Jacket, BCBG Max Azria. Sweater, thrifted. Skirt, Chaus Sport (thrifted). Boots, Steve Madden. Bag, El Paso Saddleblanket Co. Rings, heirloom, gifted and/or thrifted.
But then I listened to an interview with one of the authors of The 100-Year Life and realized that I’m not a failure, I’m just living according to the new rules of our longer lives. Many of us can expect to live to 100 but we can no longer expect to work for one company our entire lives and then retire at 65. The health and career changes in recent years dictate a new life trajectory. As I listened to the interview, these were the points that really resonated with me:
No longer do we take an ordered path of school to job to marriage to kids to retirement. Instead, this sequence can happen in any order. We may even abandon paths to start again, like remarrying or going back to school in mid-life. Within our careers, there may not be an orderly progression from stockroom to boardroom. Instead, we may take cuts in pay, make lateral moves, change functions within a company or even begin new careers. This made me think of how I left my Captain’s pay in the US Marine Corps to take a secretarial job for a woman no one else in the company would work for. I later switched from finance to human resources to sales. Now I work for myself in the creative industry, taking a pay cut, but a passion gain. I don’t ever expect to retire.
Fractured Peer Groups
Because our paths are no longer linear, we can’t expect everyone at the high school reunion to be in roughly the same life situation. We no longer travel one path with our age group peers. My friend, Erin, from Cincinnati, is roughly my age, but has had two kids, moved to Denver, and is now the comptroller of a city. We were once so close, caring for nothing but our workouts and office gossip, but now lead disparate lives.
We not only tend to have a more diverse group of friends and acquaintances than ever before (due to the nonlinear lives and fractured peer groups), but we need these diverse networks in order to progress to our next move. It’s important to have a network composed of individuals of different ages, professions, education, outlooks, and backgrounds to inspire and mentor our futures. This diversity is something I’ve always valued, but have recently worked to actively cultivate through my activities. For instance, all of the members of my Toastmasters club are interested in improving their public speaking, but are otherwise incredibly diverse. It's obvious when looking around the room, but even more so when the members speak. My favorite thing about the club is learning from others’ perspectives and being inspired to do something different with my own life.
It’s increasingly common to take a long period away from a career, even as along as a year, to pursue something else. It might be caring for a newborn, but, increasingly, it’s something less predictable like writing a book, caring for an aged parent, taking that long-delayed backpacking trip across Europe, volunteering with the Peace Corps or taking a spiritual retreat. After the gap, the individual may or may not return to the original career. Obviously, after leaving my 12-year corporate job to camp in the Sierra for thirteen weeks and then experiment with self-employment, I identify strongly with this 100-Year Life attribute.
There is no longer such a thing as job security. We are living in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. You may be downsized tomorrow. Your company may suddenly fold. Your entire industry may become obsolete. This lack of security forces us to diversify. Maybe you work in an office during the day, but hold Pampered Chef parties in the evening. Or drive a gravel truck Monday through Friday and mow yards on the weekends. At its most extreme, maybe you are simultaneously pursuing blogging, photography, speaking, writing, acting, and styling. (Oh, wait, that’s me.) We can no longer define ourselves by one career. We have backups and a plan B in case our main source of income disappears.
I’m only 41% of the way through my 100-Year Life. Who knows what may be next?
I’m celebrating the new chapter of my life by making it official with WhatIWore2Day.com!
Birthday blog pics from 2006 - 2016: