I was on the phone with a dear friend of mine this week, listening intently as she spoke of the monumental life and career changes shaking her confidence.
It can be an unsettling pill to go through any kind of abrupt change, but to do several at one time is often insufferable.
At 40, she’s newly divorced with two young children and recently laid off from a position in academia she’s held for nearly a decade. Life certainly has a way of throwing curveballs and fastballs at us, and sometimes, they feel like they come out of nowhere and hit you directly in the forehead.
With a master’s degree in history, and two children to feed, she has been spending the last few months driving Uber while she looks for another position in education.
At a near breaking point, she began crying, telling me she was applying for jobs everywhere with no response and recently started applying for jobs well below her value and skillset with starting salaries barely high enough to support one, let alone three.
At some point in the conversation, she said through her tears, “I wish I could just go get a master’s degree in counseling and change directions. I’d be a great therapist, and I know I’d never have to worry about feeding my kids.”
I paused for a moment and said, “If that’s what you want to do, let’s make it happen. What do you need?”
As if realizing for the first time her idea was possible, she said, “You don’t think it’s crazy to make a career change at 40?”
Without hesitation, I emphatically told her what would be more crazy is if she kept doing what she’s doing.
Her fear, as it turns out, stemmed from the unease she felt of shedding her current professor identity. Pivoting at her age, she thought, would imply failure, wasted time and be looked upon by others as irrational and selfish.
Rather than sitting back and seeing that her journey in academia had run its course, she was trying to fit a round circle in a square peg, and it was making her miserable. There was no real reason she couldn’t go back to school for a master’s degree. She could apply for financial aid. She could work one of those less-desirable jobs while she did it. And yes, it would be a challenging and hard year or two while she did it.
But why not? And why not now? If a few hard years is all that separates her from misery and career satisfaction and pride, seriously – what the heck is holding you back?
I have always been a firm believer that life is not linear. It ebbs and flows, zigs and zags and often leads to places we’re not expecting. Other times, it circles us back around – sometimes decades later – to old dreams and goals we’d given up or written off years earlier.
What I’ve come to learn is there is no one-size-fits-all path in life. We’re all on our own journey; sometimes, we’re ahead of our friends and family. Other times, we’re behind coveting the lifes of those around us. But in reality, there is no competition with anyone except ourselves.
Success and failure alike can happen at various ages and stages in life and the point is to appreciate where we are now, especially if right now happens to be a time scarcity. If we can learn to celebrate and appreciate what we have when living in times of scarcity, we will always feel thankful and joyful in times of plenty.
One thing I wanted my friend to know is there is never a statute of limitations on life goals. There’s never an age limit, cutoff or expiration date. If you want it, do it, make it happen and don’t give a flip about the commentary of others who may or may not insist you’re making a terrible mistake.
So much can happen in a year or two. Lives can change.
Life lessons can be learned. Fortunes can emerge. But never allow yourself to believe something you care about or feel impassioned to accomplish isn’t possible.
The road to get there may be hard and take time, but if you really sit down to ask yourself if it’s worth it, most of us would not hesitate to agree – it is.