Melissa Davey Interview: Take that Detour!
Diana Landau | April 13, 2021
What a compelling interview this week! Carl interviews Melissa Davey, age 71, a documentary filmmaker, director and executive producer of "Beyond Sixty". It all started when Melissa made a brave, bold move at 65—she took that detour! Prior to her work in film, Melissa had a big-time career as a national Senior Vice President for Genex, developing and managing the Social Security Disability Programs, where she worked for two decades.
Growing up, Melissa’s family was on the move, living in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont. “Each time we moved I became more curious about everything.” As an adult, Melissa took an unconventional path, marrying young, having children young, divorcing young. “Looking back, I am so glad I experienced my young life in the way that I did. I really don’t believe I would have made the choices I have if it had been different.”
At 65, Melissa knew that she was ready to do something new, but not sure what. On a whim, she bid on a charity prize for the M. Night Shyamalan foundation, a day on the set with the well-known director. She won and had the opportunity to spend the day watching how a film was made.
Then, a pivotal lunch conversation with the director changed everything.
He said to her, “What do you do?” Melissa attempted to briefly explain the complexity of the insurance industry. “What do you want to do?” he asked. Melissa answered, “I want your job!”
The director nodded and replied, “Well you better hurry up.” This conversation stayed with Melissa. She had always been interested in films but had no time for it with her hectic schedule.
Melissa came up with a great idea for a film and a brave, bold plan. She told her husband she was going to quit her job and film a documentary, even though she had no experience making films. She told her boss she would transition out over a year, giving her time to set up her filmmaking process and conduct some interviews for the project. A year later, she devoted her time to creating, producing and directing “Beyond Sixty….” a documentary about the fascinating lives and accomplishments of women in their 60’s, 70’s and beyond. “The film brings women’s voices forward…and we still have much time left to do new things.” “Beyond Sixty…” released on streaming video this week. “It’s been so amazing!” Melissa says of the journey. “Who knows? Maybe I’ll make another movie!”
Melissa Davey’s Advice for (Un)Retirement:
“Make sure you take the detour every time it’s presented to you because you never know what’s down that road, you never know what might present itself to you as an opportunity.”
“When you take off in a career you put your body and soul unto that and sometimes you have to walk away from relationships you’ve had—there’s no time. When you stop working so much, you have time to reconnect. It’s funny, with the good ones you just pick up right where you left off.”
“After 3 decades of being the boss it’s your identity (and ego.) You had a team of people to help you accomplish things. I have a great appreciation for the people who helped me!”
“Exiting your work life is a huge transition. Push through the fear. Most of our inability to move forward is fear-based.”
“You really are never too old to try something new. I’m going to do another film, and maybe another!”
“Learn how to pivot. It’s never too late!”
Diana Landau is the Content Wrangler for Pickleball Media. After 15 years in corporate marketing, in 2012 she pivoted to write and wrangle content for Niche Media's weekly blog. She now manages the “I Used to Be Somebody” weekly blog.
Retirement as an Escape
Carl Landau | March 16, 2021
My wife and I just watched two thought-provoking movies, back to back.
The first one was Nomadland. After losing everything in the Great Recession, a woman embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad. She travels the country and still works occasionally, meeting all kinds of people on her journey.
The second movie was Some Kind of Heaven, a documentary. It follows the lives (and challenges) of four people who live in The Villages, a mega-senior, Disney-esque community in Florida, home to approximately 140,000 people—seniors only!
These two movies were strangely similar in the fact that there are some people of (un)retirement age who just want to escape. To me personally, that doesn’t sound so great. But both movies stayed with me and made me think.
Nomadland showed (un)retired people who were often triggered by something in their lives, usually a trauma, to move on while shunning mainstream life. Some Kind of Heaven is just that—a place where seniors from all over the country come to live out their dream retirement. But is it?
My first reaction was to be judgmental. But if something terrible or unexpected thing happened to me, who knows what choices I would make? If I lived somewhere I didn't like or had few relatives or friends, maybe I would want to live out the stage of my life in an entirely different way. Who knows?
What I've learned from talking with our podcast guests is that you can’t look down on others who don't make the same choices you do. As Episode #21’s guest Ed Casey says, “(Un)retirement is like a fingerprint. Everyone is different.” I can’t think of a better way to make the case that we all need to enjoy life right where are, right now.