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Becoming a Democratic Activist in Midlife: Laura’s Update

Published on 10/05/2020

Since I was featured in Next Act for Women five years ago, my life has changed significantly both personally and professionally. Some changes were anticipated, like turning 50, my twins going off to college, and having the flexibility to travel more. Others have been unexpected, like becoming an activist, closing Laura Tanner Jewelry, getting divorced and returning to my given last name, Tanner. Over the past few years, one of the lessons I’ve learned is to accept and appreciate the certainty of the unknown.

At one of the last One of A Kind Shows in Chicago before closing Laura Tanner Jewelry. With my very supportive and helpful booth assistant and boyfriend, Dan Murphy.


In the first year after my Next Act story was published, I became more politically engaged and went from volunteering for Hillary Clinton’s  2016 campaign to waking up in shock the morning after the election. I was not only horrified by the outcome and frightened for the future of our country, but I had many regrets that I had not done more leading up to the election. Like many women I know, I furiously knitted and wore our Pussyhats to march in the first Women’s March in Washington D.C. with my family. This was the first time I had participated in a protest of that scale, and there was something both cathartic and empowering about marching through the streets and up to the White House chanting: “this is what democracy Looks like!”


January 2018: Women’s March in Chicago


I returned from the march galvanized to channel my outrage into something productive and impactful. Shortly thereafter, I discovered the Indivisible Guide, a handbook that went viral online in late 2016 with suggestions for peacefully but effectively resisting the Trump administration. A progressive model based on the Tea Party strategy, the Guide spawned a progressive “Indivisible” resistance and activism movement across the country. There are now 5000 local chapters nationwide, and in the spring of 2017, I co-founded and became a co-leader of my local group Indivisible Evanston.

Over the past three years, Indivisible has been one of several grassroots resistance groups that have widely been credited as having a significant impact on both the inability of the GOP to pass significant legislation, as well as helping Democrats win back the majority in the House in 2018. Here in Illinois, I was very proud to be one of the many grassroots organizers who helped Democrats Sean Casten and Lauren Underwood unseat two incumbent GOP congressmen as part of the Midterm Election’s big, “Blue Wave.”


2018 Midterms: Canvassing for Rep. Sean Casten, who unseated the incumbent GOP congressman; with Lauren Underwood, who unseated an incumbent GOP congressman and became the youngest African-American woman elected to Congress.


As the responsibilities and demands of co-leading this group grew, it became apparent that I did not have the capacity to do justice to both Indivisible Evanston and Laura Tanner Jewelry. As a result, I finally made the difficult decision to close my business in September 2019. In the space of a week, I closed down LTJ, moved out of my studio and my divorce was finalized. Days later, my boyfriend Dan and I left for two amazing weeks in Spain and Portugal. After many years of holding down the home fort, it was wonderful to travel quite a bit in 2018-19 with my kids, mother, Dan and good friends. Especially now that the pandemic has made traveling for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic. I’m looking forward to more adventures once traveling is safe again.


Summer 2018: Traveling in Italy with my daughter, mother & son


In 2020, my focus in 2020 has been on organizing our volunteers to help Democrats keep the House, flip the Senate and to win the White House. At the beginning of the year, I expected to spend most of my summer and fall talking to and registering voters. Then the coronavirus pandemic happened, and our organizing went virtual. Currently, I am co-leader of the Indivisible Chicago Alliance’s Texting Team.  If you’re unhappy with the current state of our nation, I encourage you to take the next step and sign up for one of our virtual phone or text banks today, and help us get out the vote for Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and Democrats down the ballot in important races and states nationwide.

In 2015, my Next Act interview concluded with me projecting that this stage of my life would be “an interesting time of adjustment, growth, and exploring where the next act of my life will take me.” When I think back five to where I was five years ago, I certainly would not have imagined many aspects of my life as it is today. Despite the difficulties of the past few years, I have rediscovered my own strength, resilience, wellness, passion, purpose and joy. Having celebrated my 52nd birthday this summer, I find myself grateful for so many simple things: my family, boyfriend, home, pets, pets, work, and most of all, my health. I’m grateful to be thriving in this new phase of independence, self-determination and purpose, both personally and professionally. What the next five years will bring is uncertain, but that’s okay. One thing I have learned in the past five is to accept and embrace the unknown, and to appreciate and embrace my life as it unfolds.


Recent happy Mom moment with my twins, Tanner & Georgia, 20


Connect with Laura Tanner
Email: laura.tanner2.0@gmail.com
Connect with:
Indivisible Evanston
Indivisible Chicago
Indivisible Evanston Newsletter Sign-up
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HeleneTStelian Musing
I’m Hélène Stelian, the Midlife Mentor with a passion for facilitating personal development in women 40+. Through my THRIVE Courses, I help introspective, curious, action-oriented women 40+ deepen their journeys of self-discovery and growth—and create their next chapter with courage and intention.



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