We are delighted to publish a post from our summer intern, Cornell University student Austin Lee. Austin learned valuable lessons from Vera, whom he interviewed for the Legacy Project.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Vera and learned from her about the unpredictable nature of life; nothing is set in stone and there are endless opportunities for new adventures.

Vera touched on the experience of living through changes in societal values. Decisions and beliefs that at one point in time seem perfectly reasonable, or even necessary, may no longer hold true as time passes. Vera experienced this phenomenon in the context of her marriage:

I used to have this great ideal of a lifetime marriage (having come of age in the 1950s) and clung to my marriage long after realizing it wasn’t making me or my husband happy. Things are different nowadays – now people move all too easily in and out of relationships.

This brings out an important lesson. Think about how drastically social values that affect your decisions can shift during your lifetime. My experience has shown me that it’s important to keep an open mind to many different possibilities.

After 42 years of marriage, my separation ended up being permanent.

Vera feels that this was one of the most stressful experiences of her life thus far, but the experience exposed strengths that she never knew she possessed. She exemplifies the resiliency that so many older adults have developed over their lives. Despite the emotional setback of divorce, her newfound freedom coupled with the changes in societal views about marriage allowed her to discover another life. Vera explained:

Up until this point, I had never lived by myself before, having gone from my parents’ home to college to being married. By this time women’s liberation had its effect and decided to take living alone as a new adventure and challenge. I saw that I could get along just fine on my own.

Vera gained a sense of the freedom and independence that she had never known before. She returned to school and was able to earn a master’s degree worked in her chosen field for 15 years. Vera found that her new path led to another unexpected lesson: “it’s never too late for a new romance.” Vera was able to become close to two wonderful men (she emphasized, “not simultaneously of course!”). Vera feels that the perspective she gained from the past allowed her to feel free to simply enjoy life and build better relationships than ever before.

Vera’s reflections demonstrate how our beliefs and understandings about life can change over time as we face challenges, hardships and times of joy. We can learn from these situations and move forward to lead enriched lives beyond what we ever thought possible.