by Ted Jablonski
“Life is a shuttle” — William Shakespeare
Few of us adhere to an unyielding blueprint for achieving personal happiness and professional success in our lives. In fact, most of our journeys are not straight paths — and I think most of us would have it no other way.
I should know. I spent 25 years working for large financial firms until four years ago, when I became a freelance marketing consultant.
This process opened a range of options for me. It gave me a refreshingly new outlook and provided a completely different set of life experiences. I not only started a business but began looking at my life differently. Now, I’m returning to graduate school at the age of 53, a development I did not envision even a few short years ago.
“Professional reinvention” at 50 is simultaneously exhilarating and nerve-wracking, especially for those who opted for more “structured” careers. But even given the long days, exhausting travel and endless list of to-dos, establishing an independent business has been transformative for me on many levels.
You see, moving away from my big company routine after 25 years allowed me to take a metaphorical exit off the corporate interstate – right at life’s midpoint (when you start to ask yourself all kinds of questions). I stopped, took stock of my accomplishments, and, assessed professionally and personally fulfilling options for the second half of my career.
For me, that act of breaking what was not broken, of creating something new and starting over was highly personal, deeply reflective and incredibly enlightening. It altered the prism through which I viewed my past and my future, my personal and professional accomplishments, my successes and my failures. And it fueled a tremendous untapped internal energy and focus on future goals and aspirations. For the first time in 25 years, I felt like I was looking at the blank screen of my Mac, with that blinking cursor just waiting for me to write the next chapter.
Given the structure of my time and schedule as a freelancer, I now had the flexibility and the control to define the what, where and how of my work. On a practical level, being a consultant allowed me to explore a wide scope of life and career options while I continued to do my job.
The most surprising part of this evolution was that as I assessed my professional options, I also challenged myself on defining other fulfilling life experiences as well. What would continue to energize me and challenge me intellectually above and beyond my work?
For me, the answer was education. I hold a BA and an MBA, which have served me well throughout my life and career. But I desired more. Educational can be transformational, a catalyst for change regardless of age. It can lead to new career opportunities, and a richer, more fulfilling and rewarding life.
Working as a consultant allowed me to consider different educational options. I visited schools, met with professors, administrators and students, and realized just how many more individuals there are out there who are just like me. Individuals at similar points in their lives, with shared goals, looking for new options and seeking out interesting experiences.
I’ve recently been accepted to Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C. to study government and public policy part-time. Like other mid-career programs, it offers evening classes, a speaker/symposium series, and flexibility for students who live in different geographic areas and who might not be in Washington on a daily basis.
And I am thrilled at the prospect. This decision really reflects who I am when viewed in the context of my lifelong passion for politics and public affairs, my innate intellectual curiosity and diverse range of interests, my opinions, my willingness to participate, contribute and share in shaping ideas and my passion for lifelong learning.
I certainly didn’t see myself here a few short years ago. And I might have gotten to the same place had I stayed in corporate life. But allowing the entrepreneur in me to drive not only the creation of my business but also the re-engineering of my life has been amazing and eye opening.
Ted’s firm is the Marketing Consortium LLC.