Cathy Barrow is proof perfect you can completely change your life and job after many years and still find success. “Life is short, so do what you love. It will all work out as long as you have passion,” she advises. For Barrow … aka … Mrs Wheelbarrow, it’s always been about the food! The former retailer, marketing manager, events planner, consultant, and even landscape designer, has loved to cook since she was a child and finally found a way to make cooking and food preservation her life’s main course.
But there’s no such thing as a free lunch – Barrow worked hard to get where she is today. For over 20 years, she dedicated herself to marketing and even owned her own business for a time. “It’s was grueling. I was on the road 18-20 days per month, working more than 80 hours per week. I realized something was wrong when the only Christmas presents I got were from my drycleaner!”
Despite overwork and exhaustion, Barrow was nervous to upset the apple cart and leave her lucrative job. But she didn’t need much convincing. Seeing how much she enjoyed mucking around in the garden of their new home near Rock Creek Park, her new husband encouraged her to return to school at the tender age of 41. He was highly supportive of the move and speaking from experience (he went from finance and sales to a career in acupuncture) urged her to start planning for a change. “It was terrifying at first, but the chance to go back to school and study was just the encouragement I needed.”
Barrow took nine months to mull it over while she gradually closed out all her work projects. She settled on landscape design, attended George Washington University’s program for 1.5 years, and opened a landscape design firm that ran successfully for ten happy years. But in 2008, the market turned sour and many of her DC-based clients cut back on their contracts. Fifty-one years at the time, Barrow was undeterred. “I have always been a bit of a risk taker and being self-employed gave me the confidence to know I could make a go of something new again. I just needed to discover what that would be.”
She turned to a local group of like-minded women, who regularly gathered to discuss mid-life issues. Bouncing ideas back and forth, Barrow realized a food-related career was the suggestion du jour … offer cooking classes, write a cookbook, start a food blog. With a friend’s help, she launched her blog, Mrs Wheelbarrow’s Kitchen, and to her utter surprise and delight shortly thereafter her writing and recipes started garnering attention. In 2012, a New York Times editor asked if she would like to pitch some stories on food preservation. “It was so encouraging.” Barrow began writing and has contributed to The Washington Post, NPR’s blog, and others and has a cookbook coming out in November.
She is happier now then she has ever been, which says a lot for someone who has done so much! Her new life as a food blogger, canning expert, and author is rewarding because Barrow taps her creative side to promote something that she, rather than a client, is passionate about – sustainable produce, local farming, and organic food. Doing something she loves and being recognized for it goes beyond her wildest expectations.
Do you spend time discussing your dream Second Act with anyone on a regular basis? Have you thought how to turn those discussions into actions?