Rise and grind. 5:58 a.m. You jolt up; the blaring alarm clock interrupts the morning stillness. Rousing yourself from your morning stupor, the ritual begins: a glance outside, dry toast with jelly, and a quick part of your thinning hair. Lingering in front of the mirror, your sunken eyes and ashen face stare back. Middle age looms; those carefree university days are receding like your hairline.
Before turning down Reminiscence Road, you remember that you have a 6:45 a.m. bus to catch. Boarding the bus, you nod at the driver and exchange glances with your dreary-eyed workaholics; most are staring into space or mumbling into their phones.
The work commute takes 22 minutes. You have every bus stop memorized. Suddenly, the charmless 1970s fortress appears. Grimacing at the stained linoleum, fluorescent lights, and peeling wallpaper, you mumble a hello to the hyper-caffeinated secretary (is her name Sue Ann or Ann Sue?). Racing downstairs, you hustle past the burping printer en route to the Bullpen. 7:14 a.m. Whew! You rejoice; boss’s lights are turned off.
The day unfolds like any other day. The project lead discusses monthly and quarterly goals. Roy approaches you about a missing red pen. The secretary prattles on about her cat. You respond to email, loiter in the breakroom, and ask the boss about his upcoming junket to Mexico. “Same place, same time. See you tomorrow,” you crack to the Bullpen.
Life as routine is comforting, reliable, and utterly uninspiring. On the 5:12 p.m. bus to your apartment, you daydream of college road trips and overseas adventures. More than anything, you want to feel alive. “Next stop, Grand Avenue,” the driver booms. His voice jars you from your reverie.
We crave stability and spontaneity. You have a high-paying job, an apartment in a trendy neighborhood, and close-knit friendships. To family and friends, you are winning in the game of life. But something is missing. That electricity — that sense of exhilaration.
Welcome to your 30s. You are an accomplished professional striving for more thrilling or more meaningful or more empowering.
The predictable is scary; the unknown is scarier. Before making a hasty, life-altering decision, write down your personal and professional goals. Start out with big-picture ideas: status, salary, fulfillment, lifestyle. Each choice has tradeoffs. For some, financial stability outweighs personal fulfillment. For others, community recognition means more than a swanky apartment. When answering these questions, talk with a trusted confidante.
Step two: graduate from the general to the specific. I sketch out a six-month, a year, and a five-year plan. You want to return to your native state and establish a business? Great. How are you going to accomplish this? Detail realistic steps to achieve your goals. When returning to your home state, six-month objectives include solidifying housing, applying for an MBA program, and reaching out to family friends.
Lastly, let’s address your current predicament. The job is monotonous but you are well-liked, well-compensated, and well on your way to a leadership position. Would a promotion or vacation rejuvenate you? If you are shaking your head, you need to ask tough, probing questions. Is a career change tenable? Would a three-month sabbatical provide clarity? Financially, can you balance your lifestyle needs and career aspirations?
Craving more and better is understandable. Adventures- – the wanderlust trips, the serendipitous dates, the unexpected family surprises — nourish my soul. Your chicken soup may be a lofty title, a corner office, or a sprawling home. Before parachuting into the great unknown, let’s figure out your more and better and, more important, how you are going to get there. Living? It is that surge of electricity coursing through your veins and sifting through the couch for that monthly electricity bill.
Alarm clock photo available from Shutterstock