Dr. Cynthia Barnett’s life has been a series of decisions never to give up. When obstacles have arisen, she has always found innovative ways to pursue her dreams. Even when retirement came, she put a new twist on it by changing the word to refirement and finding new ways to be fulfilled. Now, in I’m Not Done Yet, she shares a series of personal stories chosen specifically to inspire others never to give up on their dreams when faced with adversity.
Today, Cynthia is an American success story. One of the first stories she tells in this book is about growing up on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent with her grandmother and siblings. Her father had left the family long before, and her mother had come to America to try to create a better life for her children and send them money when she could. However, her mother did not always have an easy time of it, and consequently, one year, she was unable to send money home for her daughters to buy new school uniforms. Cynthia, as the oldest, fretted over this situation and feared being mocked by her classmates if she and her sisters returned to school in their old uniforms. Then she had a brilliant idea. I’ll let you read for yourself what she did to resolve the situation, but more important is what she learned from this situation:
“Looking back, I see that this event marked the awakening of an inner resilience to life’s difficulties. I began to develop problem-solving skills, and my attitude shifted from accepting hard circumstances as inevitable to looking at them as if they were puzzles to be solved with creativity. I also made an inner commitment never to give up on a challenge. These abilities and decisions would prove to be absolutely essential to facing other obstacles in my life. I knew I would always remember the story of the Blue Uniforms, and I would hope.”
Eventually, Cynthia followed her mother to the United States, but doors of opportunity did not just open for her. She applied to several colleges but was repeatedly turned down. Eventually, through hard work and a chain of events, she managed to get into a university-sort of through the back door, but in she got. Who would have imagined this young immigrant girl whom several colleges rejected would go on to become an educator, a high school vice principal, and earn a doctorate degree?
As I’m Not Done Yet progresses, Cynthia continues to tell her stories of how she coped through her darkest times. These stories include overcoming fears, rising from a difficult divorce, fighting racism in the workplace, and coping with empty nest syndrome. One of my favorite stories describes how she capitalized on her love to travel and her love to educate people by becoming a lecturer on cruise ships so she could travel for free.
But I’m Not Done Yet is more than just stories about a successful woman. The book’s message is that just as Cynthia is not done yet, neither should you be. She reminds us that as children we all had dreams, maybe to be ballerinas, singers, doctors, or even President of the United States. Most of our dreams are not yet beyond us. Cynthia tells us, “I wrote this book to assist you in stretching your mind to imagine a life of new possibilities; if you put your mind to it, you can be, do, and have anything you want,” and “If I can make my dreams come true, so can you. I believe in you. I believe that deep inside you, you have the power to clarify and create what you want.”
Cynthia also reminds us not to settle for less than what we want. She was determined not to settle from an early age. Speaking of herself in third person, she describes herself as a young woman on St. Vincent:
“She wanted a career, most certainly; she didn’t want just a job. She had had enough of those; she had witnessed the dead-end, stagnant stare of friends and family who thought eight hours a day passing out tickets to the tourists back home in St. Vincent was the best life had to offer. No, this girl didn’t want just a means of making money, perhaps just enough to get by. She wanted to thrive, to lose herself in a career she loved, and to eventually see the world.”
Today, that girl helps other girls to succeed. One thing Cynthia has done during her refirement is establish the Amazing Girls Science program which focuses on teaching girls STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). The program’s success led to her becoming one of the inaugural recipients of the American Association of Retired Persons’ Purpose Prize in 2017.
I’m Not Done Yet also includes at the end of each chapter an “I Can See Clearly Now” section, which encompasses in a nutshell the lesson of each story, and “Reflection Questions” at the end of each chapter so readers can think about what they’ve learned and how they might apply it to the pursuit of their own dreams.
Topped off with a foreword by Gerry Robert, Best-Selling Author of The Millionaire Mindset, I’m Not Done Yet has everything in it you need to become inspired and refired to pursue your own dreams. This is a book not to miss.