My internal conversation went something like this…
“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), marry 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 – one with Asperger’s and one with ADHD). You put your career on hold (for just a decade or so) while you throw yourself into the stay-at-home mom role and (gulp) 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 15-year employment gap virtually kills your ability to pick up where you left off. If you don’t mind starting over, earning half of what you used to and competing with tech-savvy 20-somethings who are willing to put in 80 hours a week climbing that corporate ladder, then yes, you can reenter the workforce.”
With my younger son now in 10th grade at our local public high school and my older son in college, it was time for me to dust off my writing mojo and find my groove again. I spent many years cranking out marketing copy, business communications and PR materials for both corporate and non-profit clients. I could surely engineer a fresh, creative way to reboot my career and get back to work after kids, all at the age of 49.
The problem is that I’m 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. And times have changed.
I no longer write; I produce content. I no longer hand in a finished project; I produce deliverables. I no longer seek out experts to interview; I seek out 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-like career nap.
To ease back into my writing career, I took an unexpected route. On the advice of no one, I launched a 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 my life, stuck somewhere between a hot 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.
This blog helped me redefine my writer’s voice (and myself) and jumpstart the process in a fun, low-pressure way. Thanks to my blog, I’ve mastered WordPress, sourced free stock photos, learned about SEO, promoted on social media and engaged with readers. Along the way, I made myself (and hopefully others) laugh, which definitely wouldn’t have happened if I jumped back into writing news releases and product brochures right away.
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. I missed the creative spark that writing brings to my life.
Over the course of a year, my writing career gained traction, as I made new contacts, built relationships with editors and published pieces in print and online. I launched my writer’s website, welcomed new copywriting clients and I honestly look forward to every Monday when the work week 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 realized I’ve got this.
“Dear midlife me: You’re going to be just fine. P.S. Don’t ever lose your sense of humor.”