"To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future". Optimist creed
One of the things I find supremely annoying is the fact that the best ideas hit me when I am driving my car. I get into the car, with my mind focused on my destination - work, home, meeting, or one of the many errands I run weekly. I turn on some music, or my favourite podcaster, then all of a sudden - bam! Here comes an idea, and if I do say so myself more often than not it is brilliant. Or at least - I think so. Because by the time i get to my destination, it has gone from my mind completely, vanished like a snow cone in the mid day sun. Sadly, my memory has deteriorated with age. I am quite certain that I could solve so many of the world's problems if someone could read my mind while I am driving. The other annoying thing about this is that I am not in a position to write notes! I keep promising to get a voice recorder app on my phone so that when I am having a good idea in the car, I can make voice notes. Of course, I always remember that when I am in the car having delicious ideas. By the time I reach wifi and can download one, the thought goes again. (And no. I am not in a position to do it now...) The idea for this post was one such idea that came to me in the car. And I was fortunate enough that I was on my way to an Optimist meeting, where the subject of the evening's presentation was the line of the optimist creed - I promise myself to forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future. So this was definitely a sign that this was to be a subject for my next post.
So as I drove down the road in the car, I was thinking about a few of the staff members I currently work with (and have worked with in the past) who went back to university(or for the first time) after the age of 40, and some even long after, and it got me thinking about career change in mid life.
Now most persons who know me know well that career change is something I think about most days, especially after a long day of crying patients!!! And indeed I have many other friends my age who would love a career change. However, I also noticed that only a few people who talk about it actually work towards it. So it got me thinking... what is it that spurs some persons in their 40s, 50s and 60s to completely change career, while others don't, despite their insistence that they are miserable in their current jobs, or a desire to move toward something different. Is it ever too late to start again?
Well I guess it depends on who you speak to. I have one friend my age who has had a career dream since her teenage years. She is currently in a totally different field, and a recent redundancy has brought her to a crossroad. On the one hand she still holds that deep desire for that career she desired as a young person. On the other hand - she thinks we are too old to have such thoughts, and in her case she thinks of her mortgage and responsibilities. At the end of the day, it is natural and indeed a good idea to think about those things - responsibilities, and yet I know other persons who are motivated by those very responsibilities. The staff and persons who I have encountered who have had successful mid life transitions have a different take on it, life is too short not to pursue a passion. 10 years in a new career is better than another 10 years in a hated one.
I started to look at the persons who had been successful in this career change endeavor. What did they have in common? Was it drive and determination? Perhaps - but the others seem to possess that as well.. was it superior organisational skills? Not in most cases? Was it high levels of education and the ability to reason? Funnily enough, there was no trend here either, and in fact the ones who had less academic achievements seem far more able to transition from one career to another.
In fact - the only commonality I saw in persons who made the transition, often at great personal and financial expense, often older people with children, mortgages and other responsibilities was discomfort. They were uncomfortable. What they were moving towards was pulling them just as much as what they were pulling away from. The irony of this is that all of the persons desiring to make these and other changes sited discomfort. Too much work. Not enough pay. Stress. Hours too long. Stress. And more stress. It reminded me of a story I heard about the dog sitting on the nail. He cried out in pain but never got up. He was not uncomfortable enough. This is NOT a judgement on anyone who would love to make a change and feels trapped. I feel the same way myself! This is just a personal reminder that it is never too late to start again. That age, situation, education level are not standing in some people's way. That if I get uncomfortable enough I may get up and do something about it. Sometimes I think about myself and how I agonize over decisions, and I wonder - maybe I am too educated. Too logical. Too something. Weighing up the options. Trying to predict and control the outcome in a world where we have no control over those things no matter what we think. The job that we currently have isn't necessarily permanent - no matter how permanent it seems. Companies close and downsize and very few jobs are infallible so that comfort we seek in our current position can't truly be ours. Our current work conditions can change overnight.
And even if we can't make a huge sweeping change, or don't want to or feel ready - if a subject matter has caught our interest - perhaps we can take a course... read a book on the subject, and delve into it a bit more. At the very least we may discover it isn't for us, at most it may kindle a flame that eventually burns steadily, or perhaps roars like a blazing inferno. Or perhaps it isn't a new career, just a change in our work conditions, or change of scenery. I heard a story about a lady who started studying at age 65. By 85 she was one of the world's leading experts in her chosen field. I have a friend my age training to be a yoga therapist. My sister became an attorney in her mid 30s. I have another friend whose career changes have been legendary, and she is going through yet another transition also into law. One friend well into her 40s training to be a health coach. One took a dive into the world of manufacturing the most wonderful hair and skin products after coming from a corporate background. Yet another is an awesome massage and sport therapist. Some have started other businesses - tutoring, travel, writing, speaking coaching, at a variety of ages. Some have taken up new hobbies. My other sister is learning the guitar. Another friend learning Spanish. And I started this blog to soothe the writing bug that has bitten me so many times. And so on. All around me are the wonderful people proving that it is never too late to start, and if that doesn't work, then it is never too late to start again.
And today I just needed to remind myself of this.
Big Love from a small island
Ps - here is another surprise from the island girl - when I lived in England, Autumn was my favourite time of year! There was something beautiful about the autumn colours, as if the trees put the last of the summer energy into the beautiful oranges and reds of autumn as the leaves fell to the ground signifying the close of another chapter. And no doubt in a few months, they too would begin again. I took this picture at an arboretum near where I used to work, and where I visited the autumn colours festival every year.