I am changing careers at 47, fulfilling a long-time dream of becoming a therapist. While it's exciting, it's also scary and I feel as though as a part of me is being left behind.
Being a therapist isn’t a new concept for me. Even as I climbed the media marketing ranks at big corporations such as Lifetime Television, Nickelodeon, and Oxygen Media, I often thought about jumping ship.
My commute was long and I traveled often for work—but as the years went on, I got better clients, better money and had a terrific amount of flexibility.
I was the image of a woman who has it all.
At what point would it be right to make a change? I had kids' schedules to maneuver and our lives were always in fast-forward motion. It was a lot to juggle and I didn’t want to cause disruption.
But maybe that's where I was wrong.
As a mom, it's very easy to sacrifice your own ambitions and get caught up in the life you are expected to live. I was wary of changing our rhythm. I didn't want to bring financial hardship on my husband by going back to school.
After I had my first child, now 14, I decided it was time, but still didn't make an immediate leap. I took a few classes, stopped, took a few classes, stopped again. I didn't fully "lean in" to my new career choice.
One might call it a lack of commitment.
But after a bout with cancer several years ago, I learned a thing or two about myself:
- I learned to value those around me more and not take anything for granted.
- I learned to value time and vowed to spend more time with my children. I even decided to travel more. Since then, I've circled the globe, traveling to Iceland, Hawaii, Mexico, Holland, Denmark, England, Poland, Austria and Germany.
- But the biggest lesson I learned is that life is finite. My new mantra became If not today, when?
After my diagnosis, time became of the essence. The time to switch careers was now but still, how could I anticipate the outcome of a new career path as a therapist? What it would be like to walk away from a solid, more predictable career in marketing to switch to a field with many unknowns? And importantly, am I be the right type of person to be a therapist?
I wasn't sure, but deep down I knew I had unfinished business and a next chapter of life to tend to. So I decided to start my studies.
After all, I'd be 50 in a few years.
Of course, on the very first day of my Master's program, I remember saying to myself, "What was I thinking?" My biggest fear about going back to school was being older than everyone else, but the nice thing is that the field of therapy and social services attracts people of all ages, like those of us in our 30s, 40s and 50s.
It's also a career well-suited to people with life experience. It actually helps if you've experienced obstacles and hurdles so that you can empathize and relate to people. Despite my initial concerns, it turns out I have so much going for me.
Part of my degree work includes doing field placement three days a week. I work with clients struggling with various issues and so for the first time in my career, I'm working face-to-face with people with real problems. I mean, real problems. These days I'm dealing with tough issues slightly out of my realm and am truly helping to change lives.
But old habits don't die easily and I'm surprised to admit that sometimes I miss my old career. As a culture vulture and media hound, it's where I fit in. And after a lifetime of collaborating with media-savvy colleagues on work that has always come very naturally to me, I sometimes feel stymied. I have a creative side and I haven't yet found that aspect of my next profession. But I know I will. After all, I will be marketing my new business when I'm certified as a therapist.
The one thing I do know is that I'm proud to be making the transition while I'm (relatively) young and my mind is nimble. My teenage daughter will watch me walk down the aisle in a graduation gown and cap next year, knowing that I completed something I set out to do.
The cancer diagnosis was tough. Going through three surgeries to make sure my body was clean and scrubbed of cells that could kill me was painful. But it kicked me into action to fulfill a dream.
It changed my career—and it changed my life.
This story is part of Spring.St's Back to Work series. You can find more here.