IN HER SHOES trailblazer – Joan Webster, 59. Women share stories of stepping up and out in Life Part II.
Imagine if you’d found your passion as a teenager and lived it everyday since.
If you’re Joan Webster it’s meant a deeply purposeful life, ageless beauty, boundless energy and a vibrant, youthful spirit. It seems a fair exchange for the hundreds of thousands if not millions of people, who over the years, who have been touched by her work.
Unlike most of us, Joan knew at age 15 what makes her heart sing – Community Building and Youth Advocacy – she’s been doing it ever since.
Right out of the gate, in 1980 with a Bachelor of Recreational Education from the University of British Columbia safely stowed under her arm Joan embarked on Career #1. Her first step was as a Founder of the UBC Intramural Sports Program, later she became its first full time associate director. As a woman it was ground breaking stuff and where she cut her teeth.
Before you get the idea Joan is one tough cookie –let me tell you she may be a tiger inside but outwardly she’s a sweet and as soft as they come. I met her in Career #2 where she was a community builder, youth advocate and MOM to daughters Kelsey and Al. She took our community of South Surrey, British Columbia by storm and tirelessly worked to make a great place even better for all of us.
Career #3 was in banking and yep you guessed it she found ways to build community and opportunities for youth there too.
Today Joan is fully invested in what she refers to as Career #4 – Volunteerism. Passion for her work is apparent; she appears lit from within and is busier than ever.
Cheryl: You are very excited about the work you’re doing. Tell us about it.
JOAN: I am excited to be turning 60 this year! With time comes wisdom, experience and sense of calm.
I continue to have opportunities to organize events within my community. But in the past 4 years (and as my own children have left for McGill University in Montreal), I have become a mentor and builder of alumni affairs at my alma mater, The University of British Columbia (UBC), a parent contact (regionally and globally) for the McGill Parent Association (a division of the Alumni Association of McGill) and a volunteer at Covenant House (for youth at risk) in Vancouver. So after 4 decades of being a professional and 2 decades of being a parent, I continue to be a full time community builder and youth advocate in new capacities. And I love it!!!
Cheryl: Ten years ago you read a book that really impacted you and helped define your Life Part II. What was it?
JOAN: When I turned 50, I read a book called “Aging Well” by Dr. George E. Vaillant. I thought I’d better check in and see how I was doing with the aging process. After all, I still had time to tweak some things if needed. In summary, this book followed the graduating class at Harvard University of 1920 for the next 80 years in an attempt to determine what factors contributed to aging well. It was the first longitudinal study of its kind and revealed some developmental tasks that adults must pass through if they are to age with a “happy/healthy” attitude (rather than a “sad/sick” attitude.) Of course, all the wholesome factors of nutrition, physical activity, absence of alcohol and extensive use of drugs, established social and family connections were contributors to aging well but the developmental tasks may be summarized as this:
- In the early years and during the teenaged years, find your strengths, interests and passions.
- Consolidate these into a career.
- Volunteer (as a person/professional/parent) all through your life.
- Age with grace and dignity.
Upon completion of this book, I was more determined than ever, to remain faithful to my love of community building and youth advocacy.
Cheryl: You were lucky and knew your passion early in life and followed it. What about those of us who don’t know our passion or have lost it. Any ideas how to discover or rediscover it for Life Part II?
JOAN: Yes, I was fortunate to know my passions and interests early in life and I thank my parents/teachers/community leaders for all of the opportunities that they presented me.
If I had to determine how to find my passions, at this point of my life, I would create a “vision statement”; and by that I mean write down a document outlining my goals and objectives for the next 10-20 years. I have done this before and it has helped “redefine” myself with a renewed focus and purpose.
Cheryl: You are so positive and such a go-er and a do-er have you ever felt stuck?
JOAN: I get “stuck” when my computer doesn’t work and I have no idea how to fix it. (Thank goodness for my IT GUY!) I can, also, feel stuck when my motivation is low (which can happen time to time).So I give myself permission to do something, completely, different and spend some time on “me”. It is like a little holiday. Then I can get back to my volunteer work with renewed joy and energy!
Cheryl: A lot of women get very excited and then totally stuck as they prepare to launch Life Part II …for some its not knowing how or where to start and for others the fearful inner voice starts babbling,”you’re too old, not good enough, not educated enough…”. What advise could you offer?
JOAN: Advice to others in transition would be to look for a cause that touches your heart and to seek the advice of friends and family who are close to you. Those people know your strengths and passions, and can be wonderful counsel. Get connected with something that you are passionate about. Take up a new hobby or activity and meet new people. This will change your life!
Cheryl: What scares you?
JOAN: What scares me most might be failing health so I will not be able to do what I love. So I am diligent in taking good care of myself. I am grateful to my background in sport and recreation for keeping me loyal to a healthy lifestyle.
Cheryl: If you could write your 6 word memoir. What would it be?
JOAN: “Do what you LOVE to do!”
Note from Cheryl: Identifying strengths and passions can be difficult for many of us. If you’ve never done the VIA Strengths Survey developed by Drs. Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, take the time to do it now. It will help you identify your five greatest qualities.