So many of you commented after my last post. It seems I am not alone in trying to figure out what to do in this next phase of my life. I hate the phrase midlife crisis – there’s something so hackneyed and cliched about it. It works to reduce you, to make you feel that you’re being pathetic, whether or not a red ferrari is involved. But there’s no denying that something massive shifts around midlife for many of us – I have found this article by Brene Brown and this book by Claire Dederer hugely helpful. My experience of midlife is very different in practise from theirs but what they both eloquently describe is this feeling, at midlife, that what has worked before may not be working anymore – and that this time, it’s up to you to figure out what’s next.
This February I found myself waking up to the insight that I was not where I wanted to be in life. I had recently witnessed the death of someone very close to me and the reality of what is going to happen, at some point, was suddenly illuminated to me. Not so much that I will die – because in the abstract we all think about that and know that – but that one day I will be dead. And that will be all sorts of things to the other people in my life but my shift here will be done with. And there are things I want to do, places I want to go and things I want to experience. Very little of that is to do with stuff, very much of it is to do with other people, with travel, with doing things. I suppose, for the first time, it hit me with an urgency. And one of the things I want to do is craft some kind of meaningful working life in a way that I haven’t yet done.
Reading back that paragraph explains why I have not been blogging recently. In the midst of all the above considerations running was a steady talisman and training my daily practise. The goal, if anything, these past months, has been to battle my way through my conflicting thoughts and emotions and to gain some clarity as to what I wanted to do with my life and how I was going to do that. Running a marathon was, by comparison, an easy and joyful experience. Writing about running didn’t seem that interesting to me and I haven’t been sure about how to write about the above. I’ve written about it in private, but the response to my recent post has made me think that maybe I should be writing about what is going on right now, and what I’m dealing with. I could skim over my life, and just tell you about my training schedule, and then at some point present you with a job. Ta-da – I made it. Bu I don’t think just writing about running is that interesting to me anymore, and I think some of you will be interested to read how I will get to the next stage. In other words, sometimes it’s worth sharing the story of how the sausage is made rather than presenting you with one I prepared earlier.
And how is this sausage being made at the moment, you ask? Ha. I have been through a few iterations already. I started off by applying for a job on the shop floor at a well known athleisure brand. I thought I might be a good fit and would use my position on the shopfloor to bounce into some higher level stuff. A group interview with a team leader followed – she was so disinterested she couldn’t even boot up her laptop to take notes and it was followed by radio silence. This, by the way, is what I’m discovering. Very few employers bother to tell you you didn’t get a position. You just hear nothing. And eventually, I think, you’re meant to get that message that no, you did not get the job. I followed that up by getting connected to the Women Returners Network, a hugely impressive organisation dedicated to getting women back into the workplace after a career break. I got to be on a team that helped to shape a government document outlining how to get women back into the workplace and that was a hugely inspirational event. (We got to go to Downing Street and even saw our beleaguered PM from a distance).
However, most of the returner programs which really support women back into the workforce are aimed at women with more pre-break professional experience than I have, and so far my applications there have been unsuccessful as well.
And this is where running comes back into play. Over the years, I have chased all sorts of goals. But I have always stayed in my lane, ploughed my own furrow. Some people were faster than me, and that didn’t bother me, and others were slower – the comparison game never really had a big hold over me in running. I ran to the best of my ability, at that time, and have been really content with that. And I think that’s where I need to go with this next step – be flexible, but be myself. Listen to others, look at others, but don’t compare and stay true to myself. Right now my Linked-in profile is trying to be all things to all people and I need to rewrite it so it’s true to me and reflects my real self. I’m back at it this week my friends – stand by for the updates.