By Deborah Wilker
City & Shore PRIME
Don’t expect the recipe for mid-life happiness from Jane Pauley’s new book, Your Life Calling: Reimagining The Rest of Your Life.
“The secret is that there isn’t one,” she says.
While Pauley, 63, has become something of an expert in transitions through her own career ups and downs and her recent feature stories with AARP for The Today Show, the beloved TV news icon does not profess to have the answers for the second half or next third of life – only ideas.
“My message is not to step out of your comfort zone – I think people are scared of that,” she says. “But do test the limits of your comfort zone. Start with a step. The next step will reveal itself.”
The reason we should pay attention, she says: We’re all living longer, and to not plan what we may do with the next 40 years that come after the first 50, is foolhardy.
We met with Pauley recently at Boca West Country Club, where she was the keynote speaker at a benefit luncheon to raise awareness for mental health services provided by Jewish Family Services. Pauley, who wrote about her own struggles with depression and bi-polar disorder in her 2005 bestseller Skywriting: A Life Out of the Blue, examines her own life deeply again in this new book as well.
There are rare glimpses here of home life with husband Garry Trudeau, the Pulitzer Prize winning creator of Doonesbury; and of the self-doubt she endured when named as co-host of The Today Show in 1976 when she was just 25 years old. She feared viewers thought she was a fraud. The job took her the world over, but the stress of being away from their three children nearly undid her.
Pauley writes just as she speaks – in clear, sublime prose. She intersperses the tales from her own life of unexpected transitions and great successes, with those of the people she has profiled through the years. Not all have triumphed, but they do inspire. That’s another aspect of her message: You may not get it right. Try again. Successful people do not give up.
She prefers the word “reimagine” to “reinvention” she says, because “It’s less scary.”
In person Pauley exudes joy and pep, but there is also something very calming about her, just as on television.
“I’m reality-based. I’m from the Midwest. I’m from Indiana. My message has to be aspirational – but not intimidating or astonishing. I’m not by nature, an optimist. I suspect my interest in telling other people’s stories is finding my own way forward.”
She sparkles in a gorgeous off-white dress, but when asked who designed it, she laughs, then shrugs: “I haven’t a clue. Got it on sale. Bergdorf’s.”
As always, relatable Jane.
She appears to be in phenomenal shape – how does she do it? Since the age of 55, she says, it’s been a snap: “My children are grown. I finally have time to exercise. Duh! Back then we didn’t have time!”
Before leaving she mentions one last thing: Once again she is entering another new phase of life.
“AARP will not be funding any more segments for Today she says. So I’m back in reimagination mode.” Just weeks later, CBS announced it had hired her – and she joins the staff at Sunday Morning as a correspondent on April 27. Nothing keeps her down for long.