Michele Weldon is a storyteller and lifelong journalist, whose new book of essays reflect a theme of life, work and meaning—a thoughtful respite for our times. This is her sixth book; it has already won an award for best essay, and it’s titled after her father’s guidance for his six children, Act Like You’re Having a Good Time. Her father used this admonition to stop childhood bickering and stubborn refusal to behave well. Its result was to give Michele an overall view of “living life with intended optimism,” which is exactly what we need as an antidote for the uncertainty of COVID, outrage over racism and the “us” versus “them” political atmosphere. As Michele says in this conversation, “I think we need to treat each other on every level – from in our homes to the highest political divisions – with respect. The name calling and finger pointing and all of that needs to stop at every level, and to understand that there are a lot of people really hurting right now.” So Michele has offered a collection of essays to allow us to take a break from the pain and chaos, examine our own lives, reclaim the dreams that we’ve misplaced along the way, remember our humanity and hope for a better future.
Why Act Like You’re Having a Good Time?
Michele says that she has been an essay writer for decades but had never put them all in one place. So for five years, she had this goal of doing just that. The theme, “Life, Work and Meaning” came about because she is a 62-year-old woman thinking about her life, reflecting on her accomplishments (or perceived lack of them) and her purpose for the future. She created the book to speak to women like herself, which she describes in the book as having “a big personality, which is code for women who say what they think, express ambition, and show an intolerance for systems and their enforcers that are biased, unjust, and limiting,” and also for younger women and men. It’s time to take inventory and plan how to make an impact. She hopes people who read the book will feel the respite from these challenging times and think, “oh, I think that way too—or I never thought of that.” She writes about memories from childhood, so it’s a friendly companion. She says, “It’s not intellectually challenging, but it can be emotionally comforting.”
Purpose—The Import of Life, Work and Meaning
With her work as a journalist, Michele is fortunate to be able to work from home, with the added benefits of not having to commute or travel. All of this extra time has led her to think about what she can do with it. She has rediscovered painting and is taking a weekly Plein Aire class, but this book, in combination with COVID, has made her think about her own life and what advice to share with others.
Michele currently serves on five advisory boards, each with a different mission, and a lot of people are asking for help right now. To answer that call, she is mentoring young journalists, who she might have turned down a few months ago, and thinking about writing another book just for them. She says that some people are choosing to be really safe and insulated right now while others are reaching out to connect globally. Michele sees this extra time as an opportunity to figure out how she can create change in the world beyond her small circle of friends and family.
Michele advises, “The best we can be is empathic and kind and generous with ourselves and other people and not be quick to judgement, and definitely not try to hurt people or compete too hard at the expense of anyone. Just sort of calm down and recognize the humanity in everyone.”
Listen to this conversation for more of Michele’s personal story and learn how she embarked on a career in journalism. Check out her website www.micheleweldon.com for more about her books, keynotes, interviews, access to essays, and to contact her.