April 27, 2016

Stop What You’re Doing Immediately. {Changing Direction Regardless of Age}


Please Take Your Seat, Act II is About to Begin.

When I tell people I am doing an editorial internship for an online publication, they start to giggle. After they realize I am not joking they muster up polite enthusiasm, “Well, that’s interesting,” followed by a high-pitched, “Good for you!”

Internships are usually not cause for surprise, or amusement. What makes my situation unique is that I am 45.

That’s right. A 45-year-old intern. Seriously. Not Robert De Niro playing an intern in a movie.

When I was a little girl, my dream was to become a writer or an editor. My tween irritation peaked when I had to stop reading my book to play a soccer game. My English teacher was my hero, especially when she made us diagram sentences to learn grammar. And who didn’t want to be like Jackie Kennedy Onassis at her New York City publishing house, looking so cool in those big round black sunglasses.

But somehow my career began like a dandelion seed—blown by the wind, arbitrarily landing and taking root.

Instead of writing and editing, I wound up in public relations and marketing. It paid the bills, was often interesting and, at times, included writing and editing in between the party planning and executive babysitting.

As the years passed, I realized my time was spent writing for other people (and worse, products) but not telling my own stories. When I found myself writing a press release in a hospital waiting room as a family member was in surgery, I realized it was time for a change.

Like me, many people—at all ages—have had a defining moment where they realize they must change course. Maybe due to a layoff, a divorce, a change in economic situation, or kids leaving the nest. Some simply realize it is now or never to pursue their passions.

Walt Disney started out as a newspaper editor. Before Ellen DeGeneres made us laugh, she was a paralegal. Al Franken was a comedy writer and performer before becoming a United States Senator. Tenor Andrea Bocelli practiced law. (Let’s be honest: the balance of the world would not be right with one more lawyer and one fewer Andrea Bocelli.)

I wanted my Act II career to be something in writing and publishing, but I couldn’t get a job without experience—and couldn’t get experience without a job. Ah, the classic vicious cycle.

So, despite my fear of being labeled “The Oldest Living Intern,” I decided to do elephant journal’s Apprentice program to practice my writing and editing skills and learn more about journalism and social media.

Internships: they’re not just for kids any more.

I’ve spent the last four months learning from an amazing group of editors and writers; cheered and supported by fellow apprentices (some of whom are older than me!) and scrolling through social media until I needed to get my eyeglass prescription changed.

Whether you are interested in doing an internship, or making any kind of career change, here is my advice:

  1. If you want to do something—just start, for crying out loud! Sure, you may be going backwards down the ladder a rung or two, but you’re still on the ladder. And you can climb faster.
  2. You don’t have to be technically employed to do what you love, just get involved. Volunteer. Find groups of like-minded people to hang out with. You don’t have to be a teacher to volunteer in a classroom. You certainly don’t have to become a brew master to do a craft beer tour.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be new at something. We get comfortable when we drive the same way to work, sit in the same chair, and do the same thing, day after day, year after year. Being the new person can bring up old insecurities. Stare fear in the eyes and pull back your bow like you’re Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. It is now or never.

Are you ready to pursue your passion, even it means doing something completely new? Good for you! It may be too late for me to be in a “40 Authors to Watch Under 40” list, but who knows? Maybe I’ll join the gray-headed, arthritic group of novelists publishing their first novel after 50.

Whether you are “The Oldest Living Intern,” or in your 30’s switching jobs for the third time, the dandelion seeds will continue to float on the wind until they find a fertile piece of soil to take root and grow.


Author: Kathy Baum

Editor: Sarah Kolkka

Image: Geralt/Pixabay

Relephant read:

My Love Affair with Reading: The Importance of Granting Kids Access to Books.


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Kathy Baum