This article is part of the CelebrEighty series by Judy Katz…For many years—37 to be exact—I have been the proud owner of a three-bedroom, three-bath, terraced co-op apartment in the heart of the Upper West Side. This valuable real estate defined me. More accurately, I allowed it to. And now that I have sold it and am just waiting for the contract and their board package to (hopefully) go through, I will have to view myself differently. Once I move, my “backdrop,” if you will, will change dramatically. I will live in a much smaller space, one I rent, not own. The parties I once hosted and the clients I once wined, dined, and worked with at my ten-foot-long dining and conference table will all be a memory. Like everyone else in my new building, I will have to do my laundry in a basement. The convenience of an in-house washer–dryer is another lost perk to which I will have to reconcile myself.
The marble stall shower with the rain-forest shower head is no longer my reality. Nor are the views, the cross-ventilation, and the utilities that were conveniently packaged into my maintenance. All this and more are now bye-bye, replaced by cash—a lot of it. That was the whole point of “cashing out” at age 82. High time—one might even say past time. I’ve had the rare privilege of living here for decades. How dare I complain. My next move is a “champagne problem” after all, and please don’t think I don’t appreciate it. I do. Yet, this question gives me pause: What will the next backdrop be on the new “green screen” of my life?
You know what green screens are used for. In photography, any background can be projected behind a person or product. Cinematographers use green screens extensively in movies to change the locale or setting. We often see the backdrop—the picture or pictures behind us—as who we are. And yet—is that truly who we are? If I get my feelings of self-worth, my confidence, from owning a luxurious apartment, does it make me a less valuable human being if I then move, and live in what I consider diminished circumstances? Am I less of a mother, pet parent, sister, friend, colleague, and citizen if I give away my Chanel handbag, take off my Jimmy Choo heels, replace my diamond stud earrings with sparkly crystal glass, and live in a small apartment with only one bathroom?
My brother Steve and I grew up in a modest one-bedroom apartment in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where five of us shared one bathroom—he and I, our parents, and our grandmother. Many people worldwide do not have even one bathroom. I’m talking about people who share a bathroom or use an outhouse. I’m not even factoring in the extensive homeless population. How clueless am I if I think my “backdrop” of a sizeable luxury apartment—and some of my fancy-brand belongings—were my defining characteristics?
In thinking through the question, the expression “less is more” popped into my head. What followed was the realization that I had more confidence in myself when I had less. I had more ambition and a burning desire to make my mark in the world. Did that ambition completely disappear once I moved into my sizable co-op? No, of course not. But a lot of the burning was gone. Now, with this move, I would start over, with a different backdrop, in a less showy, less grand apartment. It would be something someone else owns, possibly in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
Those who read my blogs/essays regularly know that I am still “in the game”—ghostwriting, publishing, and promoting books. Given my desire to help make my clients’ books wildly successful, I decided to go back to playing full-out. I first created a two-hour program that can be given in person or online on the “business” of using your book, bylined articles, and blogs to advance your “authority” in the world. I enlisted two colleagues to help me: a writer and a publisher. So far, one fabulous global online university has asked me for this program.
The next thing I did was start looking for my next apartment with genuine excitement, viewing it as an opportunity. I could resist change and be stuck, or embrace change, which I have begun to do. This new attitude will allow me to move forward with renewed appreciation, gratitude, energy, and ambition.
I will be 82 on August 29. That is a significant age, but I don’t think of myself as “old.” I now view moving into a smaller apartment, with less furniture and far fewer possessions, not as game over—but as game on! Can you relate? What’s the green screen image behind YOUR life? What’s the green screen image you would prefer? What will it take you to make that change? Are you up for it?
Postscript: If you are considering ramping up your backdrop, some form of authorship might be one way to do it. Would you like my new brochure, WORDS MATTER! Building Your Authority through Your Book, Articles, and Blogs? Let me know, and I will email it to you. You are free to share the 17 pages of valuable information with anyone who might want the program for their business, organization, or cause. Dig deep, and you can get most of the information online. But I’ve already researched for you, and—it’s free!