What happens when a life transition isn’t your choosing? Transitions in life are always a bit scary because they usually come with a high level of uncertainty. But life transitions that are of our own choosing, on our own terms can feel exciting, whereas the transitions that life seemed to choose for us can leave us feeling paralyzed.
Choosing to change jobs and move on to something better is a great thing; the office will probably have a going away party with cake and a toast to your success in your new endeavor. But what if you were laid off, or had some medical reason that no longer allowed you to do your job?
I was talking to a friend who was suddenly facing a big crossroad in his career. He had to face the fact that he might not be able to continue with his job due to a medical condition. He had been in the same line of work for almost twenty years and now in his mid-40’s he has to think, “What will I do now?”
So I posed the question to him, “What do you want to do? If you’re no longer doing your job, what can you see yourself doing?”
He really didn’t know how to respond to my question, he never really thought about it before. He then said, “I have no idea.” I asked him if he would be okay with just having a part-time job to fill in a financial gap that he might need, or if there is something he is passionate about that he can see himself doing.
When a life transition isn’t your choosing such as the problem with a career transition that is not of your choosing, is you haven’t had time to think of your life as anything other than what it has been. You didn’t expect that you would suddenly have to be choosing a new path, so how do you go from being in a career you loved and thought you would be doing for the rest of your life, to now in your mid-40’s deciding what you want to be when you grow up?”
I asked my friend to seriously think about what his passions are and what he’s good at. I asked him what skill sets he learned from his current job and how that can be transferred to another career. I told him to think outside the box, and that nothing is off the table. Even something that seemed like it was just a hobby such as cars, teaching, or pottery can turn into a fulfilling career with a bit of drive and imagination.
We have all experienced large transitions in our lives, such as leaving our parents homes, getting married, divorced, changing jobs, or making major geographical moves. Whether these transitions have been tremendously fulfilling, or they have been devastating, one thing is certain; change is inevitable so we might as well figure out how to get through it with as much grace as possible when a life transition isn’t your choosing.
These decisions can keep you up at night. How do you make this life change without it being so frightening? First, you need to look at your finances. I’m not a financial expert, but you need to take an honest look at where you are financially and be realistic about what you need to live comfortably.
Second, ask yourself what you can see yourself doing if your current job does come to an end.
When someone asked me the question when I was considering retirement from police work, “If you can do anything, what would you want to do?” My immediate answer was, “yoga teacher.” I didn’t know what that looked like or what my income would be. I had to prepare myself financially, and then I went on this ride that has brought me to teaching recovering addicts, victims of sexual abuse, the Army National Guard, prisoners in San Quentin, police officers and firefighters. Pursuing your passion, no matter how silly it may seem, can take you on a journey you never thought possible. So what is your passion?
I can get all woo-woo on you and say that what you put out into the Universe will come back to you if you let it. On the not so woo-woo spectrum, if you open yourself up to other possibilities, you can find something you are passionate about and with that passion and determination, you can do something that fulfills you in ways you otherwise wouldn’t have experienced at your old job.
You can find another career if the one you’re currently doing ends. There is life after X; whatever X is for you. I know people who have changed careers every couple years, and that works for them.
Be open to the transition, don’t dread it, and see how your life can evolve. If you dread it and fall into that black hole of dread, how can you expect there to be a good outcome? Embrace this idea of transitioning into something else-however difficult that may be-and don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Do something you never thought was possible, and make it happen for yourself. Big risks can reap big rewards.