Fresh Start

A former divorce attorney weathers her own failed marriages on the way to self-reinvention.

Motivational speaker/writer Carole Goldstein of West Chester’s WCOJ-AM (Photo by Shane McCauley)There are two ways to look at the world, according to Carole Goldstein. You can look at what’s not working and what you don’t have, or you can look at what you want and what you can have—and by doing so, affect not only yourself but also everyone around you.

“This is no gift of birth,” she says of the latter option, which is her positive approach. “I’ve had to learn through the experiences of life.”

As Goldstein has learned, she’s evolved—and what perfect timing. These days, she says, we’re “living through transformational times” in which the old structures and paradigms are no longer working.

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“That’s why there’s so much chaos,” says Goldstein. “The dinosaurs—the boomers once on the vanguard—can’t just learn to flow with it. The young are already integrated into the shift, so it doesn’t seem so chaotic to them.”

As a West Chester family law attorney, Goldstein spent 13 years mostly representing women in divorce. As founder and president of Navigating Divorce, she authored, co-produced and nationally marketed (on DVD) a like-named seminar for women. Her sole mission was to provide women with the information they need to strengthen their position and avoid victimization by their spouses and the judicial system.

Now Goldstein is in the aftermath of her second divorce—and, at 60, she’s busy transforming her own career. Since leaving law behind, she’s become a life coach, a social commentator, and a motivational speaker and writer. She writes a daily blog and podcasts. This past year, she’s been on 15 radio shows around the country. She has an e-book, Too Many Secrets. She’s co-authoring a children’s book titled Kali’s Journey, the first in a series. She’s also working on a book for adults, The Highest Good, about accessing your own uniqueness and bringing higher ethical and spiritual principles to personal and professional relationships.

Goldstein continues to write despite what a book agent once told her: If you aren’t famous, no one will care about your story. “I live an extraordinary life with experiences and passions,” she argues. “I’m just another you.”

As she was phasing out of her law practice, she spawned her new career on West Chester’s WCOJ-AM. Between 2001 and 2002, her program, Higher Ground, delivered a positive spin on negative news—“going where the mainstream media won’t go.”

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“Justice for all,” Goldstein found, was an illusion, not a reality. While she’d entered law school with a vision, she admits now that she was naïve and idealistic. “I wanted a professional atmosphere where ethics were the highest protocol,” she says. “If not in law, then where?”

She never found those ethics in law, and when she stopped saying she was a “lawyer,” she let go of her ego and grew as a person.

“[Lawyer] is a powerful word,” says Goldstein, who now lives in Cherry Hill, N.J. “My identity was tied up in it, but I’ve shed that skin and I’ve come to love myself—and to know I have value. Before, my apparent power was that I was a lawyer, but that’s so artificial. I came to the realization that it was what I did, but it wasn’t who I am. We get those two confused.”

While she’s been known to modify her last name to Gold for professional reasons, she admits, “I never felt like Goldstein—though ‘Gold’ is such a wonderful thing.”

Growing up, Goldstein felt alienated, even if she was seemingly well adjusted on the outside. Her late father, Bernard Goldstein, founded the nation’s first residential burglar and fire alarm company. International Alarms was a multimillion-dollar business, and Goldstein enjoyed an affluent childhood in Cheltenham. She had a car the day she turned 16; she had two Corvettes and a Jaguar XKE before she was 21.

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“I knew what money could buy,” she says. “I had all the materialism, but it left me isolated, lonely and confused. I was living an unauthentic life. I was living my parents’ life—the community’s—but not my own. You have to be very awakened to take on the task of being uniquely who you are.”

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She began college at 18, but lasted just a few months. At 23, she was married the first time for 11 months. By 24, she was a divorced college dropout. “It seemed like the two things I was raised to do, I’d failed at,” she says.

In the midst of the separation, Goldstein attempted suicide—and thankfully failed there, too. “In some ways, I felt like I was born then,” she says. “After that, my life began to take off in an authentic direction.”

Her attempted suicide remains one of the many ways she can relate to America’s youth, one of her primary audiences. According to National Institute of Health surveys, 1 million high-school-aged students attempt suicide a year, and another 1.5 million run away from home. “We’ve abandoned the kids—and it’s mostly in the wealthy suburbs,” she says. “I didn’t want to die. Like these kids, I just had misplaced hope. Now, my mission is to save as many children as I can.”

Even when she practiced divorce law, the children always took the biggest hit. Still, Goldstein says, we force them onto every team and into every extracurricular activity, all designed to move them into a pre-determined lifestyle and pace that’s unrealistic. “We’re just starting to see the fallout,” says Goldstein, who went on to receive her bachelor’s in sociology from Villanova University and her Juris Doctor from Widener University School of Law. “It’s a rat race, and kids need 10 legs to keep up—and they’re understandably failing. All those kids who want to die and run away are telling us something is wrong.”

Goldstein’s adopted daughter, Zoe, is a 15-year-old sophomore at Cherry Hill East, where Goldstein recently spoke about suicide, including her own attempt. All Zoe said was, “Mom, I hope you’re not going to dress like a dork,” Goldstein says. “I loved her for that. With that serious an issue, her lone thought was that I might not look cool.”

Goldstein admits that she was shocked when East called her back to speak a second time. Her talks are touchy, and not so politically correct. “I tell them how a big foyer and all the cars don’t matter—to be who they want to be and not to conform,” she says. “There’s resistance [to that message].”

Other messages she shares—live or in her blogs—include the nation’s woeful loss in the battle to sedate our children into compliance, the rapid and destructive pace of technology, and the incompatibility of language between generations.

The cure is a process, Goldstein says—one that begins with lessening our dependency on a media empire that feeds fears and our need to be included. Instead, we turn inward and define our lives by what our inner voices say.

“The grassroots’ ground is swelling,” she says. “But we get lost in the election like we get lost in Britney Spears or in [Princess] Diana. We get diverted by the celebrity, and we don’t deal with our own lives. The media spends all its time distracting us. Turn off the TV. Don’t watch the horror stories. Put the energy elsewhere. Stop enabling the technology and taking the drugs.”

Politics, she says, is reflecting an underlying shift. “[President Barack] Obama is carrying the message,” she says. “Obama is just a little arrow on the road, but the people are hungry, willing and open for change. We, as consumers, are needy. We feel it. It’s everywhere.”

To feed into that energy, Goldstein is everywhere she can be. It’s her belief that we all have “appointments in life” that are uniquely our own. Her mindset is one of service. For others, that might mean volunteering hours or income. “All are services of the heart,” she says. “Find the one that’s uniquely yours. For me, it’s bringing inspiration and hope. Had I died the day I tried to commit suicide, I wouldn’t be here to inspire others not to die. Those who hug me after I speak prove that I have an appointment.”

Goldstein preaches that there are only two basic emotions—love and fear. Emotions that stem from love, if planted and watered, develop and sprout. “I can get up and watch CNN and the latest on terrorism—or I can choose to write an inspirational blog,” she says. “My choice is always to give back energy, to feed into something and nourish it.”

It’s the difference, she says, between being a regurgitator and a creator. It’s also the self-awakening, the new frequency and the courage she always sought so desperately in her youth. “But I towed the parental line,” Goldstein says. “It took me 40 years to learn that love is your gift to yourself.”

Three times, an Oprah Winfrey designee has knocked on Goldstein’s door, perhaps paving the way for some mass exposure. Gayle King, editor of Oprah’s O magazine, has phoned and wrote Goldstein, who calls it all “affirmation from the universe.”

“My gift is service,” she says. “And like water, I’ll go where I’m most needed.”

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