Life is full of changes. Sometimes that seems a trite phrase, when the changes come fast and furious. Like, no shit, Sherlock. I recently read an article in Psychology Today by Cecelia Dintino, who said, “We stay in the spin of a narrative as if we are our histories.” Sometimes, we need to stop fighting the spin, and break into an entirely new narrative. This is one of those times for me. I’m changing my career, I’m on the cusp of another major change in my stage of life, and I’m working through all the mental and emotional changes that come with both. It’s wonderful, terrifying, exhausting, and I’m beyond figuring out how I feel about it. So for me, the thing to do is to write about it.
I’ve been a nurse for 20 years. It is part of my identity, as much as a career. It is how I approach the world. The knowledge and skills that go with nursing inform almost everything I do and think about. Not to mention financially supporting me. Yet, the healthcare industry in the US is seriously messed up. I don’t need to go into that here, I don’t think anybody will argue. I have had many reasons to leave healthcare. In some ways I have been moving away from nursing for a long time now, though I didn’t see it that way. First I pursued teaching, then case management, both within healthcare but away from clinical practice and more toward research and writing. Now I am moving on to writing, and out of healthcare entirely.
I have always loved writing. My favorite assignments in school, from grade school through my aborted attempt at a doctorate, were writing assignments. I like writing short stories. Like everybody else I’m working on a novel. I’m also writing a non-fiction book that is nearly complete. I like writing articles. I like research. Why on earth am I not a professional writer? Well, that goes back to childhood, of course, like most stuff does. The point is that I have always been a writer, but I have never even made the first attempt to write professionally. Now, I am. I am writing every day, on a variety of projects. I am doing other things, as well, but writing is my focus. I want to spend my last working years doing something I like doing, as my own boss.
I am closing on 60 years old. I have gone through menopause. In the old beliefs, women go through the stages of maiden, mother, and crone. I am a crone. That is not a bad thing, though modern slants on the word give it a bad rap. I am an elder, with all the wisdom and experience of my earlier life accumulated, a valuable resource to my people. Well, hopefully I managed to hold on to a few bits of wisdom here and there. I like to think so, anyway. But I’m looking forward at my twilight years; and looking forward to my twilight years as well. I don’t cover my gray hair, I’m not spackling my wrinkles. I’ve earned them all. I have lived a very full, adventurous life, and regret none of it. But it isn’t over. I have another whole stage to go through. Although the physical changes are no joke.
Galit Nimrod in Leisure Sciences talks about reinvention at retirement. His study shows that people who reinvent their lives for their own reasons, to expand their leisure activities or follow their own interests, are more satisfied later in life than those who reinvent themselves for required reasons like health or finances. For me, and I’m guessing for many others at this stage of life, they aren’t that easily separated. Mr. Nimrod’s study also shows that if the primary reason for change is personal desire, and required changes are added later, people are still more satisfied than the other way around. I agree. So, despite the many changes I am facing involuntarily, I am determined to guide them in my own chosen direction, for my own reasons, toward my own satisfaction.
That requires a lot of introspection. I am finding that entering this stage of my life is pushing and pulling me through a few personal realizations, and not all of them are pleasant. In spite of that, I think they are all productive and will help me enjoy moving forward with this reinvention of myself. I am also reminding myself of what I have already been through in my life, what I have accomplished, that the fact that there is absolutely no reason I cannot accomplish more. Which brings me back to “wonderful, terrifying, and exhausting.” Reinventing yourself is no easy thing. But like any challenge, it can be exhilarating.
I’m keeping my focus on “exhilarating.”