I’ve spent the better part of my adult life searching for meaning and ways to better myself, both personally and professionally. I struggled with addiction for a lot of that time, though I was still involved in “self-help” activities throughout.
I took the LSAT in 2000. I thought I would go to law school. After reading a few books about it and considering how much money I’d have to borrow to do it, I decided that going 100k into debt just seemed like the a bad choice. Also – didn’t do as well on the LSAT as I’d hoped.
I then pursued an interest in TV and Film in the early 2000’s by taking a few film production classes at the local college. I even went on the road, trying my hand at writing a screenplay with my then-partner and experiencing living in a van for many months to inspire us. Spending a small amount of time in LA, it quickly became clear that I was not meant for a Hollywood lifestyle. Just the idea of living in LA by itself: Nope, not for me. After about 10 months, we returned to Denver and I returned to the field of Developmental Disabilities which I’d spent most of my career doing since the age of 19. I was disappointed at first, but I remembered how much the clients meant to me and felt comfortable and fulfilled. At least for a while.
In 2009 (also the year I got sober), I went back to school at UC Denver to pursue a career in dentistry. I loved the idea of having my own business and having a very specific and valuable set of skills with which I could provide a much-needed service to an under-served population. I was planning to focus my practice working with adults with developmental disabilities. They have very unusual needs and I since I feel very comfortable with folks who have challenging behavioral issues, I loved the idea of providing care to them and their families. In order to get into dental school (which, it turns out, is quite competitive), I needed to take a boatload of chemistry, physics and more specific biology classes than I already had under my belt. I loved the idea of learning more about science, but I underestimated how difficult it would be to work full-time and undergo such a major undertaking. Learning chemistry from scratch is like learning a new language. Aside from attending the classes themselves, they recommend spending 20 hours a week just studying and reading which really is what it takes to understand all the concepts and learn the terminology. After reaching Organic Chemistry II (having taken into to Chem, General Chem I, General Chem II, labs for both, Organic Chem I and lab I), I realized that I could do well in the classes, but it took EVERYTHING I had I order to do it. I still had to work full-time to support myself and didn’t have the option to devote myself to full-time school. While spending time with and studying alongside my classmates, I began to realize how easy it came to them. Once they came to understand a new concept presented in class, they could easily take it in then build on it with the next lesson. I started feeling way out of my depth. I felt like I just wasn’t cut out for a career in a scientific field of study. I was very saddened by the realization but also happy that I at least tried.
Since then, I furthered my career in Human Services and Developmental Disabilities by working in the state policy office and then on to 2nd level management in a DD regional center. I’m glad I did this because it allowed me to make more money and get out of debt, in addition to learning more professional skills and working alongside impressive and powerful people. I learned a lot about dealing with bullies in the workplace and supervising people.
My life took a drastic and fantastic turn in 2014 when I met my soon-to-be husband and then got preggers in 2016. I had my beautiful daughter in September of 2016 and left work to stay home with her for a while. Thanks to a recent sale of both his and my homes in the amazing seller’s market going on in Denver, we were able to purchase a new home and make enough profit to live off of for a couple years while I stayed home with the baby. I’m also just starting an MSW program so I can take my new skills into a different realm. I look forward to working with people and families in a more formal capacity, talking with and guiding them through therapy and short-term interventions.
Over time I’ve developed some strategies for making changes in my life and, more recently, “reinventing myself” later in life. I’d like to pass those ideas along to support and inspire any of you who may feel they are too old or too settled to make major life changes. I’m 43 years old as of this writing and I’m just now having my first child, starting a master’s program and getting married.
Here are some practical tips for reinventing yourself later in life:
- Count your blessings:
Be grateful for what you have right now; today. You are so much more blessed than you realize. I’ve said this many times before, as have so many brilliant people before me. It sounds so simple and yet it’s incredibly powerful. Even if it’s just one or two things you say to yourself on your way to work. Or while you’re getting ready in the morning. Or while you’re drinking your first cup of coffee in the morning. There are millions of people who don’t have what you have. You are truly blessed. Until you can be grateful for what you have, you are much less likely to receive more.
- Go to school:
Many people toy with the idea of getting a masters or finishing their bachelor’s degree. These are great ideas but also require a large commitment of time, money, and energy. You could just take a class or two at the local college to get the juices flowing and to renew your joie de vive. The class doesn’t necessarily need to lead to a degree or new career. I had always had an interest in science but never explored it in formal schooling so I decided to take some chemistry classes. I learned a lot about the building blocks of matter and it was truly fascinating. Fascinating and really hard! But it felt great knowing I still had it in me to dedicate myself to something I cared about.
- Try meditation
This sounds very daunting if you’ve never tried it or you might think it’s “too new agey” for your taste. It has been proven many times over that meditation activates both sides of the brain and integrates your thought processes which are usually compartmentalized. Focusing your attention inward can have significant positive effects on self-esteem, productivity, and mental health. Even if you just give it a few minutes, do yourself a favor and try it out. There are countless guided meditations available for free on YouTube. These are great in the beginning to help you focus your attention and increase the flow of positive thoughts. Negative thoughts will definitely be there and that’s ok. The key is just to recognize the thought, acknowledge it and let it pass. There are many talented and spiritual people out there who know much more on the subject than I. But just know that it’s not hard; anyone can do it. Do a little research and find out for yourself.
- Get a new certification:
There are short programs available for professionals who would like to increase their skills and marketability. These are great ways to build up your confidence and focus your attention on improving your life. They are generally pretty inexpensive and don’t require a huge commitment such as A project management certificate program, Lean and Six Sigma certifications, and a variety of leadership trainings specific to your profession or locality. There are also umpteen trainings and continuing education workshops available in every profession. Not only do those look great on a resume but they can also renew your interest in what you chose to do for a living and even expose you to a new area you hadn’t even thought about before.
- Learn a new hobby or skill (yes- I mean learning for pleasure):
Many big cities have continuing education colleges/learning facilities for non-credit courses for the purposes of personal development. They are usually very low-cost and topics range from learning to play piano to learning how to build a website to the art of small talk. These are fantastic ways of exploring an interest with very little financial investment. Also a great way to meet new people, network, and potentially propel you into an entirely different career. I’ve taken many courses of this type and absolutely love them. I highly recommend this as a means of finding out new things about yourself in a no-pressure environment where everyone else is doing the same thing.
- Change your hair:
Here me out. It sounds silly and even petty. But go ahead – get rid of the gray. Try a new color or a totally different cut. You’ll be surprised how much this will impact the way you view yourself. It could give you a whole new attitude with very little effort. But it does, for some, take a lot of courage. Especially going from long to very short. But remember – hair grows back. You have nothing to lose.
- Only Positive Self-Talk from now on:
People often use negative statements while thinking about changing their lives. What you put into your head is what you get out of your life. Even ifyou say something like “get out of debt,” the word “debt” is still in your thoughts. Better to phrase it so that your gaining something, like “financial abundance” or an exact amount of money (perhaps the amount you owe). Focus on what you want in a positive way and try to clear your mind of the negative spin you put on things. It seems so much easier to focus on what’s wrong, but this is just digging a deeper hole and moving in the wrong direction. They say that you become what you think about. So think about what you are and want to be. You’ll be surprised by the difference it makes.
You can choose to live life on purpose. Get out there and do it!