As you’ll know if you follow my Instagram feed, we set off on an adventure this morning (well at least I hope we did because I’m typing this on Wednesday so I’m assuming all will have gone to plan!). It means there won’t be another blog post until 24th February but part of the project involves posting Instagram Stories every day so you can catch me there – in the spoken word rather than the written one. And I’m leaving on a high for two reasons. First of all I have the joy of last week’s reader lunch still lighting me up; added to that, tomorrow will mark nine years of Midlifechic which feels like a big achievement… and the fact that I’ll be waking up somewhere unusual is a lovely gift from the blog.
So now you know why I said I was speeding up in order to slow down – I’ve had to do all of my February work in January. Luckily the trip was planned before we started our new contracts so we could write it in. Anyway if you’re not an Instagram user, I’ll tell you all about it when we’re back, for now let’s move on to the reader lunch.
Midlifechic reader lunch
Ah what can I say? We had such a good time at the reader lunch, people had come from near and far, some I’d already met, others I hadn’t and of course there was a particular joy in the big fat hugs with long term commenters – Kareema, Lisa, Carole E… three people who have steadfastly supported me week in, week out since the beginning. Before we met I had a few panicked emails about what to wear but as I said to them, it was all about the like minds not the looks and I think they’d all agree that the room sparkled as soon as we got there.
Mal was working away so couldn’t pop in which meant this was the only picture I took.
I’ve never met a reader that I haven’t felt an instant connection with but this was even better because I could see that everyone else connected straight away too – it was like watching magnets locking together. What really struck me was the vivacity, every woman there brimmed over with character and warmth. And this is one of the many reasons that I love being a midlifer, there’s no longer a sense of competition or ‘oneupwomanship’ as there often is in the 20/30/40 something decades when we’re not quite as sure of who we are. Now we’re far more relaxed, there are no hard edges and we’re just keen to have a really good conversation with other women like us.
I think everyone left with a feeling of what I can only describe as ‘elation’ and that was nothing to do with me. It was the fact that it was an afternoon spent with our tribe and I’d say there was a definite sense of belonging.
I’m really keen to do a reader lunch again here and in other parts of the UK. The problem I have at the moment is time and the fact that I don’t give enough of it to my old friends or my extended family – partly because I put so many of my own hours into this blog. I’d love to be able to meet lots of you individually but getting together in a group like this makes it easier and I’m sure it’s more interesting than just being stuck with me on my own. So, leave it with me and I’ll aim to come south for a reader lunch as soon as Avanti sort themselves out. In the meantime I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who put their time and effervescence into Friday, it was over too quickly but I do hope that elated is the right word… and that the feeling has stayed with you all week.
A blog birthday
I feel all kinds of emotions when I look back through the 744 posts from the last nine years. To be honest, I wonder how I ever had the courage to start. It was probably because I didn’t really think anyone would find it – I was simply building a scrapbook of style as I tried to find my way back to the woman I recognised instead of the shadow I saw when I looked in the mirror. You can see it here in my first photograph, I’d lost my confidence and sparkle after a tough few years of running around after small boys, looking after sick parents and nursing our business through the brutal recession of the early noughties…
… but this is the picture that will encapsulate just how much time has passed – look at these young boys in their first blog appearance on Mother’s Day 2014! How I miss the days of unhairy faces. And Gary – he and Ted are so similar in many ways but so different too.
I wonder how many hours of my life have been poured into writing Midlifechic. It’s no longer really about personal style, I know what I like to wear now and at the moment I don’t find I have much interest in clothes at all but maybe that will change when Spring comes along. Of course the world of fashion has changed too – new seasons no longer bring the need for complete wardrobe reinvention that they used to. Now, developing your own look is more admired than following the herd (flowy, floral midi-dresses aside… although I think that’s over now).
So what’s ahead for the blog? I’m not sure at the moment but hopefully I’ll have some headspace to think about it while I’m away. One thing that last year’s career crossroads showed me was just how important it is to me. When an interesting and lucrative opportunity was dangled in front of me I didn’t find myself jumping as I would have done ten or even five years ago.
It helped me to realise that at this stage of life, time is suddenly more valuable than money. I realise I’m fortunate to have that choice and I should add that it’s not because we’re wealthy, it’s just that I feel we have enough. We don’t hanker after cars, watches or any of the monikers of success. We’re happy with what we have and so we’re looking for more fun and more meaning over anything else.
This blog means so much to me. It gives me an opportunity to write which is something I’ve always enjoyed. It feeds into my retail work, brings strong relationships with brands I genuinely love and occasional surprises such as travel. And then there are the friendships with you, women from all over the world who share a mindset – and that’s not always easy to find on your doorstep.
So I don’t know what path Midlifechic will take this year but I can promise you that it will keep going. I suppose that, in itself, reflects the changing stage of midlife when you’re in flux because you haven’t quite empty nested… and you might not yet be ready/able to retire… but you still have more time and your mind expands in a way it hasn’t been able to for years.
As you know, I like to look back so I thought I’d celebrate the blog birthday with five things that the last nine years have taught me and this is what popped into my mind.
Five things the last nine years of blogging have taught me
You’re never too old to start something new
If there’s something that you have a burning passion to do, you really should ‘just do it’. It can be anything – doing that A Level you’ve always wanted to, climbing the three peaks, losing weight, writing a book… Beginning is always the hardest part, along with the hard fact that not everyone will support you – you may find that some people around you don’t want you to change and try to keep you ‘in your box.’
As I’ve already said, I’m amazed that I ever had the nerve to begin Midlifechic but I was lucky enough to have Mal and the boys on my side. Even so, I’ve faced derision from all kinds of people along the way – some I know, some I don’t. There are always going to be people who don’t like to see you growing in confidence but the important thing to remember is that it says far more about them and their own regrets than it does about you.
I’m not thick skinned and there’s no denying that every sly dig from a friend or mean message online hurts. As you know, a period of trolling made me lose my confidence on Instagram completely and that’s something I have to get over so this is as much a message to self as to you:
If you let the negative people hold you back – you’re handing them all of the power.
My mum’s last words to me were ‘don’t regret…’ She was slipping in and out of consciousness and my brother interrupted her so I’ll never know what she was going to say next but it was a strong enough message to drive me on for the rest of my life. The age old cliché is that you only regret the things you don’t do. So if there’s something… anything… you’ve always wanted to try, do it now. Ignore the voices in your head and the voices around you. I’m particularly glad I didn’t let the voices online destroy my confidence when it came to my blog – at one point they nearly did. A lot of that was thanks to the outpouring of support I got from you when I mentioned it and that helped me to keep going. So find your flag-flyers and hold their words in your mind instead.
This blog is the thing that means that no two weeks are ever the same for me. It keeps me out of a rut because it stops me from working non-stop and all kinds of interesting things pop up along the way. Whatever you want to do, choose it because you love it – you’ll need that level of passion to keep you going… with it though will come a whole new life. It’s worth it.
Hair is everything
Ok I’m being flippant now and quoting Fleabag but it’s true. If I had to choose one desert island appearance related thing it wouldn’t be skincare or make-up or clothes or the gym, it probably wouldn’t even be HRT… it would be hair.
Having a hairstyle that works for your face, that you don’t have to fuss over or think about makes all the difference. Every day. It’s worth investing in and if you’re struggling with midlife hair loss, I remember an old boss of mine having the same life-changing experience by investing her salon money in a great wig instead.
Know your style shortcut to confidence
We’ll all be different here but it’s worth analysing when you feel your best and why that is. I’ve learned that my style shortcut to confidence will always be column dressing. I never feel better than when I’m wearing a dress / jumpsuit /matching separates. I can have a contrasting coat or jacket over the top but it’s that block of colour from shoulders down that makes me feel leaner, taller and just more put together. It’s as simple as that. All you have to do is look through your favourite photos and work out what does it for you.
It’s never too late to make new friends
I think we change as much in midlife as we do in our twenties. In a way our personalities are condensed now; we know who we are, what we like and how we want to spend our time. Some people see the outcome as intolerance, I see it as self-assurance. Depending on how much free time you have, you may find that you have to keep your inner circle of friends quite edited and close friends should always be prioritised but… there’s nothing more exciting than making new friends at this age.
It’s great when you click with somebody new, especially when they unlock a part of your personality that your other friends don’t. The thing is finding your tribe – as we did last week at the reader meet-up. Where do you think the other women like you are? And I’m proof that friendships don’t just have to be made in person, you can build great new relationships online too.
Be happy with what you have
I’ve already touched on this but when you read through midlife studies you often find that the classic ‘midlife crisis’ is triggered by the question, “is this it?” A rather simplistic answer is that you have two choices: if you’re really unhappy you can shake everything up and start all over again. If you’re not, then it’s a great time for stepping back and appreciating where you are.
Apart from my 20s I’ve had a steady life, it’s had the usual ups and downs that we all go through but I think of myself as a lucky person (fingers crossed, touch wood and all that). Having said that, given the chance I wouldn’t want to go back to any other decade for more than a day because I’m happy here, right now.
Midlife is a reawakening, the point where you realise that time is running out so you need to really live – and the definition of a life well lived is utterly individual. So whereas there are always things that can add more joy such as making new friends or travelling to new places, there’s also a lot to be said for being content with what you have.
This is something that was really brought home to me last year when we lost midlife friends and family who were just making it to this point. They’d worked hard all their lives but sadly just didn’t quite make it to what I see as the harvest – the time where we can look back over all the years of building and struggle, look ahead to the (hopefully) easier years to come – and breathe out. Hopefully, by this stage in life we can all see that we no longer need more because if we look closely, we can see that we have enough.
Can you help Hope Fashion?
And on the note of working hard, I just want to bring your attention to a cry for help from my friend Nayna at Hope who has put absolutely everything into her business over the last eight years. She’s a proud, feisty woman so I know how hard this must have been for her to write. They have a week left to save the business, after that it risks being all over. I can’t explain better than she did so this is what she put in her email SOS this week…
Last week we received some devastating news. Very unexpectedly, investment funding which we had been planning to receive in January was pulled and has come as a huge shock.
Without further funding we may have to close Hope.
What this means is that 8 years of hard work will come to an end. Eight years of daring to be different to mainstream fashion and bringing beautifully styled fashion to help make 40,000 customers, followers and fans, feel beautifully confident. Real clothes for real women.
As you might imagine, this has been very upsetting for me and those closely connected with Hope including my lovely team.
Despite this, we did what all strong, busy, and determined women do when faced with a challenge, we put our heads together to come up with a solution. Hope was never just about clothes; it was about creating a community of like-minded women who simply want to be the best version of themselves at this stage in their lives.
And that’s when we thought, where do you go when you’re desperate and need help?
For many of us that is usually family and friends – and because so many of you have become friends it feels like you are part of this beautiful Hope family we have created. And so we are turning to you with an idea about how we can together save Hope.
What if the people who love Hope were prepared to rescue it – our own Hope Saviours.
Therefore, we are asking all of our customers, fans and followers if they would be prepared to gift Hope £100, £250 or more to help rescue the brand. If everyone did that we could have £4M, the good news is that we don’t need anywhere near that, more like £250k.
This would allow us to trade another 12 months before going back to the investment market for more long term money hopefully when the markets will be more receptive. The money would be spent on new product for SS23 and AW23, marketing to acquire new recruits to the Hope family and the fantastic team who keep the business going. If we don’t reach our minimum target we pledge to give you back your money.
If you feel you can help I would so grateful and would ask you to click on the link below and gift Hope £100 or more. If you could do more that would be amazing, of course.
In exchange you will be entered into a prize draw with the winner being offered a styling appointment with me and a voucher for £1,000 to spend on our Spring/Summer collection.
Our minimum target is £250,000 and if we don’t reach that the funds will be returned. I’m hoping we will be able to beat that and keep this amazing brand going for you all, our dearest and most loyal family.
We have a deadline of 10 days, if we don’t reach our minimum target by midnight Tuesday 7th February it’s all over.
I know this is a big ask but I am following my instincts and believe many of you love this brand as much as I do, maybe we can create a movement to rescue Hope; please become a Hope Saviour.
I am happy to talk.
It’s such a hard time for retail right now and we’re going to see quite a few people struggling but Hope is a company that really cares. It is retail done in the very best way and it would be so sad to see it go. Nayna knows it’s a big ask, especially at this time of year when all of the tax bills have landed but if you can help to keep a small group of brilliant midlife women in business, please do. I’m actually finding it quite moving watching the tally go up as other midlife women around the country rally behind her to do what they can to help. All details are here.
And so with that I’ll leave you for a little while but do come over to Instagram if you can and keep me company on what feels like a real adventure. We’ve been invited on a press trip to do something we never imagined we would. Shall I give you a few clues?
- Packing has been hard because I can’t take much and I have to wear earth colours… no red/pink/orange/blue/white/black allowed… so it will definitely be more about what I’m doing than wearing
- At some point I’m really hoping to be able to stand with one foot on either side of the equator
- And we might be celebrating our wedding anniversary on 10th February with lions and tigers and bears. Oh my! (well actually not tigers… or bears)
I’m sure you’ve guessed what we’ll be doing for the first ten days by now and then after that, we’ve paid to extend the trip so that we can relax on our own in the sunshine. I hope to see you on Instagram (with Mal on board it should be entertaining). Don’t forget to let me know that you’re a reader in the comments so that I can follow you back and fill my feed with the kind of posts I want to see.
So I’ll finish with a thank you to Midlifechic for bringing me opportunities like this every so often, it makes me even more glad that I’ve stuck to long form writing. And thank you to you for reading – whether it’s been for nine years or nine weeks it means the world to me. If you’d like to be notified when I’m back and blogging again, fill in the subscriber form below. Enjoy the next couple of weeks and I’ll see you when the days are longer.
Disclosure: ‘A reader lunch, a blog birthday and à bientôt…’ is not a sponsored post
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