Reinventing yourself as you age
When I was a teenager, for a brief moment until I realised I was not actually a good songwriter, I was certain that I wanted to be a professional singer.
In college I enrolled with enthusiasm in a course of study known as “international relations” which I was assured would lead to a civil service career or the diplomatic corps. That lasted until I discovered that political science was incredibly boring and that I was surprisingly inept at macroeconomics, leaving me with an eclectic curriculum of history, computer science and astronomy courses and no firm plan as to what I wanted to be when I grew up.
It might be fair to say that I am still figuring that out, but along the way I have worn some interesting hats, had some great experiences and made a few wonderful friends. It is also fair to say that having changed directions several times during my journey has taught me a few things about patience, tolerance and fitting in.
In the early days, I changed jobs more than once, as much to elude an overbearing boss as to advance my career. I thought that this was how things were always going to be until it struck me that every time I found a new job, I wound up working with more or less the same cast of characters dressed in different clothes.
Every office, it seemed, had a class clown, a slacker, a “miss perfect” (although she was sometimes residing in the body of a “he”), a rule breaker, an introvert … high school with better amenities — you get the picture. And then there was me — boundless enthusiasm and positivity and desperate to be part of a team and given interesting things to do.
You know, while my patience was a bit slow in developing, I did quickly figure out that there was a reason that they paid me to show up for eight hours a day and behave at this place they called “work” — if it was really just “fun” I would have showed up for free.
Silly as it sounds, this simple realisation changed how I viewed work and serving others permanently because I finally realised that maybe I never would find the “dream job”, but that did not mean that I could not make whatever job I was doing into the “dream job for me” at that moment; for me, this turned out to be by maximising my opportunities to meet people and help whoever was standing in front of me.
While others around me hid in their cubicles sending e-mails and avoiding the phone, I went out and met my clients face to face. Yes, I occasionally encountered someone who was truly unpleasant, or justifiably upset, or looking for a victim to punish, but the fact that I was there, unafraid of entering “the blast zone” and willing to listen seemed to change both them and me, and I never faced a situation that I was unable to resolve in some way or other because I always cared about the people in front of me.
I wish I could tell you that I just woke up smart one day and embarked on a mission to remake myself and change the world, but that is not how it has worked for me. It has been (and continues to be) an odyssey filled with life lessons, culture clashes and moments of introspection; but it also continues to be a journey that I highly recommend.
I can’t promise you that you will make millions of dollars, be hugely famous or rule the world, but I can promise that you will always have places to go and things to do and you will always find a doorway leading to the next step — if you are willing to take it.
• Robin Trimingham is an author and thought leader in the field of retirement who specialises in helping corporate groups and individuals understand and prepare for a new life beyond work. Contact her at www.olderhoodgroup.com, 538-8937 or email@example.com