Life is full of ups and downs. If you’re a woman of a certain age, like me, there’s a very good chance that you’ve spent a large part of your life caring for other people or managing a household. It’s not unlikely that you’ve put yourself aside to manage the day-in day-out tasks of running a home, often in tandem with having a career.
We’re women. We’re nurturers. It’s what we do.
That’s all well and good until the people you’ve made your priority no longer need you in the same way they used to. You know what I’m talking about. The kids grow up and go off to university. Sometimes they move back in and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, marriages come to an end. Or maybe a career ends abruptly. The project of finding a new path can take months, even years.
When these monumental life shifts happen, it’s time to ask yourself: “What’s in it for me? What’s next in my book of life?”
I’m the sort of woman who is always better off the busier I am. I need that daily purpose and schedule. And although I’ve had many different careers, nothing really stuck during these past 30 years. Some were incredibly fulfilling, while others were time-fillers. It wasn’t until these last three to five years — once I stopped running from whim to whim about what might interest and fulfill me — that I truly found my centre, my passion and my calling.
Sounds corny, I know. And it might even come across as “privilege” to have the luxury to wait until I found work that ticked off all the soul and spirit boxes. But I challenge you to not be too quick to judge. This was about re-entering the workforce and at the same time reinventing myself. I wanted to take the time to envision what it was that I would love to do. No matter the pay grade, I totally believe with all my heart that it is in us to create the life, the job and the next chapter of our lives exactly how we want it to be.
Take me, for example. I left school with a high school degree, with my gap year ending in a pregnancy. With this new reality, I never did get the opportunity to get a post-secondary degree. I decided if I was going to be a mother, I wanted to do that full time. But there was still that super ambitious “make your own life happen” person inside of me. What was I going to do to help honour and fulfill that part of myself? I’d tried to make a living from both what I was passionate about, as well as jobs that paid the bills. I had already been an actress, a professional dancer, a waitress, a bartender, a saleswoman, an office manager and a business owner. What on earth was there left to be without a degree? There I was, mid-late 40s, feeling lost. There were my kids, all living their own lives and doing their own thing, my husband who was extremely busy with his career — and then there was me. Who was I, now that my day-in day-out mom role was behind me?
There were days I couldn’t even get out of bed I felt so empty, so hopeless. The role that I had identified with for 27 years had come to an end, and I knew that staying home to simply manage the life of my husband and myself was not nearly satisfying enough for the next 30 to 40 years of my life. So, in order to figure out how to make the next chapter of my life as rich as the earlier ones, I did a few things.
1) When I finally put my finger on what I was going through, I made the very conscious decision to be gentle with myself. To give myself time to feel and be where I was. On the days where I just didn’t want to get up and go, I didn’t. I gave myself permission to go through the hills and valleys of feeling “obsolete.”
2) I picked up some incredible books that literally changed my life! I devoured them, and I put their teachings into practise. The ones that were integral to me turning that emotional corner and getting my mojo back were: Year of Yes by Shonda Rimes, You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero, 52 Ways to Live a Kick-Ass Life by Andrea Owen and Get What You Want by Tony Burroughs.
Grab these books or check out others with similar themes that speak to you and what you need to shift in yourself to get back out there and start again.
3) Once I got myself solid on the inside, I began visualizing what it was that I wanted in this next phase of my life. If I was going to have a career, what were my top three choices for jobs I would love to get up and do every day for the rest of my life? Once I had that list I began to do things that would lead to my landing in that role.
If you already have a degree, maybe all you need to do is take an online class to brush up on what’s going on in your field so you can compete with others who are fresh out of school. So often we buy into the noise that we’re no longer wanted after a certain age, and this is not at all the case! Don’t believe me? I have a girlfriend who is 60, and after more than 30 years managing her family and household, she landed a job at a prestigious hotel as a concierge among all the 20-somethings they hired. Why? Well, because youth comes with many great things, but it can never come with the experience or knowledge of a community that you’ve lived in for 60 years.
So keep that in mind if you’re holding yourself back from making the next chapter of your life one that is as rich and fulfilling as all the others that came before. Let that all go and be inspired. Be encouraged, be bold and enjoy the process of learning a new job or brushing up on a past one. Get out there and be the badass you once were. You’re never too old to live your best life!