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My empty nest at 59 shocked me into changing my life

 After struggling with an empty nest, Lesley Holder found a new way to embrace life – and feels better than ever

By: Lesley Holder
On 19 April 2024
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My life has been happily focused on raising my family ever since I was in my late twenties so when my blended family of children all left home, I felt a profound sense of shock over my empty nest.

It took me several years to be able to see there could be more for me. As I approach my 60th birthday, I've found I have the time and energy to focus on my own dreams and aspirations – which include starting up an interior architecture and design practice, and working on my fitness more.

I’ve always been active, but now have the time to do barre, yoga and reformer Pilates regularly. I’ve probably never been this fit!

Woman walking outside with a yellow bag
Lesley started her own architecture and design practice, Studio Holder.

Career-wise, I've found my stride too. I've always loved helping my family and friends improve their homes, and now I can give my passion all my attention and time, which feels indulgent and wonderful. 

Starting afresh

At 59, I feel more confident and have more experience than ever before. There is an ease as you get older – I don’t feel invisible – just a lot less bothered and pressurised by others’ expectations and more comfortable in my own skin.

I don’t think that ageing diminishes you, quite the opposite. I look back at my younger self and wish that I could give her a hug and tell her that the weight of continually judging yourself and coming up short is totally crazy and a waste of precious time – just take a really deep breath and be yourself.  

Finding what is right for me

I have always loved designing interior spaces but was not specifically interested in architecture or interior design. I started a degree course in architecture, but it didn’t fit into my family life at the time.

I also found that my interest doesn’t lie in creating the new, but in adapting what’s already there. After a little research, I figured that my niche was interior architecture. Get the floor plan right and everything else follows – it is the most fascinating problem solving in 3D and it feels amazing and so fulfilling to be able to do this with my business, Studio Holder.

Starting a business requires so many skills. There is so much to learn, which creates many challenges, but how brilliant to be out of your comfort zone at this stage of your life?

READ: I took a 'grey gap year' at 51 – here's what I learned 

Finding myself

It's not only in my work life that I've found my groove, but in my free time too.

I dress in a way that I like – choosing clothes I love and not worrying whether they're age-appropriate. I am very partial to a gold shoe and the occasional bit of leopard print! I’ve even stopped dying my hair. For years I had been fighting my grey roots – I spotted my first grey hair in my mid-twenties. During lockdown, I decided to be brave and to stop dying it. It did feel weird at first and I do occasionally miss my dark locks, but I like the ‘new’ colour and save so much time and money.

RELATED: Why I'm absolutely not 'dressing for my age' at 54 

This is such an exciting time with so much to look forward to. I can decide how much I work and can fit everything in, in a way that works for me and my priorities. There are so many great things to do and see as I approach a new decade – and I'm loving it! 

Introducing HELLO!'s Second Act

Two women out shopping for the day, taking a break and sitting down on a couch in a clothing store together.© Getty

HELLO! wanted to create a space dedicated to sharing incredible stories from midlife; somewhere you can find inspiring stories of like-minded women, living their best life beyond 45.

Enter, Second Act...

For too long, we were expected to fade into the background when we hit 45, but we're here to reframe your Second Act as a celebratory, exciting new chapter with endless possibilities ahead.

From women who embarked on new careers in their fifties, to those who travelled the world alone after their children left home, to women who finally felt confident when they reached their forties, Second Act is devoted to celebrating the incredible stories of midlife, and we'd love to have you along for the journey - because being part of a community makes everything more enjoyable.

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