My Mid-Life (Career) Crisis

“So – do you want an extra side of crazy with that mid-life (career) crisis you’re having?”, said that voice inside my head – and even out of the mouths of those around me.

After working in the advertising field for over 20 years, one day I found myself unemployed. One of the things I welcomed in my newfound state of unemployment was the time I had to really sit back and think about ME. I had been working since I was 16 years old and I relished in this (forced) break, so to speak. But I have to admit, as I went through the process, I felt like I was going through my own mid-life (career) crisis, wondering if I had completely lost my mind and sense of reality.

I have been extremely fortunate in my career. When I worked in my former field – I had stability, enjoyed my work, liked the people on my team, was respected and treated very well. I honestly could not have asked for a better gig for as long as it lasted – and I know how lucky I was. Did I love everything I did at work, every single day? No, I did not – but I accepted that in any job (or anything in life for that) you take the good with the bad. We weigh those pros and cons. There may always be a list of cons – but to me, as long as the con list remained shorter than the pro list, I was golden. Or was I?

I have a confession to make. Despite “how good” I had it, and even way before I was laid off, I often had “those thoughts”.   Is this job for me anymore? What else am I capable of? Is this what I was “meant” to do? Do I find this work gratifying anymore? And even worse – did I really ever find this work truly gratifying? Whenever these thoughts crept in (and seemed to invade my space), it was often after a terrible day, or when I was just under more stress than I typically was. So, I generally just talked myself through it, calmed down, and then pumped myself up again to face tomorrow. That’s what responsible adults do, right? It is. But when this little act starts becoming routine – to have to constantly pump yourself up, well maybe it isn’t. Maybe the responsible, “adult” thing to do is to start doing some serious soul searching and to really push and challenge myself.

So that’s what I started doing. I thought about what I loved about my job. Not liked, or tolerated – but what I really and truly LOVED. And it came down to this. I loved my direct interactions with those I managed. I loved getting to know each of them as individuals. Understanding their strengths and weaknesses. Thinking about how playing to everyone’s strengths made the team operate more efficiently and produced our best work. I loved mentoring them. I loved teaching them. I loved that they trusted me enough to come to me for advice or direction – with not only their work struggles but their personal ones as well. To know that even a small exchange I could have had with them, may have impacted them enough to have a positive influence on them – or to know that I may have helped them in the smallest way – were the parts of my job that I truly found the most gratifying. And I was, am and will always feel honored and truly humbled to have not only gotten to know them – but to have touched their lives in any positive way.

As crazy as it may seem – or maybe as crazy as I really am – this little “detour” in what was a fruitful career, was actually a blessing for me. Am I crazy for saying that getting laid off was a good thing for me? Maybe. Maybe not. But I will say with more sanity than I have ever felt in my life, that this respite was one of the best experiences of my life. I re-grouped. I regenerated. I became refreshed. Could I make a career out of doing all those things that I loved about my job? Did such a career even exist? It did, and I put myself on the right path to get it done. Was I crazy for taking a leap and not just continuing what was tried and true? Maybe. Maybe not. The fact of the matter was that my respite also got me thinking more about my own mortality. Relax, I’m not planning on going anywhere anytime soon. But, I acknowledged that if I wanted to make a change – the time had come. There would always be the negative Nellies smiling and half-heartedly telling me “HOW NICE!” what I’m planning is. And then go back to their office and tell everyone that we both know that I’ve completely lost my marbles. You know what? Who cares? I decided that it was an honor if my possible career change was the most exciting thing they had to talk about. And what would have been the worst that can happen here anyway? Well, for me it was failure at something I was – and am – passionate about. But if I did fail, I would just have to try again. And I would have that much more experience to add to my resume.

I started with a quote (so to speak) from those little voices (inside – and even outside – my head), and I’ll end with this other quote I came across while thinking about this blog post:

“Middle age is not the beginning of decline, but a time to reach for the highest in our selves. Middle age is a pause to re-examine what we have done and what we will do in the future. This is the time to give birth to our power.” ― Frank NataleThe Wisdom of Midlife: Reclaim Your Passion, Power and Purpose

So, was I having a mid-life (career) crisis? I really hope so.