In the late-1970’s, I was teaching in the theater department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I hit the glass ceiling. I went to the president of the university and told him what I thought was sexismin my department. He bluntly said: “Joan, I can’t help what happens in that department. They have their reasons. If you want to do anything more in theater, get off campus."
My life as an independent and self-determined woman began at that moment at the age of 35. The president of UNLV gave me a gift and taught me my first two important life lessons: a negative can be turned into a positive with successful results; and, I am the sole determiner of my present and future. It was the most liberating moment of my life. I can still feel the chills. I had been an actress, teacher, theater director, and textbook author for 15 years, and I was not going to let go of my passions. With amazing artists by my side, I launched Nevada’s first year round professional theater and I never looked back.
My life’s journey has been exciting, challenging and rewarding. I look at my life like a giant goodie basket – everything that has happened to me - losses, successes, fulfillments, and joys - everything I’ve ever done and been has helped me to maximize my potential. I learned early in my 20s that playing to my strengths and following my passions gave me the ability to make positive choices and decisions that were creative and successful. My strong and confident mother was my role model, but now, at almost 70, I finally feel I have added a bit of wisdom to my journey. And this wisdom comes from a place called gratitude.
How do I wake up every day with joy and satisfaction knowing that I am bearing the fruits of a well-lived, abundant life?
It’s all about the lessons I learned along the journey. People tell me that I am brave and that I have made the right choices for me given my temperament and energy. I feel fortunate that I had a mother who taught me never to fear anything. She said, “Joanie, it’s a waste of time; besides, it’s more fun to be surprised by life.” But it takes more than bravery coupled with a strong mind to persevere.
After I left the theater, I followed my heart and went to film school where I fell in love with writing again, specifically screenplays. I always loved writing. High school gave me the opportunity to write and give speeches. I won every speaking contest in California before I graduated high school and helped pay my way through college. Writing textbooks on acting while at the university gave me the confidence to use my knowledge to help guide other stage performers. Writing screenplays was pure fun and joy, and between dry spells I wrote for anyone who wanted my services – college students, the Rose Bowl, PR firms, research papers. I wrote my first novel during those years and turned it into a screenplay. I pitched that book and screenplay in front of producers and directors and learned that I had unlimited tenacity.
Because I love to teach, I continued in that path and at 60 I became a yoga and meditation teacher. Yoga became another passion and the subject of choice to write about until one day I had another idea: I decided to write my memoir at 64. My life was funny and crazy and full of twists and turns and lessons learned about growing older, relationships, adult children who parent me. But more important, I kept re-discovering that my natural instinct was to turn the negative into a positive, to find an opportunity around every corner because I was always curious, conscious and connected to learning.
The decisions I have made throughout my life come from knowing the truth about who I am, what talents and skills I have and what gifts I possess. As a yoga and meditation teacher, I’ve learned the benefits of mindfulness and to listen to my heart because my heart keeps me on my path. I decided to become a keynote speaker at 67 because my heart lead me in that direction and my mind directed me to continue my journey to create a world where teaching, performing and writing took center stage.
I write because I love the process; I teach because I am giving back; I speak because I have a message about how to stretch the mind at any age and a belief in the possibility of living a fully creative and fulfilling life. I believe life is a privilege and my time on this planet requires that I live my dharma – my truth – and give back to others the lessons that I have learned.
Joan Moran is a keynote speaker, author and blogger. Her memoir is entitled, Sixty, Sex & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer