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jocelyne beaudoin, 58, interior designer

ageist EDITORS | september 1, 2016

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For more than 30 years, Jocelyne Beaudoin turned a planned short stay in New York into a production design career that included clients like Tiffany’s and Lancôme, Vogue and Elle. 

But as the magazines began to fold, and the brands’ shift into digital demanded less of her area of expertise, Beaudoin started feeling irrelevant. Then, she got sick—like, actually, physically sick—coming down with Lyme disease for almost a month. It came with an unexpected benefit. 

“The fever just burned the anxiety away,” she says, in her lilting Quebec-French accent. “I was like, okay, whatever … we’ll figure it out.” What she realized was that a lifetime in her job gave her a skill set that was malleable and could be adapted to something different.

“I think it’s best to trust that your experience will guide you, to not let fear hold you back,” she told me. “Because you need to do something new. And the only way to do that is to take a leap of faith and see where that leads you.” For Beaudoin, that meant not jumping too far. After all, she built a career on staying calm amidst the madness of photo shoots, being resourceful, and trusting her stylistic eye. So all she needed to do, really, was change the context. She began working with a friend on interior design projects, building a client base as she applied a skill set that came naturally to her even though it brought its own challenges. 

“I needed to be okay at being uncomfortable,” she says. “You have to be humble too, which is harder to do when you’re older, I think.”

What most struck me about Beaudoin is that she’s very much an unfinished work. For those of us working in design and media, the world is changing rapidly and there’s a sense that we’re not doing enough to rethink everything. But, as Beaudoin told me, it’s difficult to innovate when you’re spending so much time always trying to adapt. 

But she has. Of course, there’s no guarantee that this is going to work out, or that she won’t pivot again into something different as the opportunity arises. And that’s exactly why I wanted to bring her story to you. Risk-taking is most challenging when the stakes are highest. But it can also be the most rewarding. 

“When I was young, I think I threw myself into certain things without thinking because I wanted the experience, whereas now I would be more cautious,” she says. “But at the same time, as you get older, you feel your life is finite. So it’s better to take risks than to pass up an opportunity for an experience.