This week’s blog post is written by member Kate MacDougall, a freelance journalist and copywriter with expertise in the lifestyle, homes, pets, parenting and arts sectors.
You can contact her by email here.
There is a line in that song, ‘Everybody’s Free’ by Baz Luhrmann, the one where he talks about wearing sunscreen and how we should all dance more, where he says “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life, some of the most interesting forty year olds I know still don’t”.
That song is twenty years old this year, and I remember thinking so vividly (as a just turned twenty-something who obviously knew everything) that by the time I was forty, I would have it all planned out. There would be a rock solid career, one that had been diligently built over the years, and although I didn’t know exactly what that job would be, I felt sure that by then I would know exactly what I was doing with my life. Forty year olds are properly grown up, aren’t they? All major life decisions made, life neatly plotted and bullet-pointed in smart leather Filofaxes. Forty year olds are sorted.
But here I am, recently 40, and embarking upon an entirely new career, a prospect I am finding both thrilling and terrifying in equal measure, and while I have got some bullet points jotted down (somewhere), there is also a healthy element of winging it. Preparation is never a bad thing, but if like me you tend to over think things, sometimes we have to just throw ourselves in and see where we bob back up again. That’s the wonderful thing about being a little bit older and wiser. We tend to be a little bit braver too.
So how did this all start? Well, for many years I ran my own business in London. After having children and moving to the countryside I found my interests and priorities had naturally changed and that what I really needed was a new challenge. Yes, there are restrictions around childcare and the fact that my husband works and commutes long hours, but more than all of that, I realised that this was the time in life to do something that I was really passionate and excited about. And for me, that ‘thing’ is writing.
It’s taken me a while to get to this point and who knows if it’s what I am going to be doing in the next twenty years, but for a long time I thought I was only ‘allowed’ to do what I had previously done, to just be the person I had been before. Prior to setting up my own business I had spent a number of years working in various office based jobs and was often told then that I didn’t have ‘enough experience’ to move on to other jobs or other departments. Its partly why I set up a business – I didn’t want to be defined by one single role. It’s all too easy to be ‘boxed’ into a category and to see ourselves walking down the same well-trodden path, but I think it’s vital to challenge that, not just with other people, but also with ourselves.
As we reach a mid point in our lives we must try to recognise and then appreciate the huge wealth of wisdom, skill and experience we have accumulated over the years and to then try to see how we can best utilise that in our future endeavours. The trips we have taken, the people we have met, that meal you had in that little Parisian bistro – even down to the small obstacles we all face day to day – these are all valid building blocks in creating our present and future selves. Inspiration, knowledge and creativity are all around us, not just within the walls of your current workplace.
It might feel as if you are completely starting from scratch, particularly if, like me, your new venture has absolutely nothing to do with your old career, but if we look back at our previous jobs not as a whole but in their many parts, we can all find useful morsels. Most roles reach beyond the bounds of their job descriptions and with a little bit of rumination, we can pick out the skills and even the contacts that will help us on our new journey. We are also at a point in our lives where we have some inkling as to what we are good at and what we are not so good at, and even if we only had this going for us, we would have a huge advantage.
Gaps in our tool kit can of course be filled in and with more and more reputable courses available online, there is plenty of opportunity to combine study with work and family. Networking is now mostly done from home, on the sofa, in our slippers, so we don’t even have to ‘put ourselves out there’ and shake endless hands to try and make connections. Wonderful supportive groups like Discovher provide great opportunities to meet and collaborate with like-minded souls, but if you are just starting out, you can still take those first tentative steps from the comfort of your own four walls.
Most importantly, just give it a go. I am saying that to myself more than anything. If you see me in another twenty years and I am doing something completely different, I hope I will be able to say that I at least gave it a good shot.