In Their Own Words:
3 Women Get Honest About Starting over After Age 40

Written By: Rebecca Strassberg

Provided by CBS

Have you ever thought about packing up and moving across the country? Or quitting your job and going back to school? Those are just a few of the questions explored in the new CBS show Carol’s Second Act, premiering Thursday, Sept. 26, at 9:30 p.m. EST. After raising children, getting divorced and retiring from her career as a teacher, a 50-year-old woman (Patricia Heaton) decides to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. To mark the show’s premiere, we spoke with three real-life Carols who made major changes after age 40.

Dayle Kotturi, 55, Texas

The Bubble-Bursting Bucket List Item

By the time Dayle Kotturi turned 50, she had been a practicing engineer for 30 years, become proficient in four languages and traveled abroad on research grants — all while raising two children. But in 2017, she decided to start all over again. Eager to learn more, Kotturi went back to school to get her Ph.D in biomedical engineering.

“I had one thing left on my bucket list,” she says, “and that was to get my Ph.D and start a company.” Kotturi was given an opportunity to move across the country and study at Texas A&M University. It wasn’t the Silicon Valley salary she’d been used to, nor would she be living in the home she built with her children. She would even have to abandon the veggie garden she worked so hard on and pause on the plans she had to expand it. But it didn’t matter. In fact, that’s what appealed to her.

I could see that
was going to
stay the same
if I stayed.

“I started to have this feeling after age 50 — I’ve heard other people describe it as your life starting to close down,” she says. “It wasn’t a bad thing, but I could see that everything was going to stay the same if I stayed.” In addition to her professional pursuit, Kotturi wanted to get out of her “California vegan, cyclist bubble.” It’s been two years since her move, and she hasn’t looked back.

In a recommendation letter, Kotturi’s professor and mentor wrote, “Many aspects of our society can seem focused on the youth and may be discouraging for older adults to try new things. In contrast, Dayle’s actions can serve to encourage people to revisit their dreams and take action at even more mature stages of life.” Now working on her dissertation, this inspiring 55-year-old is creating a biomedical sensor for early disease detection — and she says she has no plans to slow down.

Shenae Simmons, 46, New York City

From Bites to Bytes

While she was working an office job in her 20s, coworkers always commented on how amazing Shenae Simmons’ lunch looked. Inspired, she decided it was time to pursue cooking and moved to California to attend culinary school

But after 12 years, Simmons started to feel burnt out. “When you’re a restaurant manager, you’re working nights, weekends, holidays …. You never really see your family or friends, it’s difficult to date and you just get to a point where you’re mentally and physically exhausted,” she says. But Simmons loved her job — especially when she got to build the restaurants’ websites and run their social media accounts. This gave her an idea, and at age 46, Simmons took the next step in her life: Learning software engineering.

When you get
to this age, you
don’t sweat the
small stuff.

“I heard about Per Scholas, a nonprofit that focuses on training underrepresented folks in tech. I applied and was accepted to their prep course for General Assembly’s boot camp,” Simmons says. From there, she joined GA’s Software Engineering Immersive for four and a half months. The time-intensive program made Simmons question her decision — on top of attending classes five days a week and often doing homework until 10 p.m., she was working part-time to support herself.

“I thought, ‘I’m too old for this stuff,’” she says. But Simmons powered through, graduating in June with 595 hours of instruction under her belt. “It’s not a question of how you can achieve it or if you can achieve it,” she says, “because when you get to this age, you don’t sweat the small stuff.”

Nora Corbett, 51, Brooklyn

A 500-Mile Journey

“You grow from doing scary things,” Nora Corbett says. By that mantra, the 51-year-old has grown exponentially in the past year. For decades, she built a life in Ohio filled with friends and loved ones. She raised two children and lived in a big, beautiful house … then she gave it all up to move to Brooklyn.

“I turned 50 and thought, ‘Okay, this is it. This is what my life is going to look like.’ And it was just very predictable and boring,” she says. Corbett had lost a bit of herself and her desires over the years, she admits. “I would go to the grocery store and I would only know what food the kids liked to eat. I didn’t even know what food I liked. I just threw myself into [that life],” she says. Even professionally as a painter and cross-stitcher, she felt stuck in Ohio, struggling to draw inspiration for her art. 

You grow
doing scary

It wasn’t until she was on a summer retreat that Corbett found the motivation to take charge of her life. During this introspective time, participants were encouraged to ask themselves, “What are your wildest dreams?” Many of Corbett’s friends had graduated from art school and moved right to New York City, and she’d always wanted to do the same. With both of her boys in their 20s and the freedom to work anywhere as a cross-stitch pattern designer and artist, Nora started looking for an apartment in Brooklyn.

Since making this huge change, Corbett says she feels alive and in control of her destiny. “I can wake up every day and whatever my life is, if I’m not happy at any point, it’s in my power to change it.”

Carol’s Second Act premieres Thursday, Sept. 26, at 9:30/8:30c on CBS.