Most of us didn't think about monetizing our blogs. Some people had brands—a word never before used in that exact meaning; others, like me, wrote about anything we felt like. I never ran out of subjects.

It has to be easier for bloggers that came after us. They knew about branding, search engine optimizing, monetizing, social media (a term that came a few years after I began), yet they laugh at us for not taking chances when we took the biggest chance——putting our writing out there without editing, and letting the public see the uncensored us. It was very much like balancing on a high wire beam without a safety net; just as scary and as exhilarating.

I find it fascinating that many newer bloggers would consider Courting Destiny, a failing blog, but many bloggers who have been around a long time, and many writers love it. It's going to be twelve years old in August. I do almost nothing to publicize it, and yet people find it. That gives me both joy and satisfaction.

Three years after I began my blog, in 2007, I found out the name to the problems that had plagued me all my life. At almost 58 I was determined to learn as much as I could about nonverbal learning disorder (NLD).

Unfortunately there wasn't much written about NLD in general, and I knew I had never been the truly sad, very damaged child that was presented in almost all articles. I definitely wasn't the one adult in the one article on adult NLD I could find.

Byron Rourke, who isn't the "founder" of NLD as many think but a leading researcher in it presented a case study of a woman who didn't have the insight or ability to get a Bachelors in Social Work. He was convinced that people with NLD (he did generalize) would fail a bachelors level field placement (internship). This was so wrong, I had to begin writing about NLD.

Psychology Today was my favorite magazine in college. Sometimes I still can't believe that I blog for it. I began that at 60!

I'm aware that some mental health professionals who work in NLD are convinced that my ideas, and experiences, are just plain wrong and/or idiotic.

My articles come from my experiences——unless I specifically say it's somebody else's thinking, or it's a guest post.

I am a mental health professional. I downplayed that a lot because I knew nothing about NLD. I shouldn't have. Many people exaggerate their qualifications. I did the opposite. I won't do that anymore!

I use "I think" and/or "I believe" a lot as these experiences are uniquely mine, and while lived haven't been scientifically researched. As a researcher, truth is exceptionally important to me.

I met many people with NLD, and learned about their experiences and beliefs.  I have always realized that each person's NLD is uniquely theirs, and deserves a voice.
That said I write about high functioning people because we lacked a cohesive voice.
In many ways I have lived a dream life. While I can fall into "if only my NLD had been found earlier" I wouldn't trade most of my experiences for anything.

When I learned about NLD I became more convinced than ever I had to leave New York, a place I love more than any other. While I always hated crowds, New York became more crowded than ever. I had grown tired of apologizing to people for bumping into them when half the time or more they bumped into me.

New York is pricey. Very pricey. Though I had paid cash for my apartment my monthly charges were in the four figures, as was my health insurance simply because I lived in Manhattan, and was in my 50's.

The recession was beginning and it wasn't as easy as it would have been a year or two before. But recently the apartment above mine with the same basic layout sold for a bit less than mine had. I think I did well.

After an adult lifetime in apartments I decided it was time to buy a house. I didn't do a down to the beam renovation though I would have loved to, but redid the kitchen, got all new bamboo floors, painted——wow did I paint.

I own my first washer/dryer. That still excites me. I learned what I had long suspected; cleaning six rooms is easier than cleaning two and a half rooms. With more space to keep things, I can keep rooms neater. I still can't put things in a fridge correctly. That doesn't make me as sad as it used to; it is what it is.

One day I stood on the second floor deck, one of the big reasons I bought the house, and realized I had actual property. I had it all decked so it would look like a deck going from the dunes to the beach (I live four blocks from the beach), and began an all container garden that many people, including me at times, think is the best part of the house.

I knew exactly two people when I moved to coastal South Carolina; now I know many. Yes it is harder to make friends after 40, but if you move to an area that is booming, and almost everyone is from somewhere else, it becomes much easier.

Many people say that your brain begins to go at 40. I think, in many cases including mine, it's exactly the opposite.

Before we're 40 we have experiences. All those experiences meld together, and around 40, I think,our brains pick what they think are the most important experiences, and subconsciously decide what's needed for future growth, and what can be thrown away.

Our decision making process becomes much quicker. Traumatic events can can cause regression, but even the regression is usually faster and less angst–filled than when younger. The foundation has become an almost hurricane proof brick building.

The more we use your brain, the better it becomes——unless we have some condition that makes you cognitively impaired. Even then the onset of the condition might be able to be delayed due to brain usage.

I don't know what my brain's going to be like in ten years or even if I will be on this earth. I have learned that making every day count is paramount to living a great life.

Much of what I have been able to do has been because of luck. After awhile luck plays a back seat to planning and hard work. I am lucky now that I'm able to do both!

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