The Magpie Anthology

Anthology: How the stories we tell shape who we become

When you were younger, where did you imagine you’d be by the time you’d made it to middle age? What sort of life did you intend for yourself? If things didn’t go exactly to plan, you’re not alone. Often, we reach midlife and find ourselves grappling with a very different reality than the one we’d envisaged and a version of ourselves we don’t recognise. We might feel lost, stuck or trapped in the wrong story, a narrative we didn’t write.

Anthology offers an alternative perspective on midlife. Part memoir, part positive psychology field guide, this is a book about possibility. It will help you to explore how identity is constructed and how it might be reclaimed, reimagined and reauthored in midlife so that you can illuminate more of your potential, tell a different, more expansive story of who you are and create a future full of meaning and fulfilment.

Denise McGahan is a coach with an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and over 20 years’ experience in people development around the world. She specialises in identity development. When she was younger, she imagined she’d be an interior designer living in Paris. Instead, she lives on a hill in Northern Ireland with her family and many, many other animals. Denise says ‘ Four years ago, whilst studying for my Master’s degree in Applied Positive Psychology, I became fascinated by the subject of identity in midlife. I was interested in offering a different perspective on this stage of our lives, one that was more about expansion and possibility than settling and accommodation so I chose to write a book for my major project. I called it Anthology. I wanted to explore how the stories we tell shape who we become in life and how we might take back ownership of those stories for a more fulfilling and positive experience.  

Then life got busy, and aside from tinkering at the edges of it, the book was put away. I always intended to go back for it but in the meantime, I got talking to people about their own experiences of midlife identity: how they see themselves, their hopes, joys, unexpected delights as well as their frustrations, fears and disappointments. I began to coach people in identity development. Last year, I sat down to continue where I’d left off, and wrote the book, enriched by the memory of those important conversations.

I’m a coach (and now a writer!) and am based in Belfast. Anthology was my first book and I’ve also a novel that I plan to publish this autumn. Following on from the book, a coach colleague and I have set up another business called Anthology Retreats. We’ll run luxury retreats throughout the UK and Europe with a focus on identity expansion and development. The first of these is set for 6-8 October in Co. Armagh, N.Ireland and I’m really excited about it!’


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