new career challenges at mid-life

Suzie’s Story: “Need” is a Funny Word

Here I was, 59 years old, 28 years into the legal profession,
remarried for 13 years and enjoying a secure and satisfying
relationship with a truly special person. My children are grown
and well settled into positive and long term relationships; we
have four grandchildren and one more anticipated in the future.
I have a lovely home, good health (except for some minor
mechanical problems), lovely friends, warm sibling relationships,
and time to read, garden, listen to music, and knit. What more
could anyone need?

“Need” is a very funny word. One thing I need is for my work to
be challenging, interesting, and enormously satisfying. Another
thing I need is a plan for my career path. In each position I
have had, I have set goals for myself – I promised myself that
I would work diligently to accomplish these goals. If I met my
goals, I would move on. After a reasonable time, if I could not
accomplish these goals, I would still move on.

In my last position, some goals had been reached, but the nature
of the job changed and I became removed from the work that I
loved. I am not complaining – I developed new skills and
broadened my interests.

So, in keeping with my promise of not overstaying my welcome,
I began to scour the papers for other opportunities. I also
considered retiring at age 60 and taking art courses. Why?
Because throughout my schooling, the one area in which every
teacher concurred was my lack of artistic ability. I couldn’t
draw, paint, sculpt – or even color in the lines! So I was
determined to learn.

But I soon became disenchanted with the notion of retirement.
Sure, my hair is white, there are lines around my mouth,
it takes a few minutes to straighten up my body in the morning.
I can remember all of the animals that comprised the Flubadub
yet I can’t remember why I walked into the kitchen. I fall
asleep in a chair – much as I remember my grandmother doing.
But I just wasn’t going to give in to aging.

While scanning the legal rag sheet, I saw an advertisement for
a position on an important State Commission. Why not?
So I put together my resume, which had not been updated in
umpteen years. The next thing I knew, the application was in
the mail. I received a call and was asked to come in for an
interview. Interview! I hadn’t been on an interview in 13 years!
I’m old! I look old! Who’s going to hire an old lady? HELP!

No sooner was the job offered than I had a huge panic attack.
What am I doing? Why am I leaving a job that I know in an office
that is only 10 minutes from home to go to a job about which I
know very little in an office that is a 40 minute commute each
way? What about reading, listening to music, knitting, enjoying
the grandchildren, gardening? AM I MAD???

No. I know exactly what I am doing. I am not an old person –
I am an energetic person who feels that I have so much more to
learn, so much more to do, and so much for which to be grateful.
Also, I have goals for this job – goals that I think I can meet.
And think about it, if I can’t accomplish them in five or six
years, I should leave, and if I can accomplish them in that
amount of time, I should leave anyway to make room for newer,
fresher and better ideas – besides, then I’ll be over 65 and
on Medicare!


Stepping Stones: Reflect on Your Needs

This isn’t the first time we have explored shifting gears in
mid-life. We have heard from Claudette, Maxine, Marika, Lisa
and now Suzie – each has chosen a path that was right for her.
Every woman’s story is different and her situation unique.

What each has in common, and is emphasized in Suzie’s story,
is the importance of recognizing your own needs.

** Suzie needed to rock the boat – a very comfortable boat!

Why would you change your life if things were going well?
What would help you recognize your motivation for change?
If you were to change, reflect on which path you would take.
Would you return to a previously unfulfilled dream? Would
you try something new? If life is good, what helps you
appreciate the moment?

** Suzie needed to stretch herself through new challenges
and learning.

What are your needs? Are they financial, creative, social,
intellectual? Do you need to have stimulation, serenity,
beauty, balance in your life? Is it important for you to be
productive, to give back to the community, to be supportive
of others?

** Suzie needed to to set goals for herself.

Is goal setting helpful to you or is a spontaneous process
more your style? If you are a goal setter, how do you choose
your goals? How do you make and execute your plan to reach
them? If you “go with the flow,” what gives you momentum?

Whether you are now thinking about shifting gears or enjoying
the pleasures of the moment, we hope you find these steps useful.


Recommended Resources:

“Authentic Happiness” by Martin E.P. Seligman, 2002

Will meeting your needs make you happy? Dr. Seligman
demonstrates how you can identify and use your own personal
strengths to achieve a fulfilling life. Based on current
research, this insightful book outlines strategies
to help you experience “authentic happiness.” Narratives

Review the narratives of other women’s stories and the related
Stepping Stones. This may help focus your thinking by
identifying elements in situations addressed by other women
which resonate with you.

We are asking you to share a part of yourself with us. Please
take a few minutes to let us know what is important to you
and how you go about taking care of yourself. With your
participation, we will be able to broaden the results of our on-going research.


Our Invitation to You

Do you have your own transition story? We invite you to
share it with our readers for the benefit of women who
themselves may be dealing with similar changes. The skills you
used may be Stepping Stones for others. If you are interested,
please e-mail us.

(c) HerMentorCenter, 2002