“After thirty, a body has a mind of it’s own.” ~ Bette Midler
As I touched upon briefly last week, I find myself in the position of needing to look for a new job, and probably a whole new career. I can’t really go into too much detail about why that is right now, although I hope to be able to write about the experiences that have led me to this point further down the line. For now, suffice it to say that I’m basically right back at a square that looks remarkably like the one I landed on the day after my graduation. As the number of jobs available in my sector diminishes daily it seems to be time to pick a whole new ball game.
I think that this is supposed to terrify me. It certainly did last time I tried it. But I’m actually quite excited. The more I think about it, it even feels as though this is the natural point in my life to finally be deciding what I actually want to do with it.
I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was twenty-one and first needing to decide what direction to take. I hadn’t really even worked out who I was by then. And looking at the options spread out before me was like standing on the edge of an ominous black hole with no real conception of what lay in wait for me once I’d stepped inside it.
I’d never had a grown-up job before, so I had no idea what professional life was really like. Had no idea what kind working culture I would be suited to, or what work I would be best at. All I had was the crippling insecurity that came with knowing how hard I’d found it trying to fit in anywhere else before.
It’s no wonder I, and so many of my contemporaries made the wrong first, second, and even third choices. With so little hard information and no real experiences to inform our decisions the odds were stacked against us.
Fast forward ten years, however, and I can almost believe that the world really is my oyster.
I know who I am now. I have the confidence that comes along with the fact that now, most of the time, I genuinely know what I’m doing and what I’m talking about.
I’m no longer bluffing along blindly in the hope that no-one notices and fires me like I did in my first job. Right up to the point where they noticed. And fired me.
Before I take my next step I can make a properly informed decision. And I feel better placed to think about taking a few risks on doing what I really want because I’m able to formulate a realistic contingency plan for if things don’t work out the way I’ve planned. I’m starting over with the self-assurance to pursue opportunities that my younger self considered out of her league.
And it’s got me thinking that maybe all the pressure we put on young people to make concrete choices and to succeed right out of school, or college, or university is coming at the wrong time in their lives. I mean sure, there are some kids who decided when they were toddlers that they wanted to be doctors, or plumbers, or lawyers, or artists, and are well and truly set on their merry way to achieving those goals by the time they reach their late teens and early twenties.
But for those others. The ones who are left feeling as though the whole fate of their lives is resting on a decision that they’re making as blindly as if their studies had been an extended period of spinning before they have to pin the tail on a donkey. Maybe we should be encouraging those kids to go out and gather more information, about themselves, about their potential choices, and about the world. To postpone their decisions about what they really want to do with their lives until those decisions can be more properly informed.
And maybe those of us whose time in education was long enough ago that it almost feels as if the memories happened to someone else, should be encouraged to pause to take stock and reassess our choices when we’ve reached a place of relatively greater stability. To make sure we didn’t actually wander into someone else’s dream life by mistake, instead of the one we wanted, and to be sure that we’re heading boldly on the right course going into the next phase of our lives.