Retirement Transition and Change

Interview with Margie Adam

By May 10, 2010 No Comments


Margie Adam has been an icon and leader in the women’s music movement and deeply engaged as a singer/song writer, organizer and activist.   She recently completed a Ph.D. in psychology at the University of Integrative Learning and is launching her 3rd Act as an integrative counselor.  We interviewed her last month to learn the story of her transition from a successful 2ND act to her new career in her 3rd Act.

 Margie, tell me the story of your 2nd act as a women’s music legend and icon, your decision to pursue your PhD and become a counselor in your 3rd Act.

A few years ago I was invited by friends to bring my labyrinth and my music to a faculty retreat for the University of Integrative Learning (UIL). I didn’t know much about UIL except that it is an institution of higher learning based on a educational movement called Universities Without Walls.  These educators believed one’s life experience should be considered source material for advanced degrees. At the time, I had just put out double-disc project called Portal, a 7 minute meditation DVD, featuring my photography  of Scotland’s Callanish Stones and a CD compilation of  my contemplative piano music. Having completed this work, I could feel I was moving toward something else but it wasn’t at all clear that the destination was musical in nature.

After the retreat, I “sat still”  for several months and let myself listen for “the next right thing”. This habit of checking in with my intuition is something I developed as a practice over decades in the music business. I have been very fortunate throughout my work life to have said “Yes!” at moments which changed the entire direction of my career. In 1973 I said yes to performing in public when I was invited to sing at a fund-raiser for Jeanne Cordova’s influential magazine, The Lesbian Tide.  I kept saying yes to concert invitations as the women’s music movement and feminist organizations emerged and grew together as  the cultural and political arms of the women’s liberation movement. I will always be honored that my music was a part of the feminist soundtrack empowering and comforting the very women who were bringing about dramatic social change we were singing about.

By the time I went to the UIL retreat, I had been a public woman in the feminist movement since I was 25. I am now 63. Friends had been telling me for years that I should write my memoir, focused on my experiences during the heyday of the women’s movement. My standard response had always been: I am too busy living my present to spend all that time writing about my past.   But when I encountered UIL I realized I could use its educational structure to write a memoir while pursuing a PhD at the same time.

However, the very process of writing about my experience in the feminist and Women’s Music movements gave me to a new clarity. I realized I had come to a natural resting place with my music and was standing at a crossroads. With the release of PORTAL, I had completed a long journey. This project was a kind of summary as well as an update. It included a compilation of my favorite contemplative compositions and featured powerful visual imagery of the Sacred Feminine in Scotland’s mystical landscapes.

I realized that what I really wanted to do next was to explore the possibility of becoming an integrative counselor. After working with others for years in AA as a recovering alcoholic, and having had formal training as a counselor years before, this was what that “still small voice” was telling me. Though it was not what I thought I was doing when I entered the UIL advanced degree program, the “next right thing” was being made clear to me. So I said yes. I dropped the memoir idea and committed myself to a rigorous PhD-Psychology process that I completed earlier this year. My dissertation focused on defining a hybrid psychotherapeutic modality integrating 12-step principles and psychotherapy’s best practices.

Having shared my heart and art with audiences on fire with a woman-loving passion for social change, I know that the personal is political, and transformation comes from the heart and the body, not just the brain. Today, there is nothing more intensely energizing for me than working with women and men who are exploring within themselves the capacity to heal their own broken hearts and lives. This is where I draw my fuel now…. being a witness and support as they discover that they can heal and be empowered by their own life experiences , instead of being forever limited by them.

From my 2nd act,  I envision leaving behind the singer-songwriter persona of Margie Adam. I can now let go of many of the demands I put on myself as a feminist artist and role model. I am taking on a new set of responsibilities as a counselor,  as a witness and guide. I look forward with anticipation and deep gratitude as my 3rd act begins.

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