I am a fifty-six-year old woman. I’ve started and run two successful businesses, both which I eventually closed for no other reason than I needed a change. After working as a marketing consultant in the corporate world for fifteen years, I had come to feel as if my work had no heart, so I began fundraising for nonprofit organizations. A decade of raising millions of dollars for others later, I felt unappreciated and burned out. Apart from being branded a “necessary evil” by my clients no matter how much money I generated, there was a sense that whatever I did for them was never enough.
So here I am, stuck in the no-man’s land of “It’s not time to retire and I don’t know what to do to support myself.”
I dream of writing novels and other types of books, but at my age, I worry that trying to make it as a writer makes about as much sense as launching a career as a runway model. What do I do?
Stuck in Mid-Life
I think you’re pretty darn courageous to continue to seek your life’s purpose after all that you have accomplished. It’s so much easier to give in to the comfort of doing a job we know, even if we hate it, than to reinvent ourselves, especially as we age. But you left your previous careers because they were occupations. You, Stuck, are looking for your vocation, your passion and purpose.
Some people figure it out early. They begin etching out a methodical path to their dream while still in kindergarten. That’s great—for them. But for most of us, discovering what we want to be when we grow up is a life-long endeavor.
The road to discovering purposeful work isn’t one straight stretch of highway. Instead, it’s a series of roundabouts, cul-de-sacs, frequent stretches on windy treacherous roads, and the occasional fender bender. The good news is…you are still behind the wheel.
I sense you may need a break from driving the career car for a bit. If you can afford to, take some time off and just write. If writing blows your skirt up, write. Experience what it feels like to be wholly immersed in a creative pursuit. You could even write about what meaningful work would feel like to you. See who and what shows up.
The force that propelled you to change in the past is your “get down” energy. It’s your grit. In your fifties, you still have enough time and ability to create something new, exciting and financially viable if you fire up that grit and spend less time judging yourself.
You have a truckload of experience and a deep desire. So go hunting and enjoy the hunt. When you’re ready, the opportunity to do something that fills your heart to bursting will show up. And if it doesn’t, someone who will help you to find your “new thing”—a coach or a mentor, for instance—will. Relax, Stuck. You aren’t as stuck as you might think.