"There are no second acts in American lives." ( F. Scott Fitzgerald )
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About the second act - behind the scenes

By Tessa Ivascu | Section(s): GET... | Add Your comment

The Second Act is about growing through failure to become your best self. My purpose is to encourage you to look at hardship and heartbreak as fruitful experiences ; make chaos your ally in embracing the idea of a life change ; use adversity as a fuel for your imagination and your ambition ; draw new strength from sour grapes to pull yourself up to a higher altitude. Above the intellectual garbage produced by the winner-takes-all prepared script.


My name is Tessa Ivascu.
I am a French journalist and professional development teacher, devoting much of my time to a new challenge : writing articles and reports for The Second Act… in English.
My goal is to make this site a place where I can share my knowledge and experience from ups and downs and my passion for self growth, while helping others to change their second act into an act of fruition.
I also have a Master’s degree in English and American Literatures. I once wrote a 120-page essay on F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose ironic words welcome you at the very top of this page.

More about my background soon.
Are you there ? At rock bottom ?

"Where black is the color,
Where none is the number",

as Bob Dylan puts it in this song(*) ?

An avalanche of setbacks has swept away your integrity, your well-being, your life-style. You have lost your job, your spouse, your youth, you worry about your finances, your health, your children.

Your motivation, your will-power, your responsiveness : all evaporated ! You are paralyzed by doubt, anxiety, feelings of inadequacy and injustice.

I was there. Now I am here, writing for you and for all those who think their life is not working anymore. And if you are here, reading these words, it means that, after all, black is NOT your color and none is NOT your number.

It's just that you go through your Second Act. A play never ends in the middle of the Second Act. Instead, this is where the story takes off, where action happens and characters evolve towards culmination (hence the word I invented for this site's url : second act + active = secondactive.com).

If you prefer to continue by learning more about the site's specifics, click here.

There are no second acts
in American lives.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Many people misunderstand this famous quote from The Last Tycoon. Fitzgerald DOES NOT say people cannot reinvent themselves. On the contrary, he says that most people can only reinvent themselves, again and again.

But these reinventions are not true Second Acts, only replays of the First Act, following the same script we have been programmed to learn by heart : strive for success, ignore failure ! Imitate winners, despise losers ! Pretend they don’t exist. And if you become one of them, you are strongly urged to clear off too.

Failure makes you invisible. The only way to regain visibility is to reinvent yourself, fake amnesia and say : « There is no second act… ». This is Fitzgerald’s sarcastic conclusion. Although he mocks specifically the American mentality of his time, his words have an universal and a timeless meaning.

We all live many acts, but for some of us, each act is the first act.
The First Act is a delusion

Over the years, as a student or as a teacher, as a free-lance reporter or as an editor in chief, as a manager or as an employee, as a friend or as a member of several families, I have met all sorts of people and I have witnessed their happy moments and their hard times.

Some have proved to be lifelong learners, using both success and failure to upsize their life and the life of those around them. Others have remained trapped by their absorbed belief in the restoration of their first act, desperately trying to recover what they had lost and to erase everything that had happened since.

They are still there : wasting their time trying to follow the start-all-over-again-from-scratch recipe ; making the same mistakes over and over again ; becoming more and more vulnerable to adversity ; falling from bad to worse : until burnout.

The belief in the recurrence of the first act is not only delusional, it is counterproductive. It deprives you of the chance to wake up in the morning and do only the things you love doing ; to go to bed at night proud of having expressed your skills in a way that makes you happy and that touches people's life.

I do not intend to convince you that hard times are great times. I do not want to advise you, as many self help experts do, to "make failure your friend". Failure is NOT your friend : it is too violent, too bitter, too chilling to become one. But it is not your enemy either.

Failure is a partner. A debater. A pathfinder.
The Second Act is your chance

Failure plays devil’s advocate to point out what’s wrong in your life. It shows you the way to the areas where you have the greatest potential of improvement. Failure forces you to stretch yourself and change your fixed mindset into a growth mindset. It prompts you to strip away of the nonessential and to uncover talents you never knew you had.

There is no prepared script for the Second Act of your life. The Second Act is the act of freedom. It gives you the opportunity to write your own script and to use your power to imagine better. To emerge wiser and stronger. To direct your energy to accomplishing the only things that matter to you.

The Second Act is your chance to leave your footprint.

I already quoted Bob Dylan and F. Scott Fitzgerald, two of the three authors who made me love the sound of English language. Let me finish by quoting the third one, William Shakespeare :

What's past is prologue.
(It is no coincidence that these words appear at the very beginning of... the Second Act of The Tempest).

Dear readers, I wish you all a « secondactive » journey !

(*) A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, 1963.

And now Take the Seven Steps.

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