If I had gone another year doing the same thing, I think I would have chewed my foot off.
That’s how I was feeling during the fall of 2008 when my oldest child was entering her senior year of high school. I’d spent the last several years supporting her dream to become a ballet dancer, driving her sixty miles round trip twice a day to her dance studio.
Now she had a car and could drive herself, so I had more time to focus on my public relations consultancy. I’d worked in PR for over twenty years, first in the corporate world, then with an agency, and finally owning my own business. As I began having children, I took on fewer clients so I could prioritize parenting while still keeping my toe in the water.
I’d worked with all kinds of clients — from celebrities, to fashion designers, arts organizations, dance companies, retailers, and non-profits. Initially, the work had been fun and exciting. I was able to live in New York City (and eventually back home in Atlanta) and work with a variety of interesting people helping them reach their dreams and live out their passions.
But as my life priorities were shifting, I hit a brick wall with my career. At first I noticed a resistance to accepting new clients. Then I found myself delaying my project work for existing clients, forcing myself to produce out of a sense of responsibility — but with very little joy. I felt like I’d done the same thing a thousand times over, and my eyes were glazing over with boredom and frustration.
Not just boredom and frustration — but a lack of meaning. I could do the job, but did I want my tombstone to read, “She could promote the heck out the latest fashion trends?” It was during this period of my life, at age 49, that I finally began to search for my own life passion so I could ultimately find a career I really loved.
Believe me when I tell you, I was flailing and scared out of my suburban wits. I was a freaking English major who never used a computer for anything more than typing press releases. Now I was leaping into the great unknown, surrounded by people a lot younger who were far more technologically savvy than me. With that negative belief swirling in my head, I stumbled around looking for something I could do that I might actually get the tiniest bit enthusiastic about.
I’ll cut to the chase here. As you may know, I ultimately decided to go back to school to get a coaching certification. I started a coaching business, created a blog to promote the business, and discovered I loved writing and creating courses, helping people all over the world envision better lives for themselves. Now I’m an online entrepreneur, running my entire business online from the comfort of my home. Do I absolutely love it? You bet!
So what happened between that fall of 2008 when I first began my search and sitting here today, writing to you and living my passion? Rather than bore you with all of my meanderings during my search, I’ll pull out the pertinent bits that can help you with your search for a passionate career.
When you’re in a job you hate, life can be miserable. You feel trapped and hopeless.
Every day you have to drag yourself out of bed to spend 8 or more hours of your day in a place where you feel unhappy, unfulfilled, or unappreciated.
When you think about how to extricate yourself and leave, you always come to the same conclusion. It just can’t happen.
It simply feels too scary to take such a big risk.
The more you ponder the situation and try to figure out an exit strategy, the more hopeless it feels. And this feeling makes you hate your job even more. You resent your predicament. You resent that you can’t afford to leave. And you resent everything and everyone that makes you feel trapped in it. Everything about your life feels tainted with frustration and simmering anger.
All of this frustration and resentment makes this already situation situation appear worse than it really is. You’re hyper-focused on how trapped you are, and your frustration is in forefront of your mind all the time.
It’s hard to extricate yourself from this dilemma when all of your energy is sucked out by hopelessness and despair. Does any of this feel familiar to you?
When I was 48, I decided to change careers.
I’d spent my entire professional life working in public relations, in corporate and agency settings, as well as having my own consultancy.
I stopped working for a while when my children were young, then picked up my consultancy work when they were older, then cut back again to help my oldest daughter pursue her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer.
Once she left home to pursue her career, I could have easily jumped back into my public relations consultancy and been assured of a steady income working in a profession where I was experienced and comfortable.
But something happens to us at mid-life. We wake up one day and suddenly the status quo is no longer interesting or even acceptable. We begin to question the life we’ve been living, the work we’ve devoted ourselves to for so many years.
You start asking yourself existential questions like, “Why am I doing all of this? What is my purpose here? Is this really all there is?”
Sometimes this happens as the result of children leaving home. Sometimes you are shaken up by a life crisis like a divorce, job loss, or death. Or it simply could be the dawning realization you’ve come to the halfway point in your life, and you’re watching time slip away faster and faster.
For me it was a little bit of all of those things that contributed to my decision to step away from my PR career and go on a search for something different — something that felt more authentic, exciting, and purposeful.
Deciding to change careers at nearly 50-years-old was not the safest route. At least it didn’t seem so at the time. I’d been feeling rumblings of dissatisfaction and restlessness for years, but I kept pushing through, doing what I’d been doing because I didn’t know what else to do.
But when I had the opportunity to really crank up my PR consultancy again after my daughter left home, I simply couldn’t do it. I hit an emotional brick wall. Every time I tried to take on a new client, or create a campaign for an existing client, my inner resistance was overwhelming.
So I began a search for my life passion, a career that would excite me again and make me want to jump out of bed in the morning. The main problem was my lack of career experience in anything except public relations. Starting a new career meant starting over completely.
I went to coaching school, started a coaching practice, and created an online business with absolutely no experience or knowledge in what I was doing. In retrospect I see that many of the skills I had as a PR professional have helped me tremendously in my online business.
At the time I began my business, I was financially stable enough to afford to go back to school and build a business from scratch. But I knew that financial safety net would last only so long. Even with some amount of financial security, I knew I was taking a risk, and it was scary.
Through my personal journey, I learned a lot about changing careers at midlfe, and in my work as a life passion coach, I’ve helped many people through this same process.