I’ve never shied away from change. In fact, I’ve run towards it with such gusto it’s probably actually a character flaw. But I’ll save that for another post (or for my therapist). Recently, I’ve embarked on my second major career shift before the age of 40, and as I was making the decision I agonized over that (high?) number.
Is it just that I can’t commit to anything hard?
Maybe. But I have a more interesting explanation (rationalization?).
I think what’s really crazy is the idea that we should hold people to every choice they made at the age of 18 or 22 for the rest of their lives. Young people are stupid, my past self included. It’s not their fault, and they seem to grow out of it. Nonetheless, they should not be given the responsibility (or the power) to determine the rest of our lives. If you take issue with this point, I congratulate you on probably having been an exception to this rule. You probably would not have been partying on a beach in Florida during a global pandemic. I’ve never been much of a partier myself, but I can’t say I was any smarter at that age.
I was in my late 20s when I decided to go to law school, and 30 when I started. I had almost a decade in the banking industry at that point. I thought this gave me an advantage over my 23-year-old colleagues. It probably did in some ways. But it turns out that even 29-year-olds aren’t that great at predicting what their future selves are going to want to do with the rest of their lives. Although, if I’m honest with myself now, there were certainly early indicators for me that the practice of law wasn’t going to be a great long-term fit. Lesson learned.
Now another chunk of years later, I’m making the shift to computer science, but it doesn’t feel at all to me like I’m throwing away the things I learned in banking or in the law. It feels like I’m synthesizing the things I’ve learned in the past, adding new knowledge, and adapting. In fact, I think my legal education and experience in the law gives me extremely relevant and valuable experience for a career in tech. It’s certainly not the traditional path, but I think that’s a feature, not a flaw.
And that brings me to my point:
The only constant in life is change. Knowing this, accepting it, and embracing it as true is a valuable lesson in my humble opinion. What that knowledge frees you to do is look to the future with the sense of openness and possibility. You can brace against the flow of time, or you can adjust your heading and use the energy to sail to interesting places. My choice is to sail.