Finding a career while staring down 50

You hate your job?  Why didn’t you say so?  There’s a support group for that.  It’s called EVERYBODY and they meet at the bar.  – George Carlin

My son, smart child that he is, likes to call me on what he thinks is my b.s.  “Find something you love and the rest will work out.   Why didn’t you?” Crap.  Did I say that?

My son isn’t a fan of school at the moment. Monday mornings are particularly tough.  He’s a good student, and up until now, has really liked school, if for no other reason than hanging out with his friends all day, vending machines with junk food, and the greater likelihood of seeing girls his age  than he would at home.  But he’s also a high school freshman in one of the most competitive school districts in the country.  He’s gone from being spoon fed by teachers to having to fend for himself.  It’s great experience, but it’s not a lot of fun.  He leaves for school tired and grouchy and comes home the same way.

I have sympathy for him, but my alternative reaction on days when I’m tired and drained and nice mommy is locked in the closet,  is “suck it up and get used to it.”

I loved market research when I started–the thrill of finding insights hidden in masses of data, a consumer who pinpoints the issue in a succinct and compelling manner, leading clients to that ah-ha moment.  The great irony of life is that once you find something you like to do and get good at it, you spend less and less time doing it, and more time managing other people doing what you wish you were still doing.  Managing and doing are very different skill sets.  Being good at a function doesn’t mean you’re at all qualified to lead other people.  Industry has an up or out mentality, so there’s no lingering in the doing phase.  Too long and you’re “not progressing.”  Lingering also hurts the paycheck.

My grandfather chided me for leaving my first job after two years. “You kids want everything right away.”  The world is very different now than when he was my age.  Now, comfort = complacency. People are living longer (particularly women) and retiring later (everyone).  Forever in one career is a long time.  Having a mid-life reboot makes sense.  The corporate world (hopefully) will catch up with demography and realize that older ≠ outmoded.  Change, within and between careers is the norm.

When I was still in the marketing research industry, my friends used to say I was the only person they knew who was still doing what they set out to do in college.  Now that I’ve walked away from that career and taken up writing full-time, they remember that I always talked about writing and congratulate me for following through on it.  So I can tell my son that my seeming inconsistency is really consistent after all.

But that doesn’t mean writing is always great.  I’ve been working on a platform challenge for the last month, balanced with my novel and submissions and two blogs along with my playing commitments, and yeah, sometimes I get overloaded.  I like cake too, but that doesn’t mean I want to eat 2 or 3 at one sitting.

So that leaves me three life lessons to pass along to my son.  1) Dreams happen in their own time  2) Life is long, change happens and 3) Even great things suck sometimes — look at the Sox–get used to it.  And he’ll say “Yeah, Whatever.”  At least he’s consistent.

Words by J. B. Everett

Photograph by J. J.