Is it too late to start over?
December 10, 2012 8:54 AM   Subscribe

at 31, is it too late to start over?

so i have dabbled with various alternative lifestyles throughout my 31 years...
First, I went to school for film production (total waste of time and $ imo), moved to LA, but the work dried up after never really taking off (and I hated LA).
I then moved north and grew medical marijuana for awhile living off the grid (but only for ~2 years because I'm so paranoid about the law). I loved living in the forest and farming my own food and being in the quiet surroundings with my friends, but I hated the prospect of the law coming down on me at any moment....
since then I have been trying to play poker as my main source of income with very mixed results. During most of my poker stint I have been living somewhat of a vagabond lifestyle out of a van with my gf whom also plays poker. TBH, poker has been very stressful and hasn't worked out for me, and my temper/frustration with it has nearly ruined my relationship with my gf/best friend and has left me feeling totally worthless/suicidal. I put a lot of time and energy into becoming as good as I could be at poker, but my results have been so disappointing and anything but sustainable. I have lost it a few times and have found myself in some regretful situations...

To me it seems that nothing up to this point has really worked out and I feel that I haven't been able to find anything that I genuinely love to do or that will sustain me. I want to start over. I think the only job that I would be able to get with my "resume" right now would be working at burger king or something just as bad, and i think i'd rather die...
I dont know why I have never chosen to pursue a "career." well, actually i do: it has always seemed so trivial and limiting to me. I have never liked commitments or deadlines, and i have always scoffed at the status quo...

so now I have about a 7+ year gap on my resume with no job, no house, etc. which does not help my hope for starting a new path...

I am really considering going to back to school (possibly med school) for the following reasons:

-mental stimulation/acquiring empowering knowledge

-I like and want to help people and know that there are many different avenues one can take in the medical field

-being on a rigid, structured schedule. I feel like I have been living a very lackadaisical lifestyle where I never really have to do anything and there are never any deadlines; although this also worries me because I have become used to being lazy

I know I would be in serious debt for so long after med school (or any school), but right now I really don't care - I just want to start something new and become immersed in something that will yield some sort of purpose and financial security.

any thoughts or advice? I have already researched about med school (tuition, debt, curriculum, etc.), so I'm looking more for how all this sounds to you guys...thanks
posted by MD_yeahright to Education (56 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can't give any advice on med school, but 31 is so young! Absolutely not too late to start over.
posted by katypickle at 8:56 AM on December 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


I started over some years older than you, and it's great to have a life! Do it!
posted by anadem at 8:59 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Before you put any more thought into med school, can you actually get into med school? You'd have to take a lot of undergrad classes in the biochemistry fields -- in fact, if your film curriculum was as lacking in science as my school's, you'll basically have to take two full years of undergrad classes -- and do well on the MCAT to even become an applicant, never mind actually getting in and figuring out how you'll be funding it.

You should maybe start a little smaller. Perhaps you should look into technical training in a medical field (phlebotomy, physician's assistant, pharmacy tech, etc.)? I'd suggest nursing, but that also requires extensive and intensive schooling and you don't want to set yourself up to fail after living an unstructured life for the last near-decade.
posted by griphus at 8:59 AM on December 10, 2012 [13 favorites]


I dont know why I have never chosen to pursue a "career." well, actually i do: it has always seemed so trivial and limiting to me. I have never liked commitments or deadlines, and i have always scoffed at the status quo...

You should not go to medical school.
posted by downing street memo at 9:02 AM on December 10, 2012 [75 favorites]


Well I can say after 7 years of no school, and no grad school, your chances of getting into medical school today are pretty slim. Med school has about a 40% acceptance rate, and is extremely competitive. I have a lot of friends who are aspiring to med school / in med school, and the minority of those I know got in with only a bachelors. At the minimum you'd be looking at taking post-bac classes to prep. And as someone who went back to school after several years in the workforce, it's a tough transition. If this is really something you want to do (and no, it's not too late to do it! You just have to be realistic), you need to get a job and probably get into an accredited post-bac program in preparation. The cheapest/easiest way to do this is to get hired by a university and take advantage of their tuition benefits. You don't need a good job -- any will do -- but it'll give you a way to prepare for med school without having to pay for those classes.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:02 AM on December 10, 2012


My husband started over at a corporate job (his first day job, ever) at 59.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:02 AM on December 10, 2012 [18 favorites]


Have you thought of getting short-term schooling for a trade to support yourself and see if the medical field is right for you? Any type of program in the medical field is going to be very structured and rigid and you don't want to set yourself up for failure.

As for your age, it's not too late! I know someone who went to nursing school in his 40's, is a nurse now and couldn't be happier.
posted by Autumn at 9:04 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


31 is not too late to start over, but you have to do one thing first and that's to give up the idea that you're too special to be like all of we muggles who live in houses, go to work every day and are drudges.

You say that a career is trivial and limiting. Compared with what? Has what you've been doing provided you with the opposite of trivial and limiting?

You say you want to go to med school. Do you have an undergrad degree that will allow you to do this? It's pretty competative, is it a realistic goal for you? Have you taken the MCAT? What was your score?

Perhaps some other allied health profession would be a better bargain. Nursing schools are in Community Colleges and are incredibly affordable. You can be done within 2 years (even a shorter period of time if you have other college credits).

While you're a nurse, you can explore further education, such as Nurse Practitioner.

You said you grew Medical Marijuana, do you smoke regularly? If so, are you willing to stop? You have to be drug-free to work in the medical field.

I think that you should apply for a simple job, bartending, serving in a restaurant, receptionist, etc. You need the structure of getting up, getting out and doing what needs to be done.

Your other option is to enlist in the military, if you really want someone to kick your ass into shape.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:05 AM on December 10, 2012 [17 favorites]


Kinda of an outlier choice, especially here, but you can always look into joining the military. If you have a clean record (and they take drug offenses really, really serious) it is a decent way (if cliche) to turn your life around. They have all kinds of medical fields/school available and the GI bill is pretty good for financial aid. Just a suggestion that would provide stability and structure and help you form new habits.

31 is not too old. I didn't go to college until I was about 25 and I graduated at 31 and didn't get married until 39. It is never, ever too late to change your life to what you want. You only get one turn at this and you don't get any refunds on life. Make the change you want for the life you want. It will be hard, frustrating and you will suffer setbacks. so make a plan, and stick to the ultimate goal you want (and change that goal if you need to).
posted by bartonlong at 9:05 AM on December 10, 2012 [5 favorites]


I went from forklift driver to web designer at 35.
posted by davebush at 9:07 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


how long did it take you to learn to code/program?
posted by MD_yeahright at 9:11 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


31 is a fine age to start something new, but I think you'll have to choose something more status quo to give yourself a foundation for creative pursuits. And I think med school is a huge leap, and a more modest step would be a more attainable goal in the short term.

How about going for your EMT certification?
posted by zippy at 9:14 AM on December 10, 2012


// I feel that I haven't been able to find anything that I genuinely love to do or that will sustain me//

The idea that we are supposed to love our jobs is a myth. They call it work for a reason. Work to enable the things you really want to do in life. 31 is definitely not too old to start over, but you really need to wrap your brain around the idea that your job probably will not be self-actualizing, at least not at first, if ever. It's up to you to make any job you have meaningful. If you expect your job to bring the meaning to your life you are going to be disappointed.

I also think you are romanticizing the medical professional. Heart surgeons might be on the cutting edge of exciting and meaningful all day, but most doctors have fairly routine jobs just like the rest of us. A day of physicals, sinus infections, and the flu followed by insurance paperwork is the job description of the average GP or Internist. It doesn't sound that exciting to me.
posted by COD at 9:14 AM on December 10, 2012 [10 favorites]


I agree that going for an EMT certification could be a good route. I know a couple of people who did that, and it didn't take a terribly long time or a ton of money.

I then moved north and grew medical marijuana for awhile living off the grid (but only for ~2 years because I'm so paranoid about the law). I loved living in the forest and farming my own food and being in the quiet surroundings with my friends, but I hated the prospect of the law coming down on me at any moment....

You know, call me crazy, but depending on how certain recent legal developments shake out, you might be able to return to this as a legitimate profession...
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:16 AM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


how long did it take you to learn to code/program?

You can learn how to code a very basic website from scratch in a weekend.
posted by empath at 9:17 AM on December 10, 2012


They call it work for a reason. Work to enable the things you really want to do in life.
what do you really want to do in life?
posted by MD_yeahright at 9:18 AM on December 10, 2012


Also, depending on the job, growing medical pot and playing poker for a living is something you can possibly include on the resume or at least mention in the interview. You have to be really careful though. I can think of a few tech companies I worked at where both would have been considered a positive.
posted by empath at 9:19 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


31 is absolutely not too old. But this: working at burger king or something just as bad, and i think i'd rather die...

That attitude? Chuck it. I'm not saying you have to settle for any shitty job for the rest of your life, but since it doesn't look like you've ever worked retail or food service, you've got no basis on which to dismiss it.

You want structure? Retail. You will have to show up when you're scheduled. You will have to do whatever dumb thing your manager tells you to do. You will have to be pleasant and helpful to customers even when you don't feel like it. I mean, if you want a paycheck.

I have had great retail jobs where I learned a lot and not-so-great where I kinda hated it. But I still learned stuff.

And I feel like a broken record (and on preview, what COD said), but at this point, stop looking for the One True Job that will fulfill your emotional and financial needs. That's a fantasy for all but a vanishingly small number of very lucky people. Start thinking about jobs/careers that will give you the financial and emotional room to do what you love, whatever that is.

On more preview: what do you really want to do in life?

Not be driven bats by my job. Have enough money to do fun things and put some away for a rainy day. Work with people who are interesting and smart, even if my job itself has its boring bits. Basically, to never, ever rely again on what I do for money to make me feel fulfilled as a person or to give me my identity.
posted by rtha at 9:21 AM on December 10, 2012 [25 favorites]


thanks empath and all the other replies so far.
empath, i have considered learning how to program. are you self taught? do you have a steady employer?
posted by MD_yeahright at 9:23 AM on December 10, 2012


what do you really want to do in life?

For me, I've always wanted to write novels. But that's something that's very hard to make money in even if you're moderately successful, so I've never looked at it as a career path. The jobs I've taken get me the money and stability to write, and if I eventually make enough money to quit, great, but I don't really expect to and don't really need to.

But even when I haven't been focused on that, I've had hobbies and friendships and interests that have been the focus of my life - my job never, ever is. I like my job, and my career, these days, but I haven't always, and my criteria has always been "is this bad enough that it's interfering with the important parts of my life?" Sometimes it is. Usually it isn't.

(And don't knock retail, man. Pizza delivery was hands-down my favorite job ever, and if the money had been even a little better working in a bookstore would have been close. There's definitely something to be said for jobs you can excel at just by being awake when you're at work.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:25 AM on December 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am 47 and just starting training for a new vocation. My age has never been a factor. (the older you get, the more you will see how true this is.)

I also disagree that you can't love your work. You just might not love everything about it, and have to be committed to push through the unpleasant parts. For example, you may not particularly love the work part, but you work in a fabulous environment with great people. That would make it enjoyable. Working and saving a ton of $ for a fabulous vacation can make the job enjoyable. There are lots of different ways to look at a job, even a mundane one, that can bring out the positive aspects of the work.

Life it too short to not do what you love, imo. But, I also feel you really have to put the effort into what you do, and be persistent.
posted by Vaike at 9:29 AM on December 10, 2012


You seem to have gone for a lot of high-risk, high-payoff, high-stress situations that have not, in fact, been what you wanted. I've heard it said (and it matches my experience) that it's not the job that matters so much as the people you work with. Try something with low risk, low stress, and low payoff that will put you around smart bohemian types whose day job supports their burgeoning small farm or semi-pro poker habit or rock-climbing hobby or whatever. You don't have to settle for corporate retail, what about cashiering at a health food store with an eye toward management or opening your own in about 10 years? With your math and, er, pharmaceuticals background, this could be a good fit.
posted by katya.lysander at 9:30 AM on December 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


While you're deciding what you'd like to do (assuming you're not starting school in January), consider trying temp work. It's a good way to try out jobs in a lot of different environments without a lot of hassle, and might give you some ideas about where you'd like to go next. It's also a chance to inventory the skills you've developed over the years (resume gap or no, there'll be something you can offer.) Plus the paychecks are weekly, definite bonus when you're making a life change.
posted by asperity at 9:34 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


The way you talk about your time growing medical marijuana makes it sound like you we're truly happy then, with the job and way of life you were living. Have you considered doing something similar (but legal) in the agricultural world? Caring for animals requires a pretty set schedule and set of things to do, plus you will feel emotionally satisfied with seeing them grow up and know they will feed your local community. Or you could grow heirloom crops that aren't readily available in the market. OR!! you could be a forager and find things like morels and wild weeds and sea beans to sell at farmers markets! God, people gobble that stuff up out here in the pacific NW.

Not only would this kind of thing provide some income, but you could still live in the woods, and even consume your own wares for sustenance.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:35 AM on December 10, 2012 [11 favorites]


I applaud your desire to have a job that fulfills you. Perhaps some people don't need that, but I really understand those who do.

If you want to be a doctor, get started on that road and see how it goes. If you don't like it, you can always pursue one of the excellent ideas provided here (farming or foraging, EMT, etc.)
posted by 3491again at 9:39 AM on December 10, 2012


how long did it take you to learn to code/program?

It took me three full years in a computer science program -- high stress course load and internships over the summers. But I make a lot of money now.

BUT if you go in it for the money, and not because you actually want to know how every little thing works, you'll only ever be a mediocre programmer. Which is fine, you'll probably still be employable. But it won't be the fabulous glamorous life you seem to be chasing after.
posted by ethidda at 9:45 AM on December 10, 2012


To qualify, "a lot of money" is low six-digits, which is actually less than going into wall street (at least, used to be) and much, much less than the income cap for medical students.
posted by ethidda at 9:46 AM on December 10, 2012


You're asking the wrong question(s). The question is not "is it too late to start over?" or "should I go to med school?" The questions are "what about my current life is making me unhappy/unfulfilled?" and "what can I do - and what am I WILLING to do - to change it?"

You are in a position of sadness/despair/desperation/confusion. That's totally fine! I find myself in that position a LOT! However, it is not a great idea to make major life decisions from that position. It's kinda like staggering in from a week in the desert, sunburned, dehydrated, with a broken arm, and deciding, "Damn it, man, I'm going to become a Benedictine monk! At the monastery, I will NEVER have to live on scorpions and my own urine!" It's not that you want to become a monk - it's that you want a different LIFE, ideally one as different as possible from your current one.

Here's what you do: you make a list. Title the list "Reasons I Am Not Satisfied With Where I Am Now". Then you make ANOTHER list to go with it - this one titled "Things I Can Do To Work on My Dissatisfactions - Today, This Week, This Month and This Year". Then you follow through. When you reach the one-year mark of working on your life, THEN, then you can start asking the big career-centric questions.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:47 AM on December 10, 2012 [39 favorites]


//If you want to be a doctor, get started on that road and see how it goes//

I'm not sure racking up $30K a year in student loan debt while you work out if you want to be a doctor is really the smart move here.
posted by COD at 9:47 AM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


COD -- why not? The road doesn't start with $30k/year in student loan debt. It starts with pre-med classes at a community college that cost a lot less. Those classes are also applicable to other Allied Health professions. And applying to medical school requires shadowing and clinical experience that will be helpful in determining if that is the right path. By the time the OP starts racking up debt, he will already be in the process of getting an MD. If he decides he hates it after getting the MD, there are tons of other opportunities, from working for a biotech firm to medical writing.
posted by 3491again at 9:51 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


31 is very young, and I'm only looking at it from 44. You can start over whenever you like, so long as you're willing to put in the work and potential sacrifice.
posted by xingcat at 9:56 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live in NYC and I've seen a few high school drop outs/ex addicts start out as restaurant delivery guys, work their way up to waiter, then to management, and have saved enough, all in about 6-7 years, to pay into being an owner/partner. Some of these guys even managed to write a book and get book deals in the mean time. But these people had some serious drive. They had no education and all kinds of minor criminal backgrounds, but they worked really fucking hard and have succeeded, all after fucking around for a few years first. So just decide that you are willing to bust your ass and put your heart into it and you can get somewhere and be proud of yourself in the process.
posted by greta simone at 9:58 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


thanks for all the replies guys im truly grateful and it has got me thinking positively.

The way you talk about your time growing medical marijuana makes it sound like you we're truly happy then, with the job and way of life you were living. Have you considered doing something similar (but legal) in the agricultural world?

you're right, I was happy there. I love living closer to nature and cant see myself living for much longer in the city...

One thing I left out of my post was that one of my dreams is to have land in the tropics one day where I could have a farm for sustenance while also growing iboga. Iboga also has to do with my preference for learning more about medicine/healthcare...

For those of you who dont know, iboga is a very powerful hallucinogenic-like root bark that has been gaining a lot of momentum for its remarkable success in underground drug addiction therapy and depression (iboga/ibogaine = schedule 1 substance in USA). It is also endangered and must be grown in order for future generations to benefit.
I believe wholeheartedly in its power to cure us, but buying land is so expensive and it feels so far off. I would really like to be able to do this but it seems dubious to chase after a career/money making scheme for this reason....
posted by MD_yeahright at 9:59 AM on December 10, 2012


I dont know why I have never chosen to pursue a "career." well, actually i do: it has always seemed so trivial and limiting to me. I have never liked commitments or deadlines, and i have always scoffed at the status quo...

The limits and commitments you (say you) don't like can be flipped around into being the focus and structure you later say you're looking for in a change. The world (even the US) is much, much larger than "the status quo." From what you say you like about getting a medicinal occupation, you might look into herbal, Quan Yin, or similar alternatively therapeutic disciplines.

Furthermore, what happens if you lose your van or means of playing poker? You're basically on the verge of homelessness, if not actually homeless.

Lastly, I first read about ibogaine as a lightning treatment for opiate addiction over 20 years ago. I don't mean to dissuade you, but working in that niche, while honorable, is unlikely to produce a sense of accomplishment for some time. You can certainly contribute support to it in various ways while doing something else, though.

Dreams are great. They're the source of goals, but it sounds like you should also be considering more short term things. How would you like to wake up every day?
posted by rhizome at 10:13 AM on December 10, 2012


Just some last general thoughts on age and starting over. Frederic Goudy, one of the most prolific designers of typefaces/fonts, many of which are still in use today (and you probably even have some on your computer right now) didn't start his design career until he was 40 years old.

Also:
Five Famous Late Bloomers

It's Never Too Late to Start a Writing Career

And finally, something else to think about:
My friend Stewart Brand, who is now 69, has been arranging his life in blocks of 5 years. Five years is what he says any project worth doing will take. From moment of inception to the last good-riddance, a book, a campaign, a new job, a start-up will take 5 years to play through. So, he asks himself, how many 5 years do I have left? He can count them on one hand even if he is lucky. So this clarifies his choices. If he has less than 5 big things he can do, what will they be?

You're 31. Assuming general good health you'll die some time in your mid-late 70s. So, being conservative, you've got a good 6-8 more significant careers/projects you could take on. That's pretty cool! Go for it, do what you really want to do and don't worry too much about it.

(As an aside I'm 30 and have just signed up to return to school in a completely different field than the one I abandoned ten years ago).
posted by Doleful Creature at 10:16 AM on December 10, 2012 [9 favorites]


My story has a lot of similarities with yours, only it's taken me until 38 to make a change. A lot of the things that repel you from moving forward can be reframed into positives (or at least viewed from both sides).

...it has always seemed so trivial and limiting to me. I have never liked commitments or deadlines, and i have always scoffed at the status quo

Yup. Me too...until I found myself limited by being broke and bored with my trivial non-career. It took hitting financial rock bottom to look around and see my friends with jobs that I'd once scoffed at, now with income, stability, mobility and careers they don't hate.

I'm back in school now, for a 2-year degree in a medical field. I'm actually excited at the prospect of having a decent, middle-class career I think I will like. I'm even looking forward to having the burden of scheduling and structuring my work-life handled by someone else for a while.

One suggestion I would make to you -- and I wish I could reach back in time and convince myself of this -- whatever it may be, do something...like, soon. If you don't know what you want to do, do something while you're deciding. I spent years doing nothing because I didn't know what I really wanted to do. Well, I still don't, but I'm in a school with a lot of people studying a lot of different things, and then will be in a career with a lot of people doing a lot of different things. Hopefully, I'll find something that works for me. And even if not, at least I'm in motion.
posted by SampleSize at 10:21 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Where are you located?

Have you looked into grower positions with local nurseries? Most assistant grower positions are entry-level and are willing to train candidates without significant experience.

How about seasonal work on a CSA or market farm? If you find this sort of work is a good fit, there are plenty of resources for training farmers, and matching them to land opportunities. The New Entry and Collaborative Regional Alliance for Farmer Training (CRAFT) are two programs that come to mind immediately.

How about tracking down some CSA farms in your area on a site like localharvest.org and ask when you can start volunteering?

I'm currently working in the hort industry in the northeast...feel free to memail if you have any questions.
posted by pilibeen at 10:25 AM on December 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


Hell no. I started over at 34, got my master's and significantly improved the quality of my life. Medical school may be out, but a nursing degree or even becoming a physician's assistant shouldn't be out of the question.
posted by malaprohibita at 10:41 AM on December 10, 2012


I know people who are doctors who started med school at 30 and later. It's a long slog, though, of taking all the premed courses and then med school is itself a long slog.

One of my friends who did the later-than-usual med school route (after having been a teacher and then doing the Peace Corps) did it by getting EMT training and working as an EMT while completing his pre-med coursework. He said that med school interviewers were really impressed by his EMT experiences, and he felt it gave him a big advantage in the admissions process.

Another friend of mine became a Physician's Assistant in his mid-40s; he had been a musician in the military for several years, then got a Ph. D in English and did the adjunct faculty thing for a few years, then decided to become a PA. He really enjoys that work, which I bet he's awesome at--he's got a cool Mr. Rogers type of personality and is just a great guy.

So, yeah, you can do it, but it's fucking hard work, and the people I know who have succeeded at it have really wanted it. Really wanted it, not just "oh, might as well".

Something else to think about if you want to do work with entheogens and similar is finding a job with an organization like MAPS.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:04 AM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm with ya. 33, 5-year gap in resume, preparing to jump back into, um, having a job of some sort when we get back to the States at the end of the month. No marijuana or poker, though-- I was more on the silversmithing and sewing and volunteering and the like. But it still doesn't look pretty.

I *have* recently come up with an avenue I want to pursue, though, and I think it will make going to work, whatever I end up doing, much less excruciating than it was before. Is there any issue at all that you're passionate about? If you pursue jobs that relate to that, it matters a lot less whether the job itself is boring or shitty, because you can feel that you are helping the world, or at least a little corner of it that matters to you.

I have as yet no good advice for how to do it-- I have just barely started trying to herd my ducks into a row, whilst they act more like cats. (Tortured metaphor. It's been a long day.) But from what I hear, and oh how I have asked around, volunteering looks decent on a resume, especially when you've been unemployed. I used to scoff at the constant suggestions to volunteer, until I found my Thing. Now I am a big fan. So perhaps pick a place to settle for a while, doesn't have to be in a city, and do something you care about for free?

Last note: I've always worried a lot about my age. I graduated high school early and was always the youngest. Now, at 33, I still have blue hair, and tend to be one of the older members of my social groups, as well as one of the least advanced along a career path. Also female, which, fair or not, has led me to be very frightened of passing my expiration date and becoming invisible. However, a few months ago, that suddenly all stopped. I magically do not feel old anymore. It just seems like a matter of very little concern. I wasn't expecting this, but it's very very nice. The same may happen to you. 31 is not too old for anything besides celebrating birthdays in your 20's. People change careers all the time.

I think you'll be fine, when you find something you actually want to do. I think I will too.
posted by Because at 11:05 AM on December 10, 2012


The old Ann Landers answer to people worried they are too old to do a thing, reasoning that "it will take 10 years and then I'll be x years old", was "How old will you be in 10 years if you DON'T do it?"

That said, there does come a point where you ought to start focusing on what you need to do to earn a living, not on continuing to look for what you want to do. I know people 15 years older than you who find something wrong with every single concrete possibility; all jobs that they can actually get seem to them to be beneath their station. This is not a good place to end up.
posted by thelonius at 11:12 AM on December 10, 2012 [4 favorites]


Rather than trying to figure out what job you want, I suggest you start out figuring out what's important to you. Things like being a good partner, a kind person, someone who others can rely on, a person who's recognized and valued in the community, etc.

Whatever these things are, these are your guiding stars, you are going to try to figure out a way to structure your life to make it possible to move in that direction. These kinds of values are not things that you can achieve, like goals. You never finish "being a kind person" if that's important to you, for example.

I think it's great if you can find a job that is consistent with your values, but it's not required. You can be a kind person whatever kind of job you have, or if you have no job whatsoever.

Is it the case that environmental stewardship is important to you? Or is it just that being in a forest helps you feel less anxiety? Feeling less anxiety seems like a wonderful idea, but I wouldn't encourage you to set up your life to achieve that goal, and I wouldn't suggest you put off living the life you want until you feel less anxious.

There are many self-help books that can help you with this journey. One I recommend a lot is called The Happiness Trap.
posted by jasper411 at 11:36 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


If you like working outdoors with the land, I guarantee you there are a lot of training programs to help you become a rural farmer, particularly in the Midwest. Some of them even help you get a start on land. I have some friends who are doing this.
posted by corb at 11:47 AM on December 10, 2012


Can you be polite and smile? If so, here is one potential career track:

Customer Service --> Account Manager --> Project Manager --> Anything

Customer service can be a great way to restart your career, since you need nothing to get the job other than a healthy attitude, and (in the right field) can learn a lot of skills that are transferable. When I got tired of programming and wanted to switch careers, I did something similar, and now I work in corporate finance, get solid money, and 28 PTO days each year. No schooling needed.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:48 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, I would not advise joining the military with your current attitude. Ruthless Bunny is right, the military does give a lot of structure, but really only when you join it young can you truly reap all those benefits. The people I saw who joined in their early thirties with issues with authority had miserable times of it.
posted by corb at 11:49 AM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


31 is a perfectly fine age to start over, and if you really want to go to medical school, it's perfectly feasible. I started medical school at almost 30, and I had a few classmates who were in their early 40s. They still expect to have 25+year careers in their chosen fields.

You should put some thought into whether being an MD is something you actually want, or whether you're attracted to the idea of a helping profession with a clear training trajectory that is also financially secure. Because in the process of getting your pre-reqs together and starting medical school, you're likely to put in a good 4-5 years of slog in the preclinical sciences before you ever do anything useful for a patient. If you actually want to do ibogaine research, you're talking about 2+ years of prereqs, 4 years of medical school, 3-5 years of residency+fellowship, and then setting up your own research program or joining someone else's, which will entail all the tedium that comes with grant writing, project administration, writing for publication, etc--with the added regulatory wrinkles that come with studying a Schedule I drug. There had better be something else along the way that grabs you to make the process enjoyable for you, whether it's enjoying the classes, finding medicine intellectually interesting, liking the patients, etc. Finally, remember that medicine as it's practiced in the US is mostly less about keeping people healthy than it is about diagnosing and treating disease.

That said, if you are serious about wanting to go to medical school, find a local community college and sign up for Bio 101 and Chemistry 101. Those are good courses for anyone to have, probably won't cost you more than a few hundred dollars, and will help make it clear whether this is something you will actually want to do. I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to go to medical school when I started, but the process of getting through the pre-reqs made it clear to me that I did.

At the same time, get a job somewhere, establish a routine and earn some money. No entry-level job in any industry is going to be a rich source of life satisfaction. That said, ANY job can be a source of personal satisfaction at performing your tasks to a high standard. You just have to keep in mind that, while you want to be good at it, you also want to keep your eyes open for opportunities that might be more interesting.

Finally, think hard about what it is that you really want out of a career. I know someone who had a tech background, flirted with the idea of medicine, and ultimately did an apprenticeship at a big, well-established organic farm and is now running his own small operation. He rents his land currently and has mostly portable buildings, so the capital investment has been low. From what he says, the work is often tedious (and no vacations/sick time without a lot of logistical issues) but he seems to be genuinely happy for the first time since I've known him. For my friend, the things that were most important were 1) having work where he had a tangible product, 2) environmental stewardship, and 3) helping people be healthy. He could probably have tackled those itches in a number of different ways, including by going to medical school, but this is what he chose and it's working out well for him.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 11:52 AM on December 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Since you seem to enjoy the more laid back lifestyle that is closer to nature maybe you could look into doing an organic farming apprenticeship? I don't know much about this personally, although I have several friends who have done it and really enjoyed it.

Also maybe worth a try for a while if you're just looking for something with more stability, though not necessarily the same monetary return as a 9-5 job might be WWOOFing. This is a program where you work on an organic farm, often for free, in return for learning about farming and often free room and board.
posted by forkisbetter at 11:56 AM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it the case that environmental stewardship is important to you? Or is it just that being in a forest helps you feel less anxiety? Feeling less anxiety seems like a wonderful idea, but I wouldn't encourage you to set up your life to achieve that goal, and I wouldn't suggest you put off living the life you want until you feel less anxious.

thanks for this, i like where youre coming from.

i don't know if environmental stewardship is a phrase i would use; all I know is that I love to put my hands in the soil and be outside. also, working on a project that never ends and is also directly responsible for your survival/quality of life is highly empowering and beyond meaningful. I think a lot of it does have to do with being less anxious, but I only see it as this when I think and compare it to the city.
posted by MD_yeahright at 12:06 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


wow, there are a lot of very kind and intelligent, honest folks on here.

thank you all so much
posted by MD_yeahright at 12:11 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


> The idea that we are supposed to love our jobs is a myth. They call it work for a reason. Work to enable the things you really want to do in life. 31 is definitely not too old to start over, but you really need to wrap your brain around the idea that your job probably will not be self-actualizing, at least not at first, if ever. It's up to you to make any job you have meaningful. If you expect your job to bring the meaning to your life you are going to be disappointed.

Just an aside, but the idea that we are supposed to love our jobs is not a myth. The average full-time worker in America will spend a third of their waking adult life working, or commuting to and from. A third of our lives! Why doesn't it make sense that we are on fire and passionate about that huge chunk of our life?!

I understand your job shouldn't be the only meaning in your life, but it should have meaning. It should be something you desire. Something you're excited to get up for each and every day. And when it becomes less than that, it's time for a new adventure. I'm embarking on one myself because the rat race was gettin' old.

Go after it. Do it. Make a life out of something you love. Maybe it won't make you rich. Maybe you'll just "get by." But money isn't happiness. You don't need as much as you think you do. I promise you - on your death bed, you won't regret that you never bought that $8000 Italian leather sofa for your living room. You'll regret you didn't live your life fully -- with passion -- and go after your dreams.
posted by Falwless at 1:39 PM on December 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


The average full-time worker in America will spend a third of their waking adult life working, or commuting to and from. A third of our lives! Why doesn't it make sense that we are on fire and passionate about that huge chunk of our life?!

The problem with this is that it sets most of the working population up to fail. Most jobs aren't all that meaningful. Most jobs aren't the sort of thing that people dream about doing at any point, ever. (Some people are super fulfilled by working retail - I have a cousin whose life's goal is to work his way up the Walgreens management chain - but there are far fewer of those people than there are people in the Walgreens management chain.)

And yet, everyone has to work, and everyone should find meaning in their lives. If you can't find it in your job, then you find it somewhere else. Assuming you have to find it in your job can lead to the sort of perfectionist thinking that shows up in a lot of these AskMes where people are afraid to do anything because it might not be meaningful enough. Life happens anyway. Figure out how to eat and have shelter, and don't tie your search for existential fulfillment to that if you don't have to.
posted by restless_nomad at 1:50 PM on December 10, 2012 [14 favorites]


I'm in no way negating the absolute fulfillment people get in working a job society might deem "ordinary." Actually, the opposite -- if it's your mission to work up the chain at Walgreens, then how can you make that happen? Do eeeet! I'm just saying dream big and do big; ourselves are the only thing stopping us.
posted by Falwless at 2:32 PM on December 10, 2012


It's never too late. My mom started grad school in her '50s and finished and has a totally different career! My grandmother also reinvented herself in her 40's/50's, and my grandparents ran the pottery business she started for 20+ years. Life is long. People change careers all the time.

I loved organic farming (veg, fruit, flowers though!) too - it's going to be mine & my hubby's second career! =)

Check out the Ethnobotany program at the U of Hawaii! It looks waaaay interesting, and accessible. And it's in Hawaii.

Also, there's a lot of support for young/beginning farmers on the East coast - memail me if you want details. Check out the Greenhorns. These guys are kinda hipster, but they actually have A LOT of good info!
posted by jrobin276 at 3:26 PM on December 10, 2012


I really like doing manual/physical labor and being outside, so I sympathize with you quite a bit.

I don't know. I just think that if you like being outside and you don't like commitments and deadlines, med school is just so much the opposite of what you want to be doing. It's all about commitments and deadlines. And even if you want to be that person you just might not be that person, and that's okay. And programming...if you don't like rules and you don't like to be inside then you're going to hate it and it is miserable work if you don't like it. Miserable work that pays, but still.

Look, what you're doing now is making you miserable. Okay. The first order of business is to do something less miserable that brings in money and then when you're not feeling intermittently suicidal and like a failure, then, from a position of strength, you can start thinking more like 5 or 10 years down the road.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:28 PM on December 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


And in terms of finding a purpose, honestly, for most people for most of history the purpose was "support/raise a family, don't starve or die". The ability to consider what you want to do is an enormous privilege, so you know, have fun with it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 3:34 PM on December 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


I started law school when I was 34, and the only thing I've ever regretted is not doing it earlier.

31 is absolutely, definitely, NOT too late to start over (although I don't think med school is the right path for you, for reasons others have already covered).

Seriously, dude: back yourself. Nobody else will. Pick something, and go for it!
posted by Salamander at 7:34 PM on December 10, 2012


« Older Silver Pandora bracelets for t...   |  Non-reflex dependent, not-too-... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.