50 OVER 50 PROJECT FOR 2021
#22
Karen Long

Age: 58

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"With aging we become much more focused on what is important and what is not.  We wasted so much time when we were young worrying about nonsense and meaningless things.  Understanding the big picture now

and what to let go of is a gift."

age: 58 profession: Venture Capitalist - Healthcare
I am a healthcare Social Worker by education and training, but my career has led me through some fantastic twists and turns that have now landed me in a venture capital role making investments and sitting on boards of healthcare companies.

 

What is the best thing about being your age?

I am finally able to speak my mind.  I am much more comfortable with who I am today.  Having lived 5 decades of life and experienced many different aspects of it, gives me the confidence to say what I will and won’t do, declare what are non-starters and even in times of shakiness, remember my value.  It took me into my 50’s to get there but now it’s absolutely non-negotiable. I will surround myself with people who bring joy and light to my life and thankfully I have lots of those types around.

What hardships have you endured that you feel have made you stronger?  

I see them more as experiences than hardships. Interestingly they all revolve around death. The earliest and most impactful was losing my father to ALS early in my time away at college.  It clearly was my first major loss of any kind, and what a blow.  Seeing my brave, studly father lose his ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe was devastating.  It was a loss I am likely still not over. I coped by becoming a helping person and devoting time to other’s loss.  It was instrumental in changing my studies to Social Work and creating a career around sudden loss and grief. 

 

The other experiences that remain steadfast in my mind are the times I was with patients in the ER and ICU as they died and the intimacy involved in being with their families and breaking the news.  It was extraordinarily profound and special.  And, I was also incredibly blessed to be a volunteer mental health worker at the 9/11 response site in New York.  Physically walking families past the walls of the missing person photos that lined the block, to the actual gaping hole of terror, and helping them through the process of shock, grieving the unspeakable loss.  I’ll never forget it and am honored to have been with some of those special families in need.  I am a better person because of those experiences and I am at peace with my own death whenever it arrives.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Having a career that has mostly been about helping others.  Either one-on-one as a social worker with a patient or one-to-many as a healthcare investor.  I am definitely here on earth to help others.

What is your favorite thing you have checked off your bucket list?

Spending time in Africa with wild animals on safari.  It was much more emotionally connecting than I ever could have imagined.  There is something very spiritual in the calm and quiet of the bush. It’s like traveling into the soul of mother earth.  It was a moving experience for me.
 

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A sense of calm and peace with what is and what shall be.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

 Be less hard on myself. I would greatly appreciate who I am today.

What is your most treasured possession?

I am not too attached to physical things.  I treasure my memories more than anything and really am saddened as they begin to fade.

What is a trait you are most proud of?

I am compassionate.

What do you most value in your friends?

Loyalty.  I have had my friends for at least 10 years and most 25, 30 or more!  It’s crazy.  While I am very social, I have incredibly special men and women who have remained there for me through decades of the good, bad and the ugly.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Experience related vacations such as the month long trip to Africa. I don’t do it often but every 10 years or so I take a huge trip to another land. 

What is your motto or favorite quote?

"All I wanna do is have a little fun before I die." – Sheryl Crow

What advice would you give your younger self?

Keep having fun, stay curious and always remember what it’s like to be a child.  I feel that is incredibly helpful in staying relevant, excited and interested in life.  Also….wear sunscreen.

Words of wisdom for younger women

Don’t worry too much about the future, it will get here.  Try and relish today because it’s gone tomorrow and the days here are finite.

Additional Thoughts on aging...

I think we become much more focused on what is important and what is not.  We wasted so much time when we were young worrying about nonsense and meaningless things.  Understanding the big picture now and what to let go of is a gift.  

And don’t stop growing, stay awake!

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