I am embarking on a big change. I have a new job in a new state. And I am 59. When I started the process of searching for a new position (in September), I didn’t think that it was quite as momentous a change as it turns out to be. But, since accepting my exciting new position (in November), my friends have reminded me of the magnitude of this change. And now I feel deeply inside my skin and bones how big this change is and the effects of my decision.
I am at a stage in my life like a lot of my friends: an empty nester. My son graduated from college and is gainfully employed at Amazon.com. He loves his job but, more importantly, he loves Seattle and his new life. My daughter is graduating from Colorado College this May, and, while she is not sure what she wants to do, she is a hard worker (double major in physics and art), and I know that she will find her way. I don’t have to worry about them. Notably, I don’t have to be responsible for them anymore. Many of my friends who are in similar positions are going through major life changes. One couple is retiring. They are like college kids themselves in that they don’t know what to do next. But, they have the luxury of having enough money that they don’t have to work – ever again. Another couple is in the throes of splitting up. They have been unhappy for years and they are using the empty nest to try and finally find happiness. Other couples are figuring it out, one step at a time. The only thing they know is that change is inevitable.
For me, it started because it was time to look inward – something I rarely do – and ask myself: “If you are going to keep working for another 10 years, what do you want to do?” I probed, asking myself follow-on questions like, “What is really important to you?” And, “Where can you make the most impact, achieve the most satisfaction, and gain maximum fulfillment?” And, finally, “What will offer me the most challenge, the biggest adventure?” Because, if I am going to change, I want it to be big, not mundane.
So, I accepted a big new position and it is taking me away from Pittsburgh, where I have lived for 24 years. But I am not alone in change. My husband of thirty-three-and-a-half years is also changing. His change involved a switcheroo. First, he decided to retire (he is 65) so that he could follow me on my new job journey, wherever that took us. This decision was before I got my new job, so I was just seeking. Then a month after he “retired,” a lovely job dropped in his lap. This job was like a punctuation point at the end of a sentence for him – a perfect addendum to his career. The thing is that this job keeps him in Pittsburgh. And he actually got his job just before my offer came in. Before I really knew that it was coming in.
So what do we do now? “I don’t know what to do,” I kept wailing to myself. BUT, both jobs were made for us. I mean, if you read the job description of each job and knew us you would say, “This job has you written all over it!” We did what we were destined to do: we accepted both jobs.
At our age, any change is big. Changing jobs is really big. Changing two jobs at the same time is huge. And one of us being based in another state 532 miles away (in Mass)? Well, it’s nuclear in scope. At least from my point of view. But both my husband and I know that this is the right thing to do. It’s the necessary thing to do. We could no more turn down these opportunities than we could just cease to breathe. For our careers drive us, have always driven us. We are after self-fulfillment and we have limited time to achieve that goal. So, we start.
It is 2013 and we have new jobs, new living arrangements, and a long distance marriage. Thankfully, my job requires a lot of travel so I can arrange to be in Pittsburgh for long weekends. And thanks to my new employer, the NCIIA, I have some flexibility so that I can spend some time working from Pittsburgh when I must. I’m an entrepreneur, in the field of entrepreneurship at our nation’s universities, which is what the NCIIA does (supports entrepreneurship). So, I am practicing what I have preached for years to my students: “Think entrepreneurially. Focus on the opportunity; the rest will come.”