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Kinda stuck life/career-wise


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Hi everyone - I'm 42, fairly happily married, 2 lovely kids. That side of things is good.

But in terms of career and general life I feel kind've stuck. To cut a long story short, after a very promising, high-achieving academic career and some big creative ambitions (and a small initial degree of success), I ran into problems with alcohol and fell into teaching.

I've been sober nearly 10 years now, feel like I successfully got my life back on track and have found happiness in my relationships (at home mainly). But I'm essentially stuck in a job that's convenient and pays just well enough that I guess I could keep coasting along with it. But it just doesn't feel fulfilling, like it's not really what I was put on earth to do. And to be honest, with a young family I feel like I want more financially, just to give my kids a better life as much as anything. (I know that's not just about money, but it helps).

The problem is, I get very intensely focussed on a goal, get obsessed and go all out for it, get a certain way, then something just switches off and I just can't get the motivation going again. I'm not going to get too specific but my overarching main goal has been in a pretty ambitious creative field, and I've made some baby steps towards it but feel like the only thing holding me back is myself. It's very competitive and if I'm not going all out 100% I just don't think I'll get there. And I'm acutely aware I'm no spring chicken (although plenty of people do break in at my age and even older, so it's not complete delusion).

And then when I'm not in such intensely focussed periods, I wonder...do I even *want*  to get "there"? And I start to think, with my academic achievements maybe I should just go for a higher paying job like law say. It's perfectly realistic even at my age...but I'd see less of my kids (which is a bit self-defeating), and it just feels like something I'd change to purely for salary reasons (although I think I'd enjoy and perhaps be quite fulfilled by law too actually).

This cycle has basically gone on for years. Fundamentally I'm not happy career-wise, but I just coast along in mediocrity and distract myself with bull*** like movies, sport, whatever. Then these periods of intense focus, which get some results...but I can't sustain it.

I feel like it's almost a mental illness, this lack of ability to long-term or even medium-term commit to something, but combined with this intense feeling of ambition, like I want to achieve highly in something significant. And I'm really not sure what's going to break me out of it.

Not sure if anyone identifies?

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My ex was like this so I saw how frustrating it was for him over a longer period of time. I'm more of slow and steady and I take breaks or work on other things to balance out the focus but keep my mind occupied. Would that help? Don't let your frustration get the better of you. Speak to others in the field you're interested and ask questions. I wouldn't zoom in on one person either. Observe a number of different other professionals and see how they do things or what they've done to get to where they are. 

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Keep your day job.  If you have umbrella protection such as great benefits (medical / dental / vision / life insurance, retirement, PTO, etc.), think of your job security and steady paycheck as provider for your children. 

Then focus on perhaps seeking other opportunities on the side.  If you can secure the next job before quitting your current job, decide if it's worth risking stability and fiduciary duties for you and your household. 

Don't be impulsive nor gamble especially since you have dependents.  I would say "go for it" if you didn't have familial responsibilities, if you were carefree and your only concern was for your welfare.  Since you have financial obligations, think conservatively for your family's sake.  Your bread 'n butter should take top priority. 

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Does your wife want to step up and take on extra work to make more $ and support your creative dreams? I do agree with Cherlyn.  Also I'd stop the mindset of being the victim of your lack of motivation -this is all your choice, under your control - it is about coming up with strategies, rituals even to get you to a place where the pace of your work is reasonable so you can increase your endurance -these spurts of activity and intenseness isn't going to get you there especially if you actually do get a job in the field  Do you think the way you choose to behave is similar to an addicition -like when you were addicted to alcohol?  Good for you for being sober all these years!!!

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Thanks everyone who's replied. Funnily enough, just writing this down and all of your helpful replies felt good in itself and prompted me to talk to my wife about it - she knows it a bit, but we had an in-depth chat that was really helpful (she's good like that).

She's not really in a position to help me financially, but just knowing she has my back and wants me to succeed is nice. Plus I had this little epiphany that I'm in a great position to just go for the creative stuff (I do have enough time even with family and job demands).

Like you've all said, it's just a question of trying to change the working pattern - I guess committing and not just working off emotion all the time. And that's very insightful Batya33, I think there is a link with my previous addiction! Working in obsessive bursts has obvious links to my previous behaviour (I was a binger really, until the last year or two anyway).

Amazing what just getting something down on "paper" can do, even to strangers on the internet! Feel much more positive today. Thanks everyone 🙂

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My very strong, go getter friend in her 40s (3 kids under 12) just posted "she believed she could so she did."  Yes, this but I know my friend not only believes, but does (and does and does) and implements.  Have a no excuses routine and schedule for your creative stuff - doable steps whether it's a daily or weekly or twice weekly routine. 

If you want to do creative stuff in any serious way while in your 40s and with children in the home there's no time or luxury of "bursts of creativity" scattershot approach. 

Take the time to develop a routine and schedule -write it down, put reminders on your phone, timers if you have to.  But don't procrastinate on that either -give yourself a specific amount of time to come up with a routine then tweak as needed.  Tweak - not torpedo it, not go overboard or underboard. Figure out when your best times of day are to be productive then figure out if those times mesh with your family responsibilities or whether those can be tweaked, too.  Get enough sleep so don't work it in as "I'll do this at 3am before the kids get up." 

I had to double down on this approach for the 520 days we had virtual schooling (until August) plus all telework.  Now there's in person school but the pandemic effects mean my schedule is messed up because of oh, school bus driver shortages and the constant time suck of trying to order supplies in short supply.  I am a go getter, I am very focused, I do not do scattershot but I no longer had the luxury of stopping and starting work to go on Facebook - if I had a block of time I had to put that phone away and focus right then.  And choose what tasks I could get done given my energy level/time of day.  

Good luck!  I'm so glad your wife is supportive.  

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