No matter how old you are, you can always start over. Whether it’s a career, a relationship or a diet. This is my story.
Since I was twelve years old I wanted to work in the media. I didn’t know which part, but it sounded glamorous. At 15, I won a shadow scholarship with the Daily Express; by 17 I was stringing for Ferrari Club and Auto Italia magazines; at 18, I knew I didn’t want to go to university, so I applied for 221 jobs at all ends of the media spectrum and got one interview. It was with one of the biggest advertising agencies in the world and I got the job.
For the next 22 years, I worked in the media industry on the creative and sales side as a branded content creator. I moved through the ranks quickly and worked for some of the biggest media brands in the country, regularly wining and dining clients, entertaining in New York and Barcelona and partying with some of the most famous bands on the planet at private parties. I loved my job. However, the branded content sector is precarious. It’s essentially the cherry on the icing on the cake of an advertising budget, so is usually the first to get cut when money needs to be saved. And because of this, I experienced several redundancies in a reasonably short space of time. Not to be recommended.
Watching me go through this, friends would ask: “What would you do if you didn’t work in the media?” My parents were more specific: “Have you got a plan B?”. The answer was always “No idea” and “No” respectively. I had never known anything else and I couldn’t conceive of doing anything different. I figured that at 40 years old, I had made my bed and I would have to lie in it. No matter how threadbare it had become.
When I was made redundant (again) from what would turn out to be my last ever media role, I had lost my motivation to try for another job in the industry. So I decided to take all my media skills and transition into being a PA. My thinking was: less stress, a different type of responsibility and a job that I was unlikely to mentally take home with me. But despite everything I had to offer it proved extremely difficult to make the transition, as I was told many times that my ‘lack of experience’ (!) counted against me. In the meantime, to occupy my time and brain without spending money, I hit the gym seven days a week, taking nine classes, six of which were Pilates. That’s when it hit me.
I decided to retrain and do something that I actually loved. The decision was almost like a lightning bolt and once I had made it, it all happened very quickly. I have always been the ‘sporty’ type but never considered it as a career. But I had been practicing Pilates for many years and this would give me the opportunity to change not only my career but also my life. No more office politics, I would be working for myself, on my own terms and could build something meaningful.
I don’t have a partner. I don’t have a safety net. It’s just me and my cat. But I am incredibly lucky in that I have extremely supportive friends and that my mother, who saw that I needed this new start, generously paid for my retraining.
Starting again has all been a bit scary. On top of the training, there is a whole bunch of new things that I have to learn: from how to keep accounts to how to use SEO (Internet stuff) effectively, as well as trying to build a brand and find clients. But somehow, underneath the hard work and uncertainty, there is a relief and an optimism that this is the next 25 years of my life. And it is going to work out. After two training courses (so far) and more studying than I undertook for my A-levels, I am mapping out a whole new path, which I am looking forward to following, whatever the bumps and challenges.
Now I am not suggesting that everyone should quit the corporate world and become a Pilates instructor. It could get awfully crowded… But if you are on the fence about a life-changing decision that seems a huge adjustment or an insurmountable issue and “you are just too old to change” think again. Whether it’s a relationship - parent, partner, friend - that has become toxic, a job you dread or just taking the plunge on a lifestyle choice, there is always a door to walk through. Maybe you just haven’t found it yet. Good luck and be brave.