I “met” Betty Girardeau through my aunt. They’ve been friends for decades. In just a few minutes, I predict you’ll have the same feeling I did about her… awe.
Feeling like life is almost over as you enter midlife? Betty Girardeau begs to differ.
Imagine beginning a new life of adventure at age 74. That’s exactly what Betty Girardeau did. When my aunt (who used to play racquetball with Betty) told me about Betty’s life and how she is making the most of every moment, I knew I had to talk to her and share her story with you.
A Liberating Journey
Escaping to Costa Rica for a photography workshop. Spending a month in Southern France to volunteer at a chateau. Taking long walks around her Knoxville, TN neighborhood anytime she wants to get in her 10,000 steps each day.
It wasn’t always like this for Betty.
She got married in college. As Betty describes it so well, she went from being someone’s child to being someone’s wife. There was little opportunity to explore who she was and what she wanted to do. There wasn’t time for things like that.
Betty worked as a part-time music director at a church and had a home-based sewing business for years (she even made my cousin’s flower girl dress for MY wedding). Her days were full, caring for three children and her husband, who returned from Viet Nam and subsequently suffered from medical issues for decades until he passed away four years ago. They were married for 50 years.
After Betty’s husband died, she knew she needed to get away, meet new people, and focus on some self-discovery for a change. Her children were now adults and living their own lives. It was time.
“I thought to myself, ‘I have to get back to who I am.’”
She had been practicing photography for years and decided to go to a photo workshop in Costa Rica. It was a wonderful experience, but it was when she returned home that she realized everything was different.
Betty opened the door to the home she had shared with her husband and realized she now owned her life. She no longer had to worry about preparing dinner at a particular time or asking someone else if it was okay to do something. Betty could finally be herself, and it was a liberating experience.
“You have to take advantage of the time you have left.”
While some people’s lives get smaller with age, Betty’s life is expanding. Nobody really talked about aging or midlife when she was growing up, except that retirement would be this day when you could finally stop working and play games instead. She’d always just assumed you get old, retire, and die.
But Betty realized she wanted so much more out of life—to take advantage of every moment.
So when her daughter mentioned an opportunity she had read about in a blog for “chateau experiences” at Chateau Gudanes in the French Pyrénées mountains, she was immediately ready to pack her bags.
“I decided within 24 hours that I wanted to take this trip.”
Betty and her daughter enjoyed the adventure to France together and even returned the following summer to the 95-room chateau, which was undergoing a major renovation. Betty says she immediately felt at home. So much so that she asked the owner if she could return to volunteer during the renovation process.
In 2019, Betty returned to the chateau for a month as a volunteer—this time without her daughter or a traveling companion. The other staff members were in their 20s and 30s and expected Betty would sit around drinking tea. But they soon discovered Betty is not the average 70-something woman.
“They had to run to keep up with me,” laughed Betty.
Continuing to Evolve, Discover, and Seek Adventure
COVID, unfortunately, put a damper on Betty’s travel plans for 2020, including another trip back to the chateau and a photography workshop she had hoped to attend in Montana. But it hasn’t stopped her from pursuing her passions and achieving new goals.
She recently completed a 5-year photography apprenticeship, which culminated in a music video project. Watch the beautiful video here. In the video, Betty paired her photography with a symphonic orchestra piece, receiving rave reviews from the music’s composer.
“Just go ahead and do it!”
Betty is out there living her best life and grabbing the brass ring every day, and she has some sage advice to share with women entering midlife:
- “Learn to know yourself and not be in the shadow of your partner.”
- “Have gumption, and don’t be afraid to do things. Don’t just sit there wishing. You don’t want to say, “wish I would have…” Just go ahead and do it!”
Betty Girardeau could write a book about… well, anything, and I’d read it. She’s inspiring, genuine, and has the kind of zest for life that gives me tremendous hope for the next half of my life.
In January, after having become a Notary for the State of Tennessee and getting certified as a mobile signing agent, she also began a new business venture as a mobile signing agent for real estate closings specifically. This was an outgrowth of having been an enumerator for the 2020 census. She says she loved getting out of the house and getting to meet new people. Becoming a mobile signing agent has given her an opportunity to do that as well as make a little money to put toward travel and photo workshops.
During the quarantine, Betty built her own website from scratch and began a daily blog. She also stays in close contact with her adult children via calls and texts and enjoys making special memories with her grandchildren when they come for a visit from their homes in North Carolina and California.
I love interviewing inspiring women who are squeezing every delicious drop out of the second part of their lives. If you’d like to nominate someone for a Vested Beauty spotlight, just reach out and tell me about her.