October is my birthday month, and at nearly (cough) 39, I recently discovered that it’s OK to start over in my professional career.
For the past five years, I have been a stay-at-home mom. I decided to leave the corporate world when my fourth child was born, and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I became comfortable in the new routine I had established, and I loved being able to have that quality time with my two little ones before they went off to school. My two oldest were already in school, and I felt like I had missed so much of their younger years. I wanted the opportunity to just be a mom, even if it was mainly for my younger two.
Right before my youngest went to school full-time, I felt this tug at my heart to take my life in a new direction. I ignored it at first because listening to it meant change, and I am not always receptive to change if it means I have to make hard decisions. But the tug turned into a nudge, and the nudge turned into a whisper.
When the sound was too loud to ignore, I explored my options. I knew I didn’t want to completely give up full-time motherhood because all of my children are still at an age where they need me to be available to them in one way or another. So, my opportunities were somewhat limited. After a while, I was encouraged by a few people to apply for a part-time opening as an office administrator and communications coordinator at our church, a job right up my alley.
I applied, but a slew of questions nagged at me. Am I doing the right thing? Is this really what I want to be doing? Am I sure I want to uproot my life and start over? What will my family and friends think about me going back to work?
Things always have a way of working themselves out, and I was extremely fortunate to get the position. It is good and meaningful work, and it is allowing me to establish and develop new relationships with many people I only knew by name. Plus, it is very close to home and flexible, which still allows me to be “mom.”
A slew of questions nagged at me. Am I doing the right thing? Is this really what I want to be doing?
In all honesty, though, I am nowhere near where I planned to be at this point in my life. A journalism major in college, I wanted to be a successful reporter for a major newspaper or magazine. I worked for a year at a local newspaper after I graduated, only to have to move when my husband got a job closer to where we grew up. After we moved, there were no journalism jobs available for a long time around our location. I worked as a sales manager at a flower shop and as a part-time teller at a bank, just to pay the bills.
Not my plan.
Then, when a job did open up at a newspaper in the large city close to us, I jumped at the chance to get back into journalism. When I interviewed for the position, it was full time, and it was in the lifestyle section. However, when I was offered the position, it was part-time, and it was in the sports section.
Not my plan.
I kept my part-time job at the bank during the day and worked the sports copy desk at night. After I had my first child, the bank offered me a full-time position, and I couldn’t turn it down. I ended up working my way up the ladder to vice president and branch manager.
Again, not my plan, but it was a great job and a great company, and it allowed my husband and I to continue to grow our family.
It was also never in my plans to leave the bank once I became VP. But after baby number four, being a stay-at-home mom was all I could think about.
I recently got together with a couple of friends from high school. We had a lengthy conversation about what happens when life doesn’t go as planned, and they both shared with me their current journeys and how they got to where they are now.
One friend had been teaching middle school science since graduating college. She told me she always knew she was going to be a teacher, and she absolutely loves science. It just made sense to her to combine the two.
But this past spring, she noticed her heart was not in teaching anymore, and she decided to leave the career she had always known to go back to school for a food science degree. When she told me of her big move, it made me feel more empowered with my own decisions, and I made it a point to let her know how supportive I was of her new endeavor.
My other friend had also decided to become a stay-at-home mom after several years in Corporate America. Like me, she never planned on quitting her job and staying home, but those plans changed. She now has an independent business that allows her to devote the majority of her time to her kids while earning a little money on the side. She referred to it as her “Act 2.” What a perfect analogy.
Life changes and evolves, and the plans we make when we are fresh out of school don’t always work for us when we enter our thirties and forties. For someone like me who always has a plan, that can be a scary pill to swallow.
But I’m here to tell you that it is OK. It’s OK to want something else for your life; it’s OK to leave toxic relationships and start over; it’s OK to change careers or go back to school in the prime of your life; it’s OK when things don’t go as you originally planned.
Our stories are never over until we take our last breath. There is always time to write and re-write our chapters. Act 2 is always better than the first, and it takes a whole lot of grit and grace to find what works for you and be brave enough to go after it.
So, let go of previous conceptions about the life you thought you wanted and believe that what is here and what is coming is better than what has gone.
Someday, everything will make perfect sense.
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It’s OK to want something else for your life; it’s OK to leave toxic relationships and start over; it’s OK to change careers or go back to school in the prime of your life; it’s OK when things don’t go as you originally planned.