For women like us who have spent numerous years creating our identities around our work or our families, taking a step in a new direction can feel like a katydid molting its exoskeleton. It’s unsettling and liberating in equal measures, possibly painful–we can’t ask the katydid–and we suspect, itchy.
Here we share stories of women who have scratched a new itch. We hope these stories may provide the insight and encouragement for others to leave their old skin–familiar and easy as it is–and go into a new world a little naked and scared. But not alone.
Today, we’re happy to highlight the work of Stacey Dorenfeld of Los Angeles, CA.
What kind of work or passion are you pursuing now?
Up until recently, the thought of pursing or finding a sense of myself and a sense of belonging never even occurred to me. Then, one day an alarm clock went off inside me, I woke up and found myself very unsettled and wondering what I was missing in my life. That’s when my childhood passion of writing finally surfaced. Then, only a few months later I discovered that I had a passion for advocacy work—working for the betterment of other. That’s the moment when I woke up—the fear was lifted when I realized that the only one in my way was me.
How old were you when you began in this new direction?
What did you do before you made this change?
I always stayed safe in what I call my “comfort box.” I did the ordinary mom and wife routine and forgot to look out the window. I was great at laundry and making playdates. I was a regular at the local Costco and spent a lot of time in my head thinking about all the things I wanted to do but was too afraid to do anything about it.
What prompted you to make this change?
I went on a Mom’s Weekend to Campowerment in Malibu. Just going with a friend was huge as I was never a joiner or wanted be a part of big groups of women. The weekend presented an opportunity to overcome our fears with various high rope activities, none of which I had ever had the courage to do in my life. Something wonderful happened to me and I still can’t explain it, but I knew I needed to get out of my comfort zone. So, when it came to the high ropes, I desperately wanted to overcome my fear of heights. I had to climb a huge pole, get my 5’8 ½” body on top of the crown of the pole, and then jump. I did not believe that I could do it. Each step I took up that pole, I cried. But I could not give up on myself. I had no choice. I had to go big or go home. I made it to the top, and I jumped onto a swing and then let go. I believe that gave me the courage to overcome a second fear: I went to Israel with a group of 22 women I did not know as part of a Jewish Women’s Initiative scholarship.
What from your previous work or life situation helped you in your reinvention?
I have always been one to go with my gut instincts. When I woke up one day and looked outside, I realized that I had to do something to change things up or I would wither away. I was familiar with “dark moments” from previous experiences and was certain the only way out was to open the door and walk outside.
What were the biggest obstacles you had to overcome?
The biggest obstacle was Stacey. I had to stop the tape in my head that said, “I couldn’t.” I had little confidence in my abilities to write even though it was my dream to be a writer. Then, I began to get involved with advocating for Hadassah, and a newer and more confident Stacey began to emerge. My family had to learn to deal with the new and improved Stacey. And, I think the hardest part was for me to accept the good stuff that was coming my way and give myself credit for making it happen.
How are you overcoming them?
I had to let go of who I thought I was supposed to be, and just allow myself to become. Maybe I will always have fears of failing and not being good enough. Maybe that’s who I am. But, now, I overcome these fears by doing things for others and forcing myself to do things instead of being a bystander or being idle. For example, when I am heading into a meeting with a California State legislator to advocate for a Human Trafficking law or discuss the medical inequities in research and products, I tell myself that I am here for the betterment of the humankind. Then, the shaky knees suddenly become a voice of confidence. Instead of fearing what others think of my writing, I just tell my story from my heart. It’s great because now I know that my personal stories resonate with so many people. Knowing that my words are connecting with others means I a great deal to me. I am proud that I played a major role in the passing of California State Senate Bill SB225 which established a Human Trafficking hotline sign at hotels, motels and rest stops in 2017.
What fears did you have to face?
The fear of failing. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of being laughed at and not being accepted.
What kind of support did you receive in your reinvention?
Shortly upon my return home from my trip to Israel, I met a woman who convinced me to publish a book and two children’s books, all of which were written over 20 years ago. That forced me to get out of my “comfort box” quite a bit and begin a blog to promote my books. Then, no sooner did that happen, I saw a Facebook post to go to Sacramento with Hadassah for an JPAC (Jewish Public Affairs Committee) Conference I had just become acquainted with. I called a friend who was part of this organization to inquire about this trip. `How do I do it? I am not a leader,’ I said. She responded, `Stacey, you are absolutely a leader and you can represent Hadassah.’ Those words have stayed with me ever since my first trip to Sacramento and all along my journey over the past several years.
How have you grown or how has your life improved as a result of taking on this new pursuit?
I am a completely different person. I often look at myself in the mirror and wonder how I got here. Who is that brave woman looking back at me, and what did you do with the old Stacey? It is certainly not the same Stacey I was five short years ago.
What advice would you give to other women at this age who are looking to reinvent themselves?
Have the courage to step out of your comfort zone and always pursue your passion, even if you did not know you had it, or it was hidden away for a few decades. I found out that I helped myself by helping others.
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