Midlife is a strange and exciting time to be job-eliminated.
I had a lifetime of caring for other people (I am the oldest of five so the responsibilities started early.) I can now sensibly think of shifting gears and earning a living at work that I love. But what?
I have been meeting with a career counselor, which I highly recommend. We create goals from my passions and dreams, the things that make me me. I just completed a course at New York University and am contemplating some advanced degree programs there. And I’ve attended my first Toastmasters meeting.
Toastmasters impressed me with its somewhat formal business behavior, lots of handshaking, eye contact and addressing each other by their Toastmaster titles. Everyone spoke confidently, even those with non-American accents. I was welcomed with enough sincerity that I felt comfortable standing up and introducing myself to the group, and that is so not like me! These are people you would pass on the street and not realize just how smart they are. I want to be that.
New York University had stellar instruction and a small class size. My degree is from an affordable public university that provided education and not much more, but the information session I attended for NYU’s Advanced Degree programs stressed their commitment to helping you get a job. I now know that that is common among the pricier schools and I want in on that.
The wage-earning years were intense: the last few had hours so unpredictable that I could never make plans after work because more often than not, I would have to stay late. I could never sign up for weeknight classes or any kind of self-improvement. Thankfully, this happened after my child grew up; I was able to get home at reasonable times while she was still young.
I’m also looking forward to working for a company again. I’m surprised at how much I miss some of the actual work. I was a pit bull of a problem solver: throw me a challenge and I will grab it, shake it around and find the solution. It could mean using paperwork skills or reaching out to more knowledgeable people for their expertise. I learned the tech needed to get the job done. It was pretty exhilarating.
I miss my people. Everyone worked hard so we spent many hours together. The friend who sat behind me who would stop work at about 4:00 daily so we could get coffee together. The other one who lives in my area, who could crack me up just by saying the name of a local shop. The friend across the floor who “knows everybody.” The colleague across the desk from me and the other one a few rows over who only had good words for people. Oh their positivity!
Once, as I walked over to two colleagues with a question, I heard one guy say, “Ask Linda. She has an opinion on everything.” The question: How many saints are there? After we compared our experiences in our hometowns’ Catholic school systems, I Googled the saints question and discovered that one was a dog. (If I ever get a dog I am naming it Saint Guinefort.) That level of familiarity is a priceless gift. I cherish the good people.
On the horizon: the challenge of further education. The chance to grow intellectually, to not be mistaken for shallow or unteachable. The certainty that I will be part of another work team. The opportunity to prove that midlife is as productive a time as any other life stage, with the added bonus of perspective.