It’s an interesting thing, this dichotomy in my household. My husband and I are on the far end of our careers. While we have quite a few years to work before we retire, we’re both pretty settled in our careers and are really at this point counting time to retirement. I like my job and the people I work with, but I’m becoming comfortable with the fact that my career has peaked and at this point, I’ve probably risen as high as I’m going to. In some ways, that’s just a little sad, since I originally set out to conquer the world, but I think I did okay.
At the same time, we have these two young people who are just getting started. While it’s been at least a couple of decades since I was in their shoes, I remember what it was like to come out of school and suddenly be faced with a bewildering array of choices. Which direction shall we head? Which job should we pursue? Add to that the fact that while the economy has improved, it’s still a tough job market, and they will have more of an uphill climb than we did.
The kids don’t really have the luxury to be philosophical about work at this point; in a down economy you have to take what you can get and work as hard as you can to move up within the opportunity that presents itself. That said, work takes up so much of our lives that we want it to be not only financially rewarding but also meaningful. That second bit is the tricky part, because so much of the work that needs to be done in our society isn’t what you would call spiritually fulfilling.
One of the trends I’ve found interesting in the past few years is that as we middle-aged folks were cut loose from jobs or careers we’ve been in for decades, many are taking the opportunity to reinvent themselves. Some have started small businesses; some have gone back to school. I met a mechanical engineer who, after being laid off from his job at a manufacturing plant, went back to school and got a degree that will let him work in non-profits – something he’d always wanted to do but didn’t feel he could because of his commitments and income expectations. In some ways, getting laid off freed him to try something new. In some ways, I’m envious and wish I could do the same.
I’m a believer in taking my own advice, though, and as I told a friend recently, you don’t have to remake your entire life to integrate things that give you meaning. It’s okay to do things outside your full-time job that feed your soul. I’ve been pondering this for a while, and I can’t yet tell you what that means will change in my life, but the universe has a way of sending you the answers when you’re ready.
So, universe, I’m listening….what have you got for me?