• Rachel Ireland

You are a shining star

Earlier this year we ran a 12-week course for women over 50 who were unemployed. Most of those who applied to join had left their previous employment due to mental or physical health issues and many were caring for elderly parents, children or other family members.

The group that came together for the course were passionate, interesting and inspiring.

They had stories to tell and ambitions to chase.

But, in their own words, they had ‘lost their mojo’, they had forgotten who they were, they had lost sight of their strengths.

We decided to ask them to jump in at the deep end, to go outside their comfort zone as a way of starting as we meant to go on.

I asked my friend, the wonderful singer-songwriter, Sarah Wilkinson, to help me plan and run the session, and together we took them through the process of telling their story in a song.

But of course, this wasn’t just one person’s story, this was going to be a story about a group of people who had only just met.

So we began by asking them:

  • To think about why they listened to music.

  • If they could share a song they associated with a particular time in their lives.

Then we moved on to asking them for words, phrases and metaphors that described:

  • What causes challenging situations and struggles that you face?

  • How do you feel when things are difficult?

As we worked together as a group through the songwriting process these concepts became Verse 1.

Verse 1
When the darkness closes in
And you feel you cannot win
When your life is at a crossroads
And direction is a heavy load
Life is anxious and you’re stressed
Take time out and have a rest

Then we asked:

  • Where would you like to be in the future or what would you like to achieve?

  • What changes can you make now?

  • What changes will require more work?

The answers to these questions formed the content of Verse 2.

Verse 2
When times feel too tough
You are more than enough
A few weeks later we feel great
The clouds have lifted, we’re awake
Rise above the daily strife
Be the leading lady in your life

Then we asked:

  • What can you do, or what do you have within to help you?

  • How do other people describe you?

  • What do you like/love about yourself?

  • When you think about being happy or content, what comes to mind?

This discussion about finding our light/potential/tools and things about ourselves we may have forgotten became the Chorus.

Shine, shine, shine your light
Remember who you are
Find a strength from deep within
You are a shining star

Then, 12 weeks later, in the last session, we returned to the songwriting task and asked them:

  • Can you reflect on your journey and learning throughout this time together as a group on the course.

This became the Bridge.

I’m building bridges now
I look towards the light
Who’d have thought we’d come this far
Our dreams are taking flight

Sarah and her husband Paul kindly recorded the song for us, and when we played it for the group there were a few tears!

I hope the experience and the song that came out of it is something the group cherishes for a long time, not just because it’s a lovely and very moving song, but because it represents their story of change, and the strength that comes from reconnecting to your purpose with the support of a fantastic group of like-minded people.

I hope the song inspires you too.

Can you answer these questions yourself and have a go at telling your story in a song.

You can find more guidance on the songwriting process here.

The 'Midlife Plot Twist' course was funded by ESF Community Grants.

You can find more details about workshops, courses & mentoring here on the website.

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