Work and Money
Dear Career-Gap Me, Am I Still Relevant?
“So, listen up, 18-year-old me, here’s how life is going to play out for you. You’re going to go to college, get a degree (two degrees, actually), get married to your best friend, pay back student loans for many years while you climb the corporate ladder only to realize you don’t like climbing, so you quit to start your own publishing business and do some freelance writing. You’re going to love this!”
“But even so, after realizing you’ve been married for a freakishly long time without having children (10 years by choice, much to the dismay of both sets of parents), you decide you’re finally ready to have kids (two boys) and then — wait for it — put your career on hold (for just a decade or so) while you throw yourself into the stay-at-home mom role and (gulp) also homeschool the boys as the pièce de résistance.”
“Wait, what?” you stammer. “But what about my B.A. in communications and my M.A. in public relations? My writing career? Can I still earn money? Am I still … relevant?”
(Insert muffled chuckle.)
“Well, that 10-year employment gap virtually kills your ability to pick up where you left off. But, if you don’t mind starting over, earning half of what you used to and competing with tech-savvy 20somethings who are willing to put in 80 hours a week climbing that corporate ladder, then yes, you can jump right back in.”
This is the birth story of my humor blog and how it helped spark my creativity and relaunch my writing career after an extended hiatus raising and educating my two boys.
"Even though I had 25 years of writing experience under my belt, I discovered that I’m now an experienced newbie trying to reclaim my stake in the business world as I learn new lingo and get up to speed on the latest technology."
With my younger son now in 10th grade at our local public high school and my older son now in college, it was time for me to dust off my writing mojo and find my groove again. Although I spent many years cranking out marketing copy, business communications, and PR materials for both corporate and non-profit clients, I just needed a fresh, creative way to reboot my career at the age of 49.
Even though I had 25 years of writing experience under my belt, I discovered that I’m now an experienced newbie trying to reclaim my stake in the business world as I learn new lingo and get up to speed on the latest technology. I no longer write; I produce content. I no longer seek experts to interview; I seek thought leaders. Everything’s got a shiny new name. Throw in a decade of new technology to master (from cloud computing to social media to mobile devices) and I started wondering how long it would take to shake off the grogginess of my Rip Van Winkle career nap.
To ease back into my writing career, I took an unexpected route. On the advice of no one, I launched a humor blog called Tweenior Moments, a wordplay on the phrase “senior moments” for a younger, not-quite-ready-for-AARP crowd. I found a lot of humor in midlife as I bumbled through the challenges of being a “tweenior” — stuck somewhere in middle-age between young and old, between a hotter pre-baby body and a better-stick-to-a-one-piece-bathing-suit body; between an I’ve-got-all-the-time-in-the-world attitude and a let’s-start-shopping-for-burial-plots awareness; between a call-me-anytime invitation to my friends and a moratorium on any calls after 9 p.m.
I needed to redefine my writer’s voice (and myself), now that I’m a midlife career girl, and my humor blog helped me jump-start the whole process in a fun, low-pressure way. Thanks to my blog, I mastered the basics of WordPress, discovered how to source free stock photos, learned about SEO, wrote for a shorter-attention-span online audience, promoted on social media, and engaged with readers. And along the way, I laughed my butt off, which definitely wouldn’t have happened if I jumped back into writing news releases and product brochures right away.
"That creative part of me that has lain dormant for so long? It’s alive and kicking, and I embraced it like a long-lost friend."
More importantly, my blog reminded me how much I missed writing. I missed the excitement of playing with words, toying with the nuances of different word choices. (i.e., Should I use “homeschoolers” in my article about academic choices or “educational deviants”?). I missed seeing my byline on something I wrote, confirming that yes, I do indeed still have talent — especially after surviving the brain fog of motherhood. I missed the creative spark that writing brings to my life after being dulled by years of monotonous tasks like meal planning, carpooling, and nagging my kids about picking up their dirty socks.
Over the course of a year, my writing career gained traction as I made new contacts, built relationships with editors, and got published beyond my blog in print and online, including The New York Times. I launched my writer’s website, welcomed new copywriting clients, and I honestly look forward to every Monday when the workweek rolls around again. That creative part of me that has lain dormant for so long? It’s alive and kicking, and I embraced it like a long-lost friend.
Despite all the struggles of being an experienced newbie, I realize that I’ve already accomplished the hardest job on earth: being a parent. I’ve survived thousands of diapers, the terrible twos, sibling rivalry, picky eaters, homework battles, teaching my sons to drive, and the teenage years. A midlife career reboot? I got this.
“Dear midlife me: You’re going to be just fine. P.S. Don’t ever lose your sense of humor.”
This piece was originally published on TheReset.com.