What do you do when you realize that you can’t continue down the same path you’ve been on and need to retool for the next thing, whatever that may be? I’m not an expert, but I’ve had all sorts of practice. My relationships, career path, physical abilities…you name it, and I’ll tell you I’m not where I expected to be.
Life changes, and you can either cling to the old, begging it not to leave you like some cartoon character wrapped around her mom’s leg being dragged through the toy store, or you can do your best to adjust while becoming the boss of your new you. Full disclosure — I’ve done a lot of the former. It doesn’t work. It leaves you bitter about what you can’t have and ill equipped to handle what you must do to move forward. There are a few things I’ve learned along the way:
- Even if you find a way to go back, it will be a hollow victory that just puts off the inevitable. A company I was working for signed up for a major outsourcing, and, as I was not happy with my employer to begin with, I inquired about openings with the outsourcer. Through a series of unfortunate events, I was ratted out. I had not done anything wrong, per se, but my employer said it was all water under the bridge. Instead of realizing that my future with my current employer was inescapably poisoned at that point and I should move on, I stayed. It was not in fact all water under the bridge. Six months later, I quit.
- Hanging on to the past for the wrong reasons is worse than cutting bait. Once upon a time before I met my current husband, I was engaged to someone else. He had a little boy I had grown to love and still do love like my own son to this day. I knew it was over, and folks, I clung to that relationship with everything I had. It was because I didn’t want to fail the child, not because of the fiancé. That logic caused me to make a series of decisions that, when viewed through the lens of objectivity, were idiotic. I kept paying for a house while renting an apartment five blocks away from the house so the child could stay in his home and keep going to his school (they moved out a month or two later and abandoned the house). I gave money to the fiancé every month for bills with no proof they’d been paid (they had not). It took a year or two to straighten out things. I still spent lots of time with the child afterwards, which I will never regret, but there was a great deal of unnecessary heartache along the way.
- The world keeps moving while you’re frozen in fear. I currently need knee surgery — like really need it. I’m worried about being in the hospital in the middle of a pandemic, worried about leaving my daughter for a couple of days to be in the hospital, and worried about dying. I’m not worried enough to make the big sacrifices necessary to get healthier so that all of those issues would be diminished; however, I am worried enough to freeze in place and pretend my knee is fine. This will end badly. I know it, and yet, like cute little Olaf, I’m…frozen. My knee has not stopped deteriorating, and I have not started to age in reverse. I have these aha moments that spur me to action for two days, maybe three, but then I’m back in my self-imposed block of ice. I’m honestly hoping that putting it down in writing like this might be just the kick in the tush that I need.
- The new might be way better than the old, but if you don’t have your eyes open to it, you’ll never know. After over a decade managing projects, I took off six years to stay home with my baby. When I went back to work, I ended up doing a little ghostwriting to make some money, which led to me eventually managing the writing group. When that company let everyone go, I had a decision to make; pursue writing, which I love and actually have more experience in than I give myself credit for, or try to get back into project management. I tried the PM route, The thing is, I have a chronic illness and a little girl who has been home all day (and needing school assistance) because of the pandemic. I can’t work full time, and I certainly can’t make up for almost a decade away from a field that changed its fundamental approach to everything while I was gone. In my heart of hearts, I know it’s over. I want to be a writer, I mean, I am one, but I’d like it to be my career instead of the thing I do until I get back to the other thing. I have an English degree, I’ve been writing, and it makes way more sense that I should move in that direction. So…that is what I’m doing. I think. “But what about the certification and the MBA and the experience. It was all for nothing.” No, it wasn’t. The time has come to mine that experience for what I can bring forward and move into a career that is much better suited to who I am now. I think.
I’m still figuring out life. We all are. The important thing is to keep learning and keep moving forward. There is (unfortunately, maybe) no pause button.