I have always been a very discreet person living an ordinary life. Just a few years ago, I could see myself working at the very same company I had been working at for 20 years until retirement and living in my dear home for the rest of my life. But this vision fell apart from one moment to the next when I had a severe burnout in my early 50s. How come and now what?
I was over 50 when I became aware of the void in my life. A severe depression made me react and change just about everything about my life. I left my job, my partner, my friends, my home, and the country I was living in to discover myself. And I found what I was looking for – new inspiration, purpose, and even love.
If you are in a situation that is somewhat similar to mine back then, my hope is that you, too, will find inspiration and kickstart your second life after reading this article. If you read my story here, you will see that it was a bumpy and lengthy road until I finally was able to move mountains and create a new life for myself. Don’t feel discouraged, you, too, can get there!
How My Life Started Changing
If I had to describe my personality, I would say that I am an easy-going person who loves harmony and is ready to compromise whenever it feels necessary. I tend to forget about my needs in order to make sure the people I care about around me feel as good as possible.
I grew up in a small city in the Austrian Alps. During my studies, I got married and had three children. We soon moved to and settled in another country for my husband’s career. A couple of years later, I had to go through a divorce. I found a job in a rather big company nearby and worked there for 21 years, steadily climbing the career ladder. I had a comfortable house and a beautiful garden, a good job, and a few good friends.
My Children Moved Out
Life seemed to be following its course smoothly until my two eldest children left home to pursue their studies far away. Even if I was thrilled to see them build their own lives, it came to me as a shock and our home felt empty with only me and my youngest left. It took me some time to overcome this emptiness but I managed to reason, knowing that my youngest son would soon follow his brother and sister.
Raising my children alone after my divorce, working, and looking after my household and garden was enough to keep me distracted and I soon realized that I had not been taking care of my own life. Somehow, I had always been afraid of disturbing the equilibrium we had achieved. Even if one gets used to it, the feeling of loneliness is sometimes hard to overcome. And I knew that this would be even harder when my youngest son would leave as well.
I Tried To Find Love
Thus, I decided to take a chance and look for a partner on the internet. I met someone I really liked and we soon began a relationship. I would have preferred to give it more time, but he wanted to speed up things, and about 6 months later he moved in with me. Somehow, I knew that this was not what I had wanted but I decided to “go with the flow” and I thought time would tell.
I did not really feel happy and in love, but I felt like I shouldn’t complain. Besides, being over 50, I appreciated the qualities of calm and reliability my partner had. I began to think that, at this age, it was impossible to find someone that I could really fall in love with anyway. Would I ever feel madly in love like I had been in my younger years? “Stop dreaming,” I thought to myself. I’m now happy to tell you that I was totally wrong, but more on this later…
My Professional Environment Severely Deteriorated
Meanwhile, things started changing in my workplace. The once good spirit was slowly giving way to a somewhat distant and impersonal type of management. It was nothing to be afraid of, but slowly an uneasy feeling was growing inside me.
At the same time, I began realizing that I was not getting enough satisfaction out of my work. I somehow felt stuck in my job position. I wasn’t looking for better pay or a promotion. I just felt like I had “seen it all”. Nothing really new would ever happen at work. Somehow, I felt trapped.
The situation started worsening as my colleagues and superiors were no longer working together. Suspicion was taking over, and mistakes were covered up rather than analyzed and discussed openly. The strong team spirit I had experienced in the past slowly disappeared and distrust became the new normal among colleagues. Slowly, this started weighing heavily on me. To be honest, there were days when I simply wished I would be laid off. And as someone with a strong work ethic, I cannot tell you how much I felt ashamed to even feel this way.
Then Came The Turning Point
I was spending a vacation with my family when everything changed.
I probably should have seen it coming. I had not been in a good mood for weeks and the vacation came as a blessing as I really needed to spend some days away from my everyday life.
Within days, however, I stopped eating. At night, I was not able to sleep. Every small effort got me out of breath. Finally, I had a breakdown and found myself crying like a child. I felt so incredibly ill and hopeless that I even asked my children for help. I had fallen into a black hole and there was no light to be seen.
Happily, one of my good friends is a doctor. He came to see me and told me I had to go on sick-leave right away because I was heavily depressed. I had to rest and take medication to stabilize, and he also advised me to see a psychologist. As I had already gone through a depression a few years earlier, I knew that I had to get to the bottom of this problem this time if I wanted to get better once and for all. If not, I felt like I would be doomed.
How I Reinvented Myself At 50+
Facing The Truth
That’s when I realized that I could no longer stand the fact that distrust and selfishness among employees had become the new normal at work.
Even my job in itself had become meaningless to me. However, I was too cowardly to admit it to myself since the inevitable consequence would have been to quit.
And what was I supposed to do afterward? Who would hire a 53-year-old woman for this type of job and position? I had been working hard for 20 years and reached a good position. Would I have to start over or, even worse, would I even be given the chance to start over again? It’s a widespread belief that people over 50, especially women, have far more difficulties in finding a job.
On top of this, I no longer felt happy at home. My children had left to live their own adult lives and the house simply felt empty.
Even my partner could not fill the void and the relationship did not make me happy. Still, I was afraid of leaving him. Without him, I thought, I would be completely alone. I felt stuck.
And I also understood that I had been yearning for my country of origin, especially after all my children had left and been living very far away from home. I missed my family and paying them a visit was not easy, as there was no major airport nearby.
Making The Biggest, Life-Changing Decision
The whole situation had become so unbearable at this point that I knew I had to take a big leap of faith.
The only way to escape from this dead-end was to go back to my country of origin. This meant leaving my job, my home of over 25 years, my partner, and my friends. And I knew that I had to stick to my decision and execute my plan quickly.
So I decided to get all this done by the end of the year at the latest.
„You’re crazy“, I thought to myself, „at 53 you can’t do this“. But so what? At this stage, anything would have been better than feeling depressed for the rest of my life.
I explained my decision to my children who understood and supported me. Of course, my decision was hard on my partner since this would mean having a long-distance relationship for a few years. He knew this would put our relationship at risk.
Nonetheless, a couple of weeks later I started feeling a little better and started organizing everything. There was no time to waste. Every bit of energy could fade away quickly.
Looking For A New Job
If I wanted to move back to my home country, I had to find a job.
The first step was to create a resume.
It was the first resume I ever had to prepare, given that I had not needed one to start my previous job, 21 years earlier.
And I’ll tell you this, it was not easy at all!
Even if I had read many CVs in my career and recruited people to work in my department, writing one for myself was different. You have to think about every detail of your everyday responsibilities. There are so many things that seem unimportant but are worthy of being mentioned in a resume.
I sent my CV to some acquaintances for them to look through it and they told me to describe my functions in detail. After following their advice, I finally could draft a resume that sounded impressive. It reflected who I truly was as a professional, and without exaggerating!
Somehow, this boosted my self-confidence and I began sending my first applications out via job sites on the internet. For the first time since I had fallen ill, I was beginning to feel positive and even excited about my future. I knew it would take time and patience, but it was my first step in this new life and I would stand firm.
After my sick-leave had ended, I had to go back to work at my old company. Although it was not easy, on the first day, I immediately told my boss that I wanted to leave the company. He was very understanding and we reached an agreement, allowing me to leave the position in a very correct and orderly manner before the end of the year.
Turning A Deaf Ear to Naysayers
While I was gathering all my forces to face daily challenges and create a new life for myself – a life worth living – you wouldn’t believe how many naysayers tried to dissuade me from moving on.
My partner, my friends, and even part of my family. I kept hearing that quitting such a good position was a huge mistake at 53. That I would “never” find a job again at this age. That I would end up “deeply regretting” my decision.
It was hard to deal with all this negativity when already dealing with depression. Can you imagine?
Fortunately, my closest friends and family were there for me. They knew me so well that they understood I had no choices. If I did not drastically change my life, I could end up feeling depressed forever.
Finding A Job And A New Home
Just one month after leaving my old job, I signed a contract with a new employer in my home country!
It all happened so quickly that I felt overwhelmed. Surely, I was lucky to have found a job in a really beautiful city. However, I now felt anxious about finding a place to live there – a place I could call “home” from now on.
I found a very small, furnished apartment that I could rent for several months. What a huge difference compared to the spacious and beautiful home I had to leave behind! But I was so happy to have succeeded in finding a job, and a very good one at that, that nothing could take away from this blissful feeling.
The first and second steps were all done! I couldn’t believe it!
Unfortunately, my fairy tale entails a few more bumps on the road… One can’t expect to change everything at once and be happy forever again. It takes time and a desire to “know thyself” to overcome such a situation.
Three months in, I started realizing that my position wasn’t as much of a dream job as I had hoped, so I had to find another one.
I was really scared back then as I truly believed that I would be unemployed for quite a while. In my mind, it was pure luck that I had managed to get this first job, but who would take a 53-year-old woman in again? I was probably asking for too much…
However, would you believe it? It only took me 3 weeks to be hired again!
And… this job was even worse! The working conditions were unbearable. The company was a small startup whose very young CEO had too little management experience, and the team was suffering from this.
So, four weeks in, I resigned and started a third job!
I had been working for 20+ years in the same company, with no university degree, doubting that I would ever get a job again at my age. And here I was, finding 3 different jobs in a few months! It almost felt like I was becoming more of an expert at getting recruited rather than in my actual field!
Finding Purpose At Work
I could no longer find purpose in my professional career.
Job after job, it became clearer and clearer to me that my motivation had severely dropped. I was no longer able to compromise to make others happy, putting my own needs aside. Somehow, I could not turn a blind eye to sub-ideal management methods anymore. And my third jobs’ work conditions were the sore point.
But still, I had to make a living somehow.
My third job lasted for more than a year – which by then, felt almost like an achievement!
Jokes aside, this first year in my home country was really difficult for me. I was filled with doubt, pain, and uncertainty. But I believe this was a necessary evil to slowly free myself from the belief that I was worthless on the job market.
This was a really important step because it helped me feel free to quit a job if it didn’t suit me, which I would only have done under extreme circumstances (like a severe burnout!) in the past. I started believing in myself more. And I started understanding that I deserved a job that was fulfilling me, and not only paying the bills while destroying my mental health.
Unfortunately, it took me only one year working in my third job to reach the same point of demotivation again. I had become so tired. I hit depression, again.
This was a painful experience, as my depression reflected on my work quality, and I got (nicely) laid off for not being able to perform the tasks as quickly as was expected. Amidst this depression, I simply couldn’t focus well.
This was tough because it made me doubt my capacities as a professional. Was my lack of focus due to age? Would everything deteriorate from there on? I still had a few years to go until retirement was even an option for me…
However, I understood that I would need to get healthy again to figure out whether my decreased professional performance was due to age or depression. And although I was afraid my depressive cycles may never end, I also took this as a sign that I still had to change at least one important thing to heal in the long run – my professional career.
I decided to be very careful when picking the next job…that is if I could even choose.
Because I decided to be pickier this time, it took me somewhat longer to find a job that felt motivating to me. Still, it only took me two months to find a small company selling a very interesting new product that sounded interesting to me. I was offered a very diverse position in which I was completely autonomous. Our team was small and I was delighted because I imagined that this would make sure there would be a good team spirit.
But a couple of months in, again, the same uneasy feeling overcame me and I realized I was unhappy with my job. It was simply frustrating. I encountered the same problems, again. I asked myself whether I could hold on to it despite this until my retirement years. But it was simply not possible. I would risk my mental health in the process, and I was not ready to sacrifice and be depressed for life.
However, I was not getting younger and I had no clue what I could do to find purpose as a professional.
At that time, I finally found love again.
After a few years of living alone again, I decided to try my luck on internet platforms again. But even this process was not an easy one! In fact, I had been scammed on LinkedIn and discovered the hoax a few weeks later. I had been deeply affected by this experience but it also made me realize that I was yearning for love. After all, you will never know if you don’t even try. Even if I strongly doubted that I would really find someone who could make me happy again, I just decided to take a leap of faith and give it a try.
Two months later… I met him and we have not parted ever since. It was unbelievable! I have not been as happy for decades. We not only share our feelings. There are plenty of projects popping up when we discuss and lots of ideas of what we could create. It seems that we still have to accomplish lots of things in our lives!
Here Is My Personal Happy
The Search For Professional Fulfillment
I thought a lot about the way my jobs had made me feel over the last couple of years and what my options truly were in terms of professional career at my age. I wanted to do something which really made sense to me and I could simply not find it in any job description out there.
Although I was much happier than I had been before I began this whole journey, there had to be more to it. Sometimes I asked myself whether I was not grateful enough for what I had already been able to achieve. But really, there was no reason not to look for more purpose and meaning in my professional life, and age was not going to stop me.
I Created My First Website With My Daughter
In the meantime, my daughter had created her first website and she was really excited about everything she learned and how it might develop. I felt excited about the idea and we discussed creating a website together someday. There were many topics that came to our mind which we wanted to explore.
As women, we quickly thought of the “aging” topic. We felt excited about the idea to spread the word – your life doesn’t end at 50 (or 35 or 70 for that matter)! There were so many myths and areas to write about… We had found a worthwhile mission.
My daughter set up the website and then we created our first list of topics together. When I began to write my first article I realized how difficult it was. I think it took me one week and I did not like the result. But then, the second one was much easier and I enjoyed it. After all, when I was in school I loved writing but this had been ages ago.
We also decided to outsource a bunch of articles and see if the quality was good. The result was very satisfying and so we decided to continue outsourcing with two content creation companies. This is very helpful as we both do not yet have enough time to dedicate all of our energy to our website.
Preparing To Be Self-employed And Independent
I have already learned many things since we started a few months ago but I know there’s still a lot to discover. This is extremely motivating because I do no longer feel stuck and like stepping in place.
However, there are times when my motivation is failing and I have to struggle to get hold of myself again. I still have to get into the habit of working completely on my own. So we decided to have a meeting once a week to compare the progress of our work. And we prepare the distribution of our tasks for the next week. Thus, we manage to stay on track.
This is a very good exercise and preparation for becoming self-employed. After so many years of being an employee, the lack of structure around me is sometimes hard to overcome. Even if I know that this is what I want, I sometimes miss the dynamics of a conventional work environment, exchanging with my colleagues.
But the benefits are such that I am not ready to look back anymore. It is only a matter of time and organization.
We are now well advanced in our venture and more than ever committed to making it a success. Even though there are ups and downs, I have not been as happy for a long time!
A New Starting Point
The best thing is that this is not the end of the story. There are other projects waiting for us. And if one project does not turn out to be satisfying there will be another one.
I have gained confidence in myself and my ability to achieve my goals, even if it is sometimes trying and hard work. Somehow the way is the goal. Trying new things has boosted my self-esteem and zest for life, and aging has lost its bitter flavor. I do not even dare to imagine what would have happened if I had stuck to my past life. I am now 58, and I really feel alive! And I know for a fact that there is a lot more to come!