Dear Diane Column — October 22, 2011

Dear Diane,

I feel like I’m a failure at fifty. I started out in a payroll position almost thirty years ago, and I’ve been with the same company for most of that time. When I was starting out, we had primarily manual operations. Through the years we have converted to computer programs, and every couple of years we’ve upgraded to a new system, meaning learning a whole new program. Recently the company implemented a new upgrade, and I was asked to lay off four out of seven people in my department. Diane, I can see the writing on the wall. I’m afraid that eventually, we will all be obsolete, and I’m terrified that in a few years, it will be my turn to go. I can’t imagine looking for a new career at my age, and I’m afraid it’s too late to start over. What do you see happening?

Facing Extinction

Dear Facing,

I understand your fear, as technology has traveled so quickly in such a short time. Many people are being forced to define themselves again in mid-life. It can be scary, but it can also be a great adventure, as you have more ability than you know.
You define yourself as a payroll professional, but you are much more than that. I see that you have acquired managerial skills, as well as expertise in hiring employees. Your knowledge of various payroll systems could qualify you to do consulting, setting up programs for other companies. Your writing skills are very much in order, and you express your thoughts clearly. You’ve spent the last thirty years gathering many useful abilities, so it’s time to take stock of them.
A career counselor can help you to pinpoint areas in which your skill set would be an asset. They can also help you define your goals and suggest continuing education.
While I see your current position being in place for years to come, you may wish to use this time to dream of other possibilities. Fifty is no longer old, it’s simply more experienced. One thing that computers will never replace is wisdom, and you’ve had time to acquire it. Believe in yourself!


Dear Diane, 

My brother and I have always gotten along, but lately, we hardly speak. His first wife was my best friend, and she was A WONDERFUL HUMAN BEING. She was there for family events for many years, and might as well have been my real sister.
Linda died two years ago in an auto accident, and I’ve not been the same since. I miss my friend, and I don’t have anyone to talk to about it. Family gatherings remind me that she’s not there, and they make me feel sad.
The worst part is that my brother recently remarried a woman that he met on a single’s site. She’s younger than him, and I can’t imagine her having the depth to raise Linda’s children. It makes me very upset, and my brother feels betrayed by me. He says that if I love him, I’ll accept his new life and help him to move forward. I’m confused. Am I in the wrong here?


Dear Mourning, 

I really understand the pain of losing such a wonderful person in your life. You are obviously still in great turmoil, and that says so much about what a tremendous loss you’ve suffered. It’s normal to feel frustrated and helpless when fate steps in and changes things, but there is still a lot you can do for Linda
While you can’t bring Linda back, you can help to see that her family is taken care of.  Though it may feel like a betrayal to accept this new woman into the family, you can make things much easier on your brother by showing her some kindness. She has agreed not only to love your brother, but to be a mother to his children as well. I sense that she is a kind person, if a bit shy and awkward. By taking her under your wing, you can help her to understand the special needs that this family may have, and in the process, I see you making a new friend. I know that Linda would approve.


Dear Diane,

My son is in the sixth grade and it seems like girls are calling every night. The way they chase him is not something I’m comfortable with, as I grew up letting the boys chase me.
My son said that one girl even offered a sexual act, and he’s barely old enough to know what she was talking about. I’m shocked that girls are so forward, and I’m afraid that my son will get in trouble before his life starts. He’s a very good boy, When did things get so raunchy?

Grossed Out

Dear Grossed,

It’s not just girls that are behaving more sexually. Kids today are surrounded by sexual messages, internet porn, and inappropriate adult behavior. Each generation is faced with particular issues, and this generation has been pushed into sexuality at a very early age.
You can’t always control your son’s exposure to his world, but you can make certain that this exposure is balanced with accurate knowledge and understanding about the social, physical and emotional ramifications of sexual activity. Helping him to put his sexuality into healthy perspective can improve his level of judgment in the future.
That being said, it does feel possible that your son will become sexually active sooner than you would choose for him. By preparing your boy to be responsible in matters of birth control and personal protection, you will greatly lesson the chance of an unplanned outcome.
I sense that he is a very special person, and you should be proud that he feels safe in talking to you. Keep the lines of communication open, and I see a good outcome.


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