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  • Catherine Kirner, MS, LPC-IT

Midlife [Career] Crisis: How to Transform Yourself

I used to think of myself as having it all and being the positive person everyone wanted to be around until day after day I began to realize how easily I became annoyed, and I felt an undercurrent of anger I could not explain. I knew a drastic change was necessary to kick start me out of my slump. I took a year to reflect, research, and figure out the right path for me and even then, I questioned what my right path was.

I eventually found myself back in the classroom surrounded mainly by 20-year-olds and professors younger than me. I was scared and invigorated at the same time. I was excelling and enjoying the work even though it took me twice as long as my classmates to finish a paper. The second time around felt different than the first for some reason. Was it my years of life experience, getting a second chance, knowing myself better?

While my own journey was not earth shattering, it was unique to me and I am grateful for having the support and structure in place to allow time for me to explore the next chapter in my life. Here are a few things I would recommend keeping in mind if you are contemplating a life change, whether it be starting a new career, a new hobby, or retiring from a job:

Be curious about your desire to want more out of life.

Listen to that nagging feeling inside yourself. If you dread the beginning of the week or find it harder to be kind to others, maybe it’s time for a change or something new. Through my own soul searching, I knew I wanted to help others and also contribute more to my community. The things I believed brought me joy, like finding the perfect outfit or accessorizing my house, did not fulfill my needs. My exploration took time, many starts and stops, and did not happen overnight. Allow yourself time to be curious.

Determine the amount of effort needed.

Change does not always require going back to school. Try an online or a free community class in an area that interests you. Find a crumb and then follow the trail. Ask to shadow someone, volunteer, try a new hobby, or accept a part time job that excites you. If you find something that sparks your interest, research the amount of effort needed to get you to your ultimate goal. Challenge yourself to try something new that scares you.

Be open to changing course along the way.

As a non-traditional learner (someone in their 40’s) I expanded my area of study to give me additional options. My biggest fear was being unable to get a job after 3 plus years of hard work. In my initial excitement I only heard part of the requirements and had to adjust my expectations midstream. It may take you longer to reach your goal than you initially anticipated. Be kind to yourself and realize it’s not a race to get to the finish line.

Be confident.

I was paranoid about my age for longer than I should have been. All my classmates were open and accepting of my experience and life-knowledge, and they also knew I would not let them down on a group project. I took too long to speak up in class and initially tried to blend in. Be bold and share your knowledge. Your perspective is useful and pertinent to everyone whether it be in the classroom or in your daily interaction with others. Let your voice be heard.

Acknowledge your awesomeness.

Change at any age is scary and can quickly be overwhelming to anyone. We have to celebrate all of our successes, big and small. I threw myself a graduation party to acknowledge and thank all my family and friends for their support along the way and to also celebrate me. I am proud of my accomplishments and believe I am a role model for my two kids and have shown them that anything is possible, at any age, if you want it bad enough and are willing to ask for help along the way.

If you are questioning how to start your own transformation, start by being curious and see where it takes you.

For more info on changing careers, check out these resources:

All the best,



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[This article does not create a client-counselor relationship. This article is general counseling information and is not to be considered legal or medical advice. Please consult with your mental health professional before you rely on this information.]

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