After coaching other people on making transitions for the past 4 years, I’m ready to take the next step myself. I’ve had one foot in and one foot out for a year and a half now; coaching one day and a couple of evenings each week. Many of you who are hard-core dual career folks know the drill; using lunchtimes to confirm appointments, weekends to update the e-zine, re-arranging things constantly, so that it all fits.
Then, as I moved into this year, complete with immobilizing snow storms, the other shoe dropped. I felt the itch to write again. I started and was lucky enough to have my first on-line article published by More magazine. It made me bold. I approached a friend and we began writing a play. Writing – being a writer – changed my focus. And coaching clients were calling at the same time! I think when we are on the right path, God clears the brush. I realized writing and coaching are two vital pieces to the portfolio life I wanted to live. They are like the Technicolor scenes in Wizard of Oz, and my job…well it was definitely shades of grey by comparison. It was time to take the leap!
So…I’ve resigned from my consulting job, effective mid-September. I’ve been very open about what my next chapter includes. Now here’s the freaky part. Despite the fact that I intend to really WORK as a coach and writer, some folks are congratulating me on my “retirement”! I can’t even find words for how jarring that has been! I looked it up—“retirement” means: “giving up work, withdrawal from business or public life, retreat, sequestration.” Please note it’s not folks who are a lot younger who seem to need to put me in that box. It’s folks who are themselves over 55. Do we really NOT believe we have the right and capacity to do challenging, exciting, fulfilling things after 55? I can’t help but wonder how many of us are mired in this internalized oppression. No doubt, our youth-mesmerized culture will challenge us to prove we bring something unique to whatever new career or creative endeavor we choose, but we won’t overcome that challenge unless WE believe to the tips of our toes that we do!
My intent, at this point is to share some insights about my journey through this transition—and I’d love to hear yours.
What are some of the insidious ways your dreams for a next chapter get undercut?
Who has been supportive as you’ve tried to transition to your next chapter?
I’ve been looking for opportunities to make a difference this morning. Pretending (or not) that there are great opportunites out there and I just need to find them. What I’m struck by is how boring websites and facebook pages for nonprofits truly are–I don’t mean the BigGuys with their direct streaming video and thousands of fans and twitter followers–I mean the local organizations that might really need your or my talents–where they really might make a huge difference! Now don’t get me wrong– they’re perfectly competent; they describe mission and services and opportunities to volunteer and donate,but they’re BORING. There’s nothing that compels me to act. And the bigger problem is they’re written for other nonprofit people, so there’s that capable administrative insider code going on, that frankly, I don’t need to learn for our first “date”. I wonder how many of these groups track who uses their webside and how. I wonder how many track outcomes. Now there’s a task!
Many of us are fortunate enough to be able to do at least some of our regular work at home during a major storm like today’s—and those of us who are old enough to remember those work days before computers and network connections are grateful BUT how does the prospect of more than one day like today, pounding out products alone at home leave you feeling? Productiveand in control? Ready to run screaming to an open
Starbucks? Like you ran in circles all day? It’s a good clue as to what kind of work or volunteer environment you need to be happy! Pay attention to your inner cues!
I have a vision. It involves the thousands of talented and savvy federal women who are ready to or thinking about or who have recently retired from federal service. I’ve worked with these women and I’ve been amazed at their skills and perseverance and their ability to accomplish impossible goals for their agencies. As I talk with my friends who fit this description, I find they fall into two camps—those who yearn for the freedom to come and go as they wish, to pursue hobbies and do absolutely nothing if they so choose and those who feel some apprehension about ending their careers—who may feel like they’re about to fall off the edge of the earth.
What I’m not hearing much about are women who have a passion to create real change in their communities—whether through a paying job or through volunteer activity – and could now take the leap and actually make a quantifiable difference without all the limits of federal programming.
The media is full of stories about women executives from the private sector who dive in with both feet to post-retirement work to change the world and I can’t help but wonder where my federal sisters are.
I know from my own experience that it isn’t that we “checked the box.” It’s not work that’s finished! I can’t believe that federal service has stamped out our passions for the many causes that still need champions. Do we feel we have nothing more to offer? Have we become cynical about whether change is really possible? Are we just so burned out that we’re ready to escape to the lifestyle equivalent of white noise?
I’m really curious and I invite you to weigh in! What are you doing to change the world now that you’re out of the bureaucratic box? What am I missing here? What would it take for you to commit yourself to a cause that’s important to you for a day a week or more? What would you need to make that a worthwhile exchange for your time?