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Switching Gears, Careers in Your 30s

There are certain moments when you realize you’re getting older.

Finding a grey hair or two or three.

Realizing the value and importance of a great bra.

Understanding that one more drink means you will need the ENTIRE next day to recover.

Feeling exhausted and replaying back in your mind how much you ran around like a crazy person in college from classes, to parties to internships only needing about two hours of sleep and not understanding why you still can’t do that now working full time and going to grad school. I haven’t changed that much, have I???

Having a greater interest in beauty goops, some of which “improve elasticity” and eliminate bags or “fine lines.”

Being able to purge your closet and pass on “certain types” of clothes to someone younger.

Speaking of clothes, more Ann Taylor, no more Forever 21. But not Talbot’s or Creekwater something or other… Let’s get that straight.

I fell out when I saw the Amy Schumer’s “Last Fuckable Day” featuring some of our most celebrated funny women like Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette. But there was something about the truth in that skit that made me look at my being 33 and how the world starts looking at you differently, even in your 30s. I look to gorgeous women who are 40 and above and I have lots of hope, but there are times where I do feel like in subtle ways you do start to become invisible.

I’m not sure what people want to do with women in their 30s. I guess most people think we’ve disappeared into the mom and wife world or we’re buried under loads of work at the jobs we are too obsessed with, clearly the cause of our single and childless status.

What also triggered these feelings in me was reading a recent article in Essence magazine. It was about shifting gears in your career and not being afraid to go in a direction you may have not expected.

I was happy to read the stories about these women, because I’m going through some changes as I transition from a journalist, editor, consultant to public health professional and I was looking for inspiration. It was so on time, as I keep finding that some of the jobs I’d really love, would pay me significantly less than my current job, that I fought so hard to negotiate a great salary for.

But instead of inspiration, I felt slighted and a little uncomfortable.

All of the women featured in the article were under 30.

One of the women, 29, was the oldest.

I immediately thought about myself, and my friends. And said, “Well damn. What about us?”

First, I’d like to say, those 20-somethings were pretty darn impressive, but it was interesting that the writer (who I presume to probably be in that age group) mentioned something like, “You shouldn’t expect to want to keep doing what you thought you wanted to do at 19 or 20.” Oh, I had a good hearty laugh.

I thought of my girlfriends who took some serious leaps in their 30s and how making those decisions to change careers have different meanings and implications at 30 and older.

I’m in full agreement with 20-somethings making changes and figuring out sooner than later what’s going to make them happy and make them money and make moves because they are more likely to have the freedom to do so because they are more likely not to have children, or own a home, or have a husband to consider when making job/financial changes. My dad gave me that advice several years ago. I don’t know what made him say it, but his voice was in my head when I finally took the leap to go to grad school. “You don’t have a husband, you don’t have kids. If you want to go back to school, do it. Do all you can.” And it was probably the best advice I had gotten in a while.

But I’d really like Essence to revisit the topic with older women, because the older you get, the more frightened you are to make career changes because you are thinking about fiscal responsibilities, and what that means for your family and the time you have to start from scratch putting in the time and hours required to establish yourself in a new field, taking a pay cut, working your way up all over again, despite being a seasoned professional in another field.

And while that’s scary, other women, especially older women should share how in such a risk, there’s a great reward. Sometimes age and wisdom helps women who change their careers navigate and define the early steps of their new career much differently than when they were a 20-something. We know who we are, we know what we don’t want and can better express that and set boundaries when we go into new situations. We have gained a command and confidence that took the last 10 years to really develop.

Sometimes these career changes for women in their 30’s and older are about quality of life, and not so much about money or moving up the ladder. Sometimes these career changes are more about working on passions and purpose.

I know these kinds of women are out there, because I’m one of them. I would have loved to see at least one 30-something or 40-something woman share their thoughts on career changes, especially if they were really established for a long time with one particular career path. So I guess that’s why I’m writing this blog post.

I don’t have to look any further than Facebook to see lovely women I’ve entered the journalism world with, to see them move on to other professions, or become self-employed and thrive. They are not only doing things they enjoy and feel passionate about, they are finding balance in their personal lives, giving back to the community and look as good, if not better than the 20-somethings. They are finally traveling to places they dreamed about when working all of those crazy hours because they’ve negotiated four-week vacations instead of just accepting two weeks automatically as they did in their 20s.

There’s some wisdom in talking to the 30+ set on switching gears, because that’s the time where you realize time and your sanity are far too precious to be stuck anyplace you don’t want to be, and you have enough experience to know about the ebb and flow of difficult and awesome times and life is a journey of highs and lows.

But what never gets old, even if we do, is the joy in the surprise of us doing something we didn’t think we could do and trying something new.

Trouble Sleeping

I can’t sleep. I’m writing this post all riled up. I guess my bout of insomnia is a mixture of things. I was off today for Columbus Day and I basically stayed in my house since Friday evening.

I’ve managed to at least feel like I did something constructive, by getting some car repairs done and applying to two more awesome jobs. One of the jobs is with an organization I’ve applied to about four times now. Geez.

The anxiety of job-hunting is maddening. As the days go by, I find myself getting more and more antsy. More and more dissatisfied. My faith is wavering. I’m trying to pray more. My heart beats faster as I try to sleep. I’ve been sleeping with low classical music in the background to calm my psyche.

Something has to give soon.

Anyway, with so much time to myself, it’s horribly easy to get into a funk, ask yourself questions about what you’ve done wrong in life and watch “Dirty Dancing” then almost killing an entire regular can of Pringles over the course of two days.

I’ve been thinking over a bunch of things.

My career/path.

My romantic life. Ironically, one dude who I turned down last year has popped up to ask me how I’m doing. Another sweetheart of a guy, but I just didn’t feel that chemistry on my end.

Was it a reminder that I’m shallow and ridiculous and destined to be alone I am because I keep relying on that feeling I get (the same feeling I knew I felt but still wound up hurt in the end).

It made me revisit and text the guy who makes my blood boil, yet toes curl. He was still up for a little fun and the exchange of dirty messages.

But as I edge closer to a year of no physical lovin, I want it to be right. I don’t want it to suck. I don’t want to get emotionally reckless with the handsome, intelligent, toe-curler, who sends me mixed messages.

One of my good male friends sat in my living room last night, determined to help me at least get out of the house and see a movie and told me, my expectations for awesome sex after my hiatus is a horrible idea.

He’s probably right. I’m also glad that he brought a bottle of champagne. His champagne and conversation did help make me feel better. I returned the favor by making ribs and chicken.

I also thought to myself, I have a couple of close male friends I love dearly and I’m super comfortable with them. I can say anything and they are accepting, they see me as a lady still (I can be raunchy) and they always laugh at my jokes. They get me.

If only the men I’m attracted to were like my close male friends.

Back to the other stuff.

I feel like everything is changing around me so quickly, but the optimism I had as a young 20-something who can take on the world, has certainly subsided.

You couldn’t tell me no. I saved rejection letters from publications I dreamed of writing for.

Because I knew I’d show them all.

And there are some accomplishments I’ve had that totally certified and validated me and I’m so thankful for them. What a ride.

But what’s in me right now? What is inside of me?

I keep trying to push, but it’s been tough. I feel worn out. I don’t know if it is me getting older and jaded, or if that thing in me that motivated people to say yes, is gone.

How did I get people to say yes?

Do I have to start lowering my salary requirements?

I shouldn’t have to. I’ve worked so hard for years. I deserve what I’m asking for.

Can I find a balance between money, career, the business I want to nurture and grow?

Who are my allies? How do I build new ones?

Who and what inspires me? How do I ramp up the inspiration?

I was a little girl who told people I’d be president and I’d be in the White House one day. I did it as a reporter while an intern in college and then later on with another news organization.

I’ve got to find that person again. No is never an option. I say I’m going to do something I will.

In my high school yearbook, my footnote for my senior photo said, the world was going to read my words. They have.

Something has to happen. While I’m disillusioned with mainstream journalism, I have to believe my job that blends writing and health advocacy is just around the corner and that one of these several jobs in that area will choose me. It has to happen.

That’s been the pattern of my life.

About six years ago, shortly after wanting to step into four lanes of traffic because I wanted a few days in the hospital and not wanting to go into a job I hated, an opportunity presented itself. I didn’t want to die, I just wanted a break. I watched the cars whiz by, and I was so tempted to just step in. Folks think I’m so strong.

And when I tell that story, they are shocked.

But that’s just it. We all get tired. We all feel like our problems, our inadequacies, they are all too much. And even though fighting through it is the “right” thing to do, and what we’re supposed to do, sometimes the effort it takes to just stand, keep our eyes open and even ball our fists takes everything you have.

Sometimes the most absurd thing like stepping into the street and getting a few days in the hospital sounds like peace.

We all think these thoughts in some kind of way. It may not be as far as self harm or suicide. It may be staying in bed with the covers over your head and not going to work. It could be ignoring your crying kids, or eating fast food in your car alone. Sometimes, we just get tired. We don’t want to be responsible, we want to be selfish, because fighting through is too tiring. It’s too tiring.

When another job seemed to be too much but paid too little, and I paid for my gas with couch change and I went to sleep hungry because I had to use my entire paycheck for rent, an opportunity presented itself.

I’m not in as dire a situation as the ones I’ve mentioned, and I certainly don’t want things to get that bad, but each and every time, just before I was at the very end of my mental and emotional rope, a window was cracked and I got out to the other side.

I’m hoping that the way I feel right now. This weariness, this tiredness means I’m toward the end of the battle and that the change I’m looking for, the bright side I’m aching for is just within reach.

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