The Second Half Is Better

Picture of Fen Druadin

Fen Druadin

Fen (they/them) is a book midwife, a visionary, a mystic, and a lifelong storyteller. They help brilliant weirdos and paradigm-shifting thinkers write the books that are burning inside them. They also prolifically publish their own essays, poetry, and other short work on social media, and have authored multiple longer works including Morning After the Road Trip, a collection of short stories, and Messages from the Land, a book and oracle card deck. Fen lives in the Appalachians of North Carolina with two cats, one dog, a varying assemblage of mostly-grown children, and a growing family of shower spiders. When they’re not reading or writing, Fen is usually either at drum circle, by the campfire with friends, or feral in the wilderness. You can find Fen at

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The Second Half Is Better

When I was 32, I was at a gas station filling up the tank when I caught my reflection in the car window. I stared at myself for a long time.

It was the first time I had noticed that my jowls were hanging a little lower than I remembered. It reminded me of my grandma. I began to panic.

I was 32! The difference was so minuscule that anyone else would have thought me out of my mind to notice it. But I knew. I saw. I had been trained from birth to recognize the signs – and to fear them.

When I was a girl, my mom showed me a picture of Liz Taylor. “Wow,” she said. “Would you look at that? Who would have thought anyone could be so beautiful at 50!”

I heard the message loud and clear: Better enjoy your youth because it’s all downhill from here!

And it’s not just women who are told this, that we’re past our prime before we’ve hit our stride. I know many young men, under thirty or forty, who feel like they’re “behind” because they haven’t accomplished what they planned to accomplish with their lives. They haven’t done everything they thought they’d do. They’re buried in what feels like meaningless work, and laundry, and relationship drama, and trying to pay their rent and they’re absolutely frantic about whether they will ever amount to anything at all.

Because we were all lied to. All of us, men, women, and (especially) otherwise. Our culture worships youth. It acts like you’re supposed to do everything before you turn 30 because by 40, you’re practically dead. And while men are allowed to go on contributing at work and being listened to, they’re still considered “past their prime” if they haven’t achieved something spectacular before they turn 40. They’re either on the path to success or they’re not!

And women? Well, you know. We can easily become invisible altogether. It’s what this culture expects of us. We’re supposed to make ourselves pretty for public consumption when we’re young, then fade into the background before we turn 50.

I’m 49 now. This year I will turn 50. And here is what I have learned in my almost five decades of walking this good green earth:

Youth is just the warm-up. Youth is just the stretching to get your muscles ready for the real deal. Youth is just practice.

Youth is learning the ropes, it’s gathering the knowledge, practicing the skills, gaining the experience, integrating the reality of being alive in this world at this time.

The second half is where the magic happens. The second half is where you really start to manifest everything you’ve been preparing for.

The second half is better.

Did you know that Carl Jung, the famous, wildly prolific, and extremely influential psychologist, didn’t publish his first book till he was 54 years old?

Now you do.

Anna Sewell was 57 when she published Black Beauty. Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 when she published the first book in the Little House series. Suzanne Simard was 61 when she published Finding the Mother Tree. Robin Wall Kimmerer was 60 when she published Braiding Sweetgrass. And our host Stella Fosse published her first novel, Brilliant Charming Bastard, at 68. These are some of my favorite books by women writing in the second halves of their lives, and most of them didn’t even get started till after 50.

I’m 49. Three years ago, I published my first book. I’m ahead of Carl Jung! Ha. This year, I published my second. It’s a book of short stories called Morning After the Road Trip. I have a third in progress this year and another that is complete but hasn’t found its publishing home yet.

Y’all. I am just getting started. Welcome to the real me, the real journey. Welcome to the best half of my life.

Morning After the Road Trip – A Collection of Stories about Love

I had an English professor tell me in college that every story that matters is a story about love.

I may not have understood it then, but in the intervening decades, I have found this to be true.

In a youth-worshiping culture, the kind of love that tends to get written about is romance. Hot, heavy, sexy, fast, often wildly inappropriate and toxic love laced with hetero-normative and patriarchal poisons.

My short stories are not that.

I have no judgment for those stories, though, other than the patriarchal/hetero-normative norms they sometimes reinforce. It’s only that too often that’s all we think of when we think of love. And that’s not, by far, everything that love is.

I didn’t set out to write a series of stories about love, but since that is what bubbles up out of me, that is what they are about. Three are about a mother’s love. One is the love of a mother for her dead son, a fantastical journey into the first 24 hours after his death. Another is a mother who sacrificed herself for her daughter, and the daughter’s journey to discover the true depth and meaning of that sacrifice. One is about a teenage boy discovering that his imperfect mother loves him more than he realized.

A couple of the stories are romances, and one of them even features a YOUNG woman–under 50! Ha. One of them features a mature couple falling back in love after a misunderstanding. Their ages aren’t named, but you can easily imagine them over 50.

One is about a broader, bigger kind of love. And another uses parody to demonstrate what happens when a person only loves themself and nothing else.

You’ll have to read them to discover which is which. There are eight in the collection. I started writing them years ago, and only now–in this glorious second half of my life–realized that they were worth sharing.

Only now, I’ve begun to realize the real worth of my contributions to the world.

Only now, I’m starting to claim it.

I’ve been blown away by the reception my stories have had. “Your short stories wrapped themselves around me,” one of my readers said. “So beautiful, so perfect… Masterful!” said another.

You can order the book if you like. But, more importantly, if you have stories or a book burning inside you or some other gift to give the world, something that’s been growing all these years inside of you and now is asking to be born: Don’t be afraid! Claim it. Get started. It’s not too late. It’s never too late.

What’s Burning Inside You to Be Born?

The second half of life is the time to bring all your gifts to the world, to birth everything that’s been growing inside you all these years. It’s our manifestation time!

In addition to the books I write, I work with authors and prospective authors to help them birth the books that are burning inside them. Not everyone is a writer. But many people in the second half of life have stories to tell, a legacy to leave, or a body of expertise that is ready to be birthed into the world in the form of a book.

I’ve been a storyteller my whole life, and in a previous phase of my career, I was a freelance writer. I’ve studied the art of storytelling and the art of business side by side for twenty five years. Along the way, I’ve also studied the art of optimal human performance, of process improvement, and of getting things done.

Alongside that, I studied a wide range of metaphysical and spiritual practices and modalities that help people clear emotional blocks and achieve states of flow and inspiration that make the creative and writing processes easier and the results more remarkable.

I’ve collaboratively improvised hour-long plays in front of live audiences, presented marketing and sales plans in front of corporate boards, led executive team workshops, built brands, jumped off boulders into ice cold mountain waters, won a few writing competitions, lost most of them, forgotten more books than most people ever read, laughed till I cried, eulogized dead loved ones, raised feral children, gone without dinner so I could pay the rent, left abusive relationships and started over, held my grandmother’s hand while she was dying, bought plane tickets for friends who had less than I had, studied ancient Greek so I could read The Odyssey in the original, memorized ancient Irish invocations, raised chickens, gotten lost in the woods, disarmed a white supremacist, danced in fountains, made love, scared a bear out of its den… in short, I have LIVED. And, in my living, I have LEARNED.

This is what I’m talking about when I say the second half is better. It TAKES fifty years, more or less, to accumulate all the bits and pieces and experience, knowledge, background, and practice to bring the level of expertise to the table that those of us in the second half can bring.

And it takes all that time to start seeing the threads of connection among the various interests and careers and hobbies and experiences we’ve had, to start understanding how they can be used to do something truly exceptional.

If you’re in the second half of life, I have a challenge for you. Set aside some time to sit down and list out all the cool, interesting, educational, and experience-rich things you’ve done in your life. I’ll bet the list is longer than you expect.

And it may all look disconnected.

But it’s not. That’s what the second half of life is for. Claiming your areas of expertise and your capabilities and their value. Figuring out the interconnectedness among them.

Take a look at your list. Start looking for intersections. Brainstorm all the ways the seemingly disconnected topics and skills could work together to do something new and interesting. Creative genius occurs in the nexus between worlds. What’s in the nexus of your worlds?

What’s burning inside you to be born?

I use my almost-fifty years of life and living and learning and practicing to help the authors who work with me achieve more than they ever dreamed they could. I help them get the magic that’s inside them out of them and onto the page. I help them claim their voice and form their stories into books that change their lives–and the lives of their readers.

This is the best, most interesting, most fulfilling, most exciting, most life-affirming, most meaningful, most impactful work I have ever done in my life. And I’m awfully damn good at it.

I couldn’t have done this when I was 25. Or 35. Or 45, honestly–I needed a few more years to ripen.

But now that I’ve started? Look out, world.

The Real Reason the Second Half Is Better

Nowadays, I catch my reflection in the car window and I see that my jowls look like my grandma’s did when I was a little girl. There are crinkles at the edges of my eyes and my hair is streaked with silver. My neck is starting to fold in startling ways and I pluck hairs out of my chin every day to keep the hordes at bay. They don’t tell you about the rampaging armies of chin hair when you’re younger.

But you know what else I see when I catch my reflection in the car window?

I see so much more than age or beauty or concern about either. I look at my reflection and I see a person seated in their power. I look at my reflection and I see a person who knows their worth. And, even better than that?

I see a person who is HAPPY.

I wasn’t happy as a young person. I was deeply entrenched in trying to make everyone else happy, so busy doing that that I myself was miserable, filled with rage and grief and frustration. Maybe I was pretty, but I was also pretty damn unhappy.

It took me a while, but I learned to deal with my rage and pain. To honor it and release it. Then I learned to follow my bliss. To ignore the demands of the world to cater to everyone else. I learned to say “yes” to what makes my heart sing and, even more importantly: “No” to everything else. I learned to walk away from people, places, relationships, jobs, and situations that aren’t right for me. And walk into things that make my heart beat faster with excitement. I learned to stop managing other people’s emotions and trying to change things that aren’t mine to change.

I learned to be happy.

And I am. I am happy. I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my life.

Because you know what’s better than being young? Being in the second half of life.

The second half is just… better.

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