People say 50 is the new 30. When I was 30, I was a television sitcom writer and I loved my job. I was good at it, I loved the camaraderie and I loved the challenge of the work. In my late 30’s I had my first child and I chose to stay home with him. I knew I made the right decision because I would stare at his adorable face for what I know now was so long that my husband would have to tell me to take a shower. I didn’t think about whether I would be able to go back to my job after my child or future children were in school. That “time off,” which as every mother knows is not time off at all, turned into seven years. At this point both my kids were in school and I was ready to go back to work. But seven years is a long time, and my agent had retired to a place where no one screams at him anymore, the network executives I knew had been replaced by college students, and the once popular shows I wrote for were in reruns on TV Land.
I wanted to find a career that I could do while my kids were in school and I thought about what I knew well. I have always eaten healthy and exercised so being a nutritionist seemed a logical choice for a career move. After getting my masters degree and setting up shop, I realized I enjoyed helping people, but this was not my passion. But for another seven years, I denied it because who goes back to school, works an internship, opens their own practice and then quits? I was taught as a child that I wasn’t supposed to quit anything, suck it up and push through is what I’d always done. Even though I had terrible stage fright as a kid, I was still forced to perform at piano recitals. I wanted to quit, but it wasn’t an option. Thank god, my parents had another, younger daughter that they finally turned their attention to which allowed me to stop playing. What did this teach me? Nothing, other than I would never pick up an instrument again for fear someone would ask me to play it for them. Maybe that wasn’t the best example.
In the last few months, I finally said out loud what I had been thinking for a while; I didn’t really love the nutrition thing. My father was a writer, my husband’s a writer and I have written my whole life, whether it was a diary, short stories or personal essays. I love to write and I felt guilty saying I wanted to stop my nutrition practice, because I committed to doing something practical that would bring in some money. My husband was more than supportive about me going back to writing, and even though we’re okay on the money front, I felt like a prima donna giving up a paying job. I questioned why I should be allowed to follow my passion, and then realized that if I didn’t get to follow it in my fifties, then when would I get to follow it? Would I be sitting on my death bed saying, “I’m so glad I never wrote that novel.” These are all the questions I asked myself in the last few months of 2014. The answer I came up with is commitments are important, and doing your best to follow through with them makes you a stronger person, but knowing when your commitment has outlasted your passion is important also.
I’m in my early fifties now, and I realized that I could have the same passion I had in my thirties. I decided to put the nutrition stuff on the back burner and begin my journey of writing a novel. Every day I struggle with my decision, but yet I keep writing. I’ve always told my kids that doing what you love in life will be the most important thing when they pick a career and I realized I need to follow my own good advice. So, every day I get up and begin a new chapter in both my book and my life.
If you’re looking to make a change in your life, give yourself permission to follow your passion no matter how old you are. One good way to do this is to list five things you love and are passionate about; it doesn’t matter if it’s cooking or even puppies. Look at the list and see which things could be turned into a job or career, then commit yourself to pursing it without listening to voices of doubt from others or inside your own head.