Had the realisation today that I still have a good 20 to 30 years left working. In fact, as I’ve only been in my career for 14 years – the vast majority of my working life is ahead of me. There’s something comforting in that – that these 14 years are only the start. They’re not even the major part of what my life will be.
I was chatting to my husband about this realisation. Do I want the next 20 to 30 years to look the same as the last 14? I really don’t.
I fell into my job / my field. I’d like to say that I’d always dreamed of doing what I do, but that’s a lie. I’ve never met a person in my field who set out with the goal of doing what we do. We all fell.
At first, you’re just happy to have a job – aren’t you? When you’re fresh out of university, facing the real world, and a little uncertain of what’s next – it’s exciting to get a job, any job. It seemed interesting enough in the interview. And whilst your boss is a monster (well, my first boss was), it’s good that you’re progressing along a career path. Succeeding. Good for you.
After you’ve been doing it for a while, you discover that you’ve got a bit of a knack for it. And you discover that there are parts of the job you really enjoy. Sure, the late nights and weekends aren’t great – wasn’t this supposed to be an office job? Aren’t they supposed to be 9-5? But still, you’re getting all these opportunities. You get to travel – that’s exciting. So you keep going along, seeing where it takes you.
Then you start to get restless. The late nights, the weekends start to feel like more of an imposition. Technology advances, and now people are ringing or texting you at all hours and expecting you to be checking your work emails late into the evenings and first thing in the morning. You wake up anxious and reach for your phone. But you’re advancing, you get to manage clients now, projects and staff. People think you’re good at what you do. You’re seen as an innovator. A bright young thing in the industry. A person to watch.
You’re not quite sure why? You’ve always been a hard worker, and you like to please others. That seems to be getting you somewhere. But that restlessness is always there. Is this really what I want my life to be? Is this how it plays out?
You start to look around, at other fields – related and non-related. But the trick is, if you change fields, that’ll mean a sizeable pay decrease, and there’s something reassuring about that pay cheque each month. That’s comfortable. That’s safe. What would happen if you didn’t earn as much? What impact would that have? You’re the main income earner – so that’s a responsibility. It’s not just you now.
So you continue on. You stick with the career that you’re starting to hate. The bits you love are still there, but the bits pull you down are becoming harder to ignore. You feel stuck. You don’t know how to get out. After going with the flow for so long, you’ve realised you’ve veered down the wrong path and you’re not quite sure how to get back.
That’s where I am now. Standing down this narrow path, looking for ways to veer off elsewhere. I want a different direction for my next 10 years. And the 10 after that. The trick is finding the new route.