“If you told me a year, two years, five years ago, that I would ever, ever, ever put myself on the internet singing, I would have told you, ‘You’re out of your mind.’”
And yet, this winter, Deb Jacobs found herself posting a video of herself singing on the internet.
Jacobs, 59, describes her life as being “very rich and very full.” She has two daughters, one in high school and one in college, and has run a preschool, Children of the World, out of her West Somerville home for 18 years.
But like many parents, she experienced a big shift in her life once she had children.
“As a single mom by choice, I knew going in that I was the one who was going to be giving the baths and taking the trash out and doing all of it, but it’s very all-consuming, and so a lot of things I did pre-kids kind of dropped by the wayside. I used to ride my bicycle long distances, I used to ski a lot, even friendships,” she explains. “I realized that while my kids and my business in many ways expanded my life, in very joyful and wonderful ways, in other ways it contracted.”
As her younger daughter approaches college, Jacobs has come face-to-face with what life will be like with both kids out of the house. This reckoning has coincided with the leadup to her 60th birthday, inspiring a project that Jacobs hopes will re-expand her life.
The concept behind 60to60 is simple: try something new every week. These aren’t globe-trotting, big money adventures, for the most part, but rather ones that Jacobs can do in or near Somerville. Most of them are activities that could be a part of anyone’s life, but are new for her.
Some ideas, like dogsledding, are things she always wanted to try but never got around to doing. Others, such as fencing, she never would’ve thought of without scrolling through Groupon. All of them are things she can do with at least one other person.
“There have been a couple challenges, but for the most part, it’s just a blast,” Jacobs says. “I’m a bit of a homebody, and I’m perfectly happy to stay home and read a book, and it takes a little bit sometimes to get me out of the house. But once I’m out doing these things, I’m so glad I did it. It’s been really fun, and I’ve found that some of the most fun ones are getting together with friends to do things we wouldn’t normally do.”
She brought her two daughters and a friend along for the dog sledding. The day began with meeting the dogs and “literally being hugged” by them, Jacobs explains. They learned how to hook the dogs up to the sled, helped feed them, and, of course, got pulled along in the snow, ducking as they whizzed under branches.
While dog sledding checked off a long-dreamed-of activity, Jacobs’s list doesn’t stay within her comfort zone. In addition to learning to sing on-key (after being told she was a terrible singer her entire life), Jacobs is tackling other fears such as learning to swim a full mile. Plus she’s documenting herself on a blog, both to hold herself accountable and to face her disinclination to put herself on camera.
“It definitely is stretching me a bit, and it’s showing me that I can do some things I didn’t think I could do,” she says.
Jacobs’s birthday is in December, which means she’s roughly midway through her journey. So far she’s loved mosaic making and swing dancing, and plans to continue both after she’s done with the project.
She crowdsourced suggestions from her friends and family to come up with her list of activities, which still has space for more ideas. They’ve been supportive, Jacobs says, and many have joined her on some of her adventures, like the friends she doesn’t get to see often who went on a tour of the Connecticut Wine Trail with her.
“Sometimes you need an excuse to get together, and my adventure quest offers a good one,” Jacobs writes in her Nov. 8 blog post about the wine trail. “It’s starting to pay off in terms of fun and community.”
This stage of life seems to be the right time to test out and document these activities because she’s much less afraid of “looking like a fool” than she was when she was younger, Jacobs explains. And she hopes she can help others, especially other women, reexamine their age.
“Sixty always sounded so old, it sounded like on the precipice into senior-citizen-dom,” she says. “It doesn’t feel old. I know my generation has pushed boundaries from the beginning, and we’re the generation now pushing the boundaries of what it means to get older and what’s possible as people get older.”
What’s coming up for Jacobs? She’s looking forward to a 60-mile bike ride and a juggling festival in September.
“Some people my age are like, ‘Yay, the kids are out of the house and now we can do all the things we’ve talked about doing and have more free time!’ But for a lot of other people, including myself, it can be a little depressing when your kids leave,” she says. “It’s hard. So if I can also inspire some people going through that to see that getting out there can change your life, and you can meet new people, and you can try new things, and you can find new interests, then that would make me very happy.”
For more information, visit 60to60.com.
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