From our newest GGTW blogger Lori Bunton
You’re blowing out the candles on your 30th birthday cake and it hits you: This is not where I thought I’d be at this age—working for a doctor, making a few dollars more than minimum wage.
At the same time, you realize that without a better job, you wouldn’t be able to take care of yourself or your children if your spouse left or died. Because even though your spouse is loving and supportive, you are 100 percent dependent on him to survive.
Even before the candles are completely extinguished, you look at your two wonderful children, especially your daughter, and wonder, “What is my legacy to my children, especially to her?”
And by the time you start to cut the cake, it hits you hard that you must make changes in your life before it’s too late—before you’re too old, too beaten down, or worse yet, destitute.
But how? What do you do? Where do you go? And is it too late already?
This is my story, and it starts several decades ago.
I married right out of high school in 1971, giving up a full, two-year college scholarship to leave home and follow my husband as he pursued his career. Two children followed quickly, and I worked odd jobs and managed the home and children—just like my mother did and her mother did, and all the women of my generation had been trained to do. By the time of my 30th birthday in 1983, I had already witnessed the peak of the second wave women’s movement in the 60’s and the enormous changes in women’s lifestyles in the 70’s. So when I had these revelations about my life, there appeared before me many more options available to women than when I left home twelve years prior.
That made my future appear both exhilarating and intimidating! And I knew I needed to focus in order to move forward and not get bogged down in all the choices.
I started by asking myself, “What do I want to do? And what am I good at?”
Oh, I think it’s a good time to mention that research at this pre-internet time had to be done at the library. (There was no Google!) So, to help answer these questions, I started by reading a wonderful book that was very popular at the time called What Color is Your Parachute? Ostensibly a job-search manual, it actually went deeper than most manuals, offering exercises that included skills assessment, goal setting, exploration of career options, decision-making, and action planning. I took the aptitude and interest tests in the book and began investigating the opportunities at the university near where I lived. And because online learning was not yet available back in the 80’s either, I also gathered any brochures and catalogs I could find for community colleges and tech schools in the area. By the end of this exploratory phase, I had answered my first questions! I loved psychology and persuasion. I loved communication and I was good at it, too. It was time to move onto the next question.
“What do I do with my strengths and interests?”
Through my thought process, it became clear to me that the next phase in my life would look very different than the current one, so I realized I also had to get my partner on board with my idea. That’s when the first leg of what I call My Persuasion Journey began. I had to explain to my husband that in order to accomplish my goals, I would need not only his financial help, but also the same level of emotional and at-home support that I’d been giving him since we first married. I began to realize that the only limitations to my success, once my partner and I figured out the finances and the day-to-day logistics, were my will and desire. I began to realize that I could do this!
Thus began the next phase of my journey…going to college for the first time in my 30’s!
There is something other worldly at being the oldest student in a room, at being older than some of the teachers and picking up subjects I hadn’t looked at in more than a decade (Hello, trigonometry!). Coming home from a day at college to prepare dinner for my family, then help them with their homework plus do my own studying, was challenging and, frankly, exhausting. But, that exhaustion was accompanied by the sheer elation of stretching myself, of becoming me—not just someone’s wife or mother—but me, the student, the study partner, and the woman who said, “It’s my turn to succeed.” And that positive energy is what kept me going and excelling.
Within three years, I earned a four-year Marketing degree, achieving a 3.92 GPA, which allowed me to join one of the most prestigious pharmaceutical companies in the US. At the age of 35, I was able to start a career that provided me with intellectual satisfaction, purpose, and financial freedom! I had, indeed, begun to change my life and the legacy I would leave for my children.
My career opened me to a world of opportunities and travel I never would have experienced if I had stayed where I was when I blew out those candles—following in my mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps, too afraid of trying something new, and thinking I was too old to start over. The journey that began that day taught me it is NEVER too late to pursue your dreams. You just have to look inside and say, “What do I want? Who do I want to be?” And GO GET THE WORLD!
Do you have a story to share about how you dared to dream bigger than what was expected of you? Tell us about it!
2 thoughts on “You Can Be the Change You Need”
Lori, I so needed to read this today! I am weeks away from graduating from an online degree completion program with my bachelors in psychology at the age of 43. I am proud of accomplishing this, but I am also a bit worried and wondering, will it be worth it? Is the ideal career path still out there waiting for me to get onboard? You put some wind in my sails just when I needed it. Thanks for sharing your story!