The truth about Starting Over at 56
By Guest Blogger: Laura Leavens
When my father was a boy, his mother used to tell him: “Go out every day with adventure in your soul.”
I’ve made that my motto as I journey through employment transition.
Some days it’s more mind boggling than adventurous. On those days I feel like Alice in Wonderland, or, more accurately, Laura in Employment Transition Land (ETL).
I’ve experienced a few gems of wisdom.
It’s possible to be surprised, even at 56. Almost six months ago I was invited to a meeting at work. I entered the room anxiously, but never dreamed I’d be leaving it unemployed. Foolishly I believed that 12 years seniority, hard work, and dedication meant job security. Much like a teenager unable to accept she’s pregnant, I was shocked to learn my job had been eliminated. That kind of thing only happened to others, not me. Guess what: if your company is restructuring and you’re the puzzle piece that doesn’t fit, it doesn’t matter if you are a really nice piece. You’re out.
2) Ego Stress
In the beginning I felt a range of conflicting emotions. Shock came first, then sadness, mixed with anger. Next came exhilaration at the freedom and possibilities, followed by fear. I couldn’t sleep the first couple of nights. When I was out in public I had a “deer in the headlights” look. Call it re-org, streamlining … being let go, no matter the circumstances, is tough on the ego.
Recognizing that my hurt feelings were symptoms of a bruised ego helped me to separate feelings from fact, and that helped me take my first wobbly step towards change.
3) Boot Camp Success
The first step involved keeping busy – very busy. I had a lot of energy and used it to exercise six times a week. In addition to regular classes, I joined a six-week Boot Camp where I pushed my body further than I had before. As the oldest member of the group, frequently unable to keep up, I gave it all I had. Imagine my delight when I lost more fat and inches than the others.
4) From Energy to Exhaustion
Employment Transition Land (ETL) won’t be all victories. There will also be setbacks. Deciding to focus on writing, I submitted articles, poems — even a book — to contests. I was sure I would win them all. I didn’t. A month into ETL I took what I thought would be a restorative trip away with my two young adult daughters. It ended up being so rife with stress, that when I got home, a travel bug came with me. I was weak physically and mentally for a while afterwards. A few weeks later I had a short-term four-day job. The work was mentally exhausting. The upside was being able to speak to others who were also in employment transition during lunch.
5) Clicking Away
“The new normal” came at my third month in ETL. Less and less was getting accomplished. I spent/spend a lot of time in front of my computer. Procrastination can disguise itself as making oneself aware of current events, networking and applying for jobs, when often it’s just a bunch of clicking. This fourth month marked my final month with employment consultants, who helped me to craft a resume and cover letters; they also assisted with interview preparation and taught valuable facts, one of them being that the majority of jobs come through networking. Although I sent out resumes, I didn’t get any interviews. I did become more involved in meaningful volunteer pursuits. I also joined a book club, which I really enjoy.
6) Facing My Giant
At the fifth-month mark I had my first interview. I prepared hard and thought I did well. Still no job! I told myself it simply wasn’t “my” job, and perhaps, age was a factor; however, facing rejection and disappointment was tough. I don’t recall ever not getting a job that I wanted and interviewed for. At first I shoved my feelings aside. Then I realized that I had to stare rejection in the face, feel the hurt, and learn from it. When I did so I felt peace and gratitude for the experience.
7) From Rejection to Reflection
ETL gives me time to think. I learned that I am a steward of resources which ought not to be squandered, things like:
- life and work experience
- gifts and skills
- passion for certain causes
- relationships with people I care about, and even with those I don’t
- energy level, health, money and time.
I don’t know how long I’ll be in Employment Transition Land, but I’ve decided to view it as a gift — one that gives me time to look inwards and outwards, learn/try new things, have some fun, read a lot of books, and try to do what my Grandmother urged … to go out each day with adventure in my soul.
How about you? What does Employment Transition Land look like for you?
- Soul adventure
- Wandering in wonderland
- Stuck in the rabbit hole