Valerie on a whale watch off Cape Cod with niece, Elizabeth Raftery.

 

Midlife Moments'

Midlifer of the Week

Valerie Young

It's Never Too Late

by Mike Bellah

  When Valerie Young was 40, her 61-year-old mother died suddenly of a heart attack. "She was just five months away from retirement," Young tells me in a recent online interview from her home in Northampton, Massachusetts. "The last 10 years of her life were all geared toward saving so she and my Dad could enjoy the rewards of retirement. They'd already bought the house in Vero Beach, Florida."

Young tells me her mother's death came as a wake up call for her. "Losing my mother made me realize in no uncertain terms that life really is too short and precious to defer our dreams. Regrets are terrible things to have. And, while I may not get everything I want, I now feel compelled to dream big dreams and go after them."

In the last three years, Young's dreams have led her to quit her $55,000-a-year job with a Fortune 500 company and join the ranks of the self-employed in a business where she now helps other people to do the same. "The more I talked with other burned-out, disillusioned cubicle-dwellers about their dreams of finding right livelihood outside the traditional 9-to-5 world, it became clear my own passion lay in helping others to follow their bliss."

Young's help revolves largely around her Changing Course Newsletter, which currently has about 1300 subscribers. In it Young combines stories about people who have successfully made the switch to "work they love" with her own practical advice on how to make this happen. "The newsletter is for anyone who is looking to trade careers and commuting, meetings and business trips for a more satisfying livelihood working at something they love," says Young. "The typical reader is a midlifer, but I'm finding younger people in their late 20s and early 30s also seem to be looking for more out of life than a paycheck."

I want to know how Young's own transition is panning out. She admits to sometimes putting in more hours as a business owner than an employee might, and, without a regular paycheck, she feels the stress of financial uncertainty. Yet she says the freedom of being her own boss is worth it: "When I consider the level of control I now enjoy over my work, my time, and my life, it's stress I can live with."

Young tells me there are other perks to her new life. "For one, instead of commuting 90 miles a day, my office is a short stroll from my bedroom," says Young. "I'm basically a night person. Now I can stay up late to watch Nightline or Letterman if I want, and, if I like, sleep in until 8:00 or so, a nice change from the rude awakening of my former 6:00 a.m. wake up calls." Young also likes her work uniform. "I can't remember the last time I bought a pair of panty hose," she says. "My work outfit of choice is sweat pants and sneakers."

Young says she wants us to know that creating a more satisfying life doing work that we love is attainable. She says we can begin by searching for clues to our life passion. "What kinds of things excite you?" she says. "What captures your attention? What makes you feel content?" Young says we also should tune in to the things people compliment us for. "Oftentimes, the things we do well, whether it's cooking, writing a thoughtful letter, or a favorite hobby, are the very things we most enjoy doing."

Young's parting words to me are a quote from George Eliot: "It's never too late to be what you might have been," she says (You can find Valerie Young and subscribe to Changing Course on the web at www.changingcourse.com).

 
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