How old is too old?
July 26, 2012 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Sick of everything and want change is 42 too late in life?

My youngest child just graduated high school, I have a 2010 Bachelor's degree in Information/Libray Science I haven't used and I hate my current job. As the kid's were growing up I had to work full time as a single parent, I received my bachelor degree with intent on going for an MLIS/archival science degree and moving to NYC, my goal job would to be to work at the World Trade Center Museum. Well grad school is ridiculously overpriced, how the hell do you move to NYC, and I think I'm too old to start over (I think employer's like the younger crowd). I have a house and I hate my current job, what to do? Anyone ever been through this...I have a dream but I'm pretty sure it is too late for me to get the right experience in archival work....I really am stuck. How do people change? Any thoughts on life?
posted by irish01 to Human Relations (35 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Well, I am 61 and in many many ways, life is great. I am healthy, and just about to retire. The job I am retiring from, I got at 39 or 40, and it has been challenging but very fulfilling.

So, as the chiche goes, every journey begins with the first step. But if you take that, and then another and another (It will be very hard to keep taking steps), by the time you are 61 you will be in a better place that you might like more.

As for the practical part of moving to NYC, I have no advice for you there other than knowing that lots of people have moved there and some have thrived.

Good luck!
posted by Danf at 3:42 PM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

My husband, after working freelance since he was 23, took a corporate job at 57. It was a hard transition, but we work together to make it happen. Patience and a willingness to go with the flow help a lot.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:44 PM on July 26, 2012

42 is not unemployable for crying out loud. What do you do now? It is probably better to apply the experience you already have to underpin some kind of lateral career move towards something you'd enjoy.

My dad started law school at 40, by the way. I am going back for a masters at 40.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:44 PM on July 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

How old will you be in two or three years if you don't do it?

Honestly, if you can afford it, do it. Don't be so hung up on that particular job, though.
posted by inturnaround at 3:47 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

42 definitely isn't too late in life, but I'd try getting a job in information/library science in your area first, just to get some work experience in the field, before pulling up roots and moving. If archival work is your goal, try looking around for tiny local museums -- they may not be able to pay much (or anything) but it'll be good experience and something to put on your resume.
posted by ostro at 3:50 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

You just keep moving through life until you don't anymore. Doing things you like rather than doing things you don't seems like a better way to spend that journey. Be sensible and pragmatic, but there's no reason you have to stay in the same spot for the rest of your life.
posted by heyjude at 3:50 PM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

You are not too old in any way whatsoever to carry out your plan. My husband is in your age bracket and just went back to school to make a career change; it's absolutely not too late to change your life.
posted by limeonaire at 3:52 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Definitely don't get stuck on having just one dream job and be patient with yourself. Small steps. You have to have patience for that.

And you'll have to consider your health, retirement savings, lifestyle, etc.
posted by discopolo at 3:59 PM on July 26, 2012

I thought 42 was the meaning of life? I agree with the small steps approach. I have folks in my community who have made career/life changes. It took community/family support for them to feel safe enough to move forward.
posted by anya32 at 4:01 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

The ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything is this: What is the perfect age to re-boot and start a new career and life path?

The answer?
posted by The World Famous at 4:08 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

My co-worker, a 68-year-old woman who was an Executive Assistant for 40+ years, went on a safari in Africa last year.

She loved it so much that she got certified to teach English as a second language, and is soon going to pull up stakes, kiss her son, daughter-in-law, and grandchild goodbye, pack up her things and her husband and teach English in Africa for an indeterminate number of years.

42? You're just getting started.
posted by xingcat at 4:16 PM on July 26, 2012 [19 favorites]

When I shut down my small business at age 44, I had people scrambling to hire me.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:22 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I moved to NYC at age 39 right after my marriage exploded. I had 10K and no plans or job prospects. I'd been working with pre-schoool children for years and had no idea what I wanted to do next-- I just knew I wanted a change. The first year was tough and I was mostly unemployed but for some freelance editing work (I was was an editor before I had my children). I had moments of wondering if I'd run out of money and have to throw myself on the mercy of family. But I made contacts and got my sea legs and by year two I landed a job I didn't love, but which was a great jumping off point for my next job-- Information Architect for an Internet start-up. That company went under, but by year three I was a project manager for a stable software consulting company, a job it turns out I really love. It's now 14 years later and I can't imagine living anywhere else.

You absolutely can remake your life.

Move to NYC, if you've got a nest-egg, and live frugally and do volunteer work in areas that will help you get where you want to be.

Also MeMail me if you decide to do this. I'd be delighted to give you leads on places to live and even introduce you to people who might be helpful.
posted by idest at 4:24 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Have you ever eaten at a KFC? I think Colonel Sanders was in his sixties when he started the company and finally became wealthy quite late in life.

Let me also suggest this: People are living longer and retiring later, in part because it becomes impractical to plan for a retirement that could stretch into several decades. By the time you are sixty, starting a new career in your forties could be very trendy and normal.

Please don't wait. Start designing and creating your new life today.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 4:34 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Julia Child took her very first cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu when she was 38. She had her first TV appearance when she was 50, a year after her first cookbook was published.

posted by argonauta at 4:43 PM on July 26, 2012 [15 favorites]

-When my mom was your age, she had her first child (me) and went from always working to staying at home. A few years later she moved (though not alone) to a new town in a new state with a totally different, and very difficult, lifestyle. When she went back to working outside the home, she was - obviously - older still.

-My archivist friend who got her degree a few years ago had friends your age (or maybe older) in her program. From what I understand finding a job in the field is difficult/competitive, especially in big cities, but she never mentioned age being a factor in any way.

-You are so lucky! Your kids are practically adults. And I presume you could sell that house and then you'd have money. There are women your age who aren't yet doing what they really want to do professionally, who don't have money, and who also want to have kids and haven't had them yet. Of course changing careers is always hard and NYC is always expensive and you have to be somewhat practical, blah, blah. But you're free!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 4:48 PM on July 26, 2012

There have been a number of previous threads along these lines and the answer is always the same: no, it is never too late. It can take sacrifices and determination, but if you want it enough you can, and should, do it.

Previous semi-relevant thread. My comment is here, to save my typing it out again. :-)
posted by Decani at 4:53 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

if you're really desperate to worry about something you can't do, just think about playing center for the lakers. not gonna happen! pretty much everything else is just a matter of trying hard and not quitting.
posted by facetious at 5:30 PM on July 26, 2012

Joining the chorus to say I am 37 (near 38) and three weeks into a completely new career I had to go back to school for--what's more I went from administration and instruction in the arts to a clinical role in the sciences, so a completely different side of the house and a whole new skill set and challenges to executive functioning. I was the oldest in my graduating cohort by 10+ years. I started getting interviews a full 6 months before my cohort and offers soon after. I turned down three jobs for one job/workplace I love and those of my younger (very talented, extremely bright) cohort who have now gotten some interviews have been hopeful and eager to be able to accept one and only offers. And this is in a field with a big demand where you might actually expect younger, eager candidates to get snatched up--but those of us who are older and more life-experienced are getting nabbed first.

My new boss told me that he is not surprised, because an older candidate comes with invaluable tools like discernment, self-awareness, wiser interpersonal skills, and leadership experience in addition to life experience that just can't be reproduced by any number of flashy recognitions collected by the young in their programs or internships. He said that side by side, in an interview, the bright older candidate always shines, and what's more, is reassuring--as an employer he immediately feels like he'll get to mentor an older candidate on meaningful issues and development versus spending a lot of mentorship energy on coaching a younger person through basic life/job reality stuff the older worker already understands.

It was fucking hard (I had a young kid to balance with it all), but I have never had this kind of job satisfaction and if you would have asked me then, I would have told you that I really enjoyed and got a lot of satisfaction from my previous career. But satisfaction is a world away from being really fulfilled by my work every day, and because I had all those experiences in my previous career I have really well-rounded expectations about the less than desirable parts of my job and integrate them really well (it's like having the advantage of coming to terms with the 'work' part of work in a healthy way, but getting to apply those terms to a career you're in love with. Sort of like a really successful second marriage, I would imagine).

There were more than a few points where I had the same doubts you are having, and wondered if I was killing my time and money and spirit. All of this involved a big move for me, from an established life and locale, as well. There was grief associated with that. But now? I honestly pinch myself almost everyday. I almost feel guilty for the level of professional satisfaction I have and the resulting energy I have for everything I care about in my life (including my advocations). I feel like I've set a good example for my kid that one is never trapped, one can always grow and make something happen for one's self. I also think that I've become a much better thinker and problem solver, in general, because I really pushed myself and deeply challenged my brain at a time in life where I might have coasted. Also, I am much more willing to take on other personal challenges, now, that I know I never would have if I hadn't done this. I learned how to say yes in a way that matters.

Finally, I feel like I have come much closer than I ever would have to understanding that there is no destination. It's true that I had to work through something difficult (grad school, residency) to enjoy my work and my life on the other side of it all, but the gauntlet itself became so rewarding. There was this kind of "a-ha" moment where just the process of nurturing my goal was contributing to my general sense of well-being. Right around the time I was thinking a lot about that, I actually got a tattoo to commemorate what I was experiencing--a phoenix (which absolutely part of the canon of tattooing, representing great change/rebirth), but the phoenix is both on fire/burning to ashes, and smiling knowingly with joy. I'm getting kind of woo-hoo here (as old ladies are wont to do), but there is no way I would have felt this badass, accomplishing exactly what I have, if I was 10 years younger.

I also have a whole bunch of new friends in their 20s, which I love, because their 20s were not my 20s, and I have learned so much from them. At one time I might have resented their youth, or been afraid that I would, but I'm glad to be where I am. And you know what? I'm also starting to get some brand new dreams for myself, and I'm totally okay with that, too. I completely anticipate heading into 40, 50, 60, etc. with the skills necessary to welcome change simply because I forced myself through it at a time when I could have been "done."
posted by rumposinc at 6:06 PM on July 26, 2012 [13 favorites]

You're 42. Let's say you take three years to finish your MLIS- one year to research and apply, two years to do the degree. You would be 45, right? That means you would have AT LEAST TWENTY YEARS left in your working life if you retire at 65. Are you really going to be unhappy and unfulfilled for the next twenty years on the basis that you are "too old" right now? If you were 57, I would have different advice, but come on now.

On the other hand, I think you really owe it to yourself to break your dream down into parts and figure out what you hope each component is going to do for you. Your dream is to work as an archivist at a very high-visibility organization in a high-profile, expensive city. That dream has three parts- the work, the org, and the city. What do you want from each of those three parts? For instance, the archival work- do you value contributing to historical knowledge? Helping people learn about an important event? Working with the materials themselves? The org- do you want to work in an organization that supports civic life? That has a lot of contact with the public? That interprets political change of some kind? And the city- do you want more culture? A larger dating pool? A more "urban" lifestyle? I'm asking these questions because I think a lot of times when people have these uber-specific dream ideas, what they really want is something deeper, and I think they owe it to themselves to figure out what that is before putting energy and money towards something that isn't what they truly want. Your dream might be, "Do early historical work on a large-scale event that affected many Americans in an organization with political goals in a major American city." And maybe you would end up, say, collecting oral histories from people who were displaced by Hurrican Katrina in Houston. Or your dream might be, "Interact with the public while teaching them about history in a more urban setting," and you end up in a small college in a small city in the Midwest or somewhere directing their historical museum. (Um, not that I think either of those jobs are, like, out there and easy to get or whatever. They're just examples I made up.)

Basically, I don't think you are too old to change your life, at all, but I do think you should be intensely, intensely realistic about it and really analyze why and how you want particular aspects of your life to change.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 6:07 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

It is if you say it is, think that way, and live that way.
posted by thelonius at 6:16 PM on July 26, 2012

Before you go for this dream job -- be sure you talk to a LOT of people who already have a job similar to the one you want. Use the internet to find them. Also talk with people in other jobs you think you might want. There is no substitute for getting a real feel for what you are getting yourself into - do informational interviews!
posted by kellybird at 6:27 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm 43 (as of yesterday). In the Fall, I'm going back to college to take math classes, to eventually take some Computer Science classes. Yes, you can do it. Would have I liked to have done it 10 years ago? Sure. But I'm doing it now and that's the most important thing.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:28 PM on July 26, 2012

I went back to school at 50, started a new career as an EMT. I love my job and am working towards becoming a paramedic. I feel so much more alive!

My ultimate goal is to work as a paramedic as a first responder with international disasters. I say go for it!
posted by JujuB at 10:19 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

42? I am 47 and consider you a kid. Follow what dream you want. Age is not what it used to be.
posted by Vaike at 10:24 PM on July 26, 2012

In case it seems relevant, I'll offer my own experience. I went back to school almost four years ago, at the age of 41, to get retrained for a career that is completely different from anything I'd done before. I thought that I would be the only one in my program over the age of 30.

Well, I was wrong. To be fair, there are a number of young people in my program and new field. But a sizable percentage of us are in our 30s, 40s, and 50s.

Now, my new field values practitioners with life experience, which may not be the case in archival science. Still, I don't yet know whether I'll actually be able to get a job.

But you know what? Before I started this program, I felt stuck in a rut. Unhappy. Played out. Now I'm about three times as busy, but I feel much happier and more alive.

I hate to think about where I'd be if I had talked myself out of my seemingly irrational impulse. And I'd hate to see you talk yourself out of yours.
posted by chicainthecity at 11:00 PM on July 26, 2012

I went back to school at 56. I am now 59, taking my last math class (no more math ever...yippeee) and will graduate with my AA degree in Art next May. I am the first person of my generation to graduate from any college in my family. Everyone is rooting for me. I hope to transfer to my local state college to get my BA in Studio Art. I figure I will be near 70 when I graduate and then I want to be an Artist for the rest of my life.
posted by cairnoflore at 11:21 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm 42. My first child is 15 months old. We plan on having another. We just started a new business that is doing very well.

Your concerns are interesting. I'm pretty sure my life isn't over at this point. Why would yours be??

Go forth. Be happy!
posted by jbenben at 1:59 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh. Wait. You want to be in NYC?

Everyone lies. If you want to be there - you can get there. Full stop.

It's not as expensive as you fear. Just go!
posted by jbenben at 2:03 AM on July 27, 2012

How do people change?

You just decide to do it. When I was 41, and by no means financially secure or anything like that, I quit my job of ten years on the same day I signed the mortgage papers for a new apartment, I moved from Sweden back to the United States, to Seattle, to be with a girl. After a few months, we moved together back to Sweden, and then to London, and are now back in Sweden again with two small children. I turn 50 next week and have lived more in the last nine years than I had in all the years up to that point - and the years up to 41 were nothing like boring.

For me it wasn't a mid-life crisis or anything, it was just time for something different. And you know, sometimes you just have to be reckless and irresponsible with your life.
posted by three blind mice at 2:06 AM on July 27, 2012

When I am asking myself, me a fellow 42-year old, whether my time is justified doing X and Y especially when sometimes I feel older than God, I will remind myself that we may collide into a universe made of antimatter and just wink out of existence tomorrow. Then it's like, fuck it, do what you like.

But that doesn't mean every door will be open to you. New York is hard for young people, harder for older people (unless you're well off). But again, fuck it, if the Big Apple is your end all be all, do what you wanna do to get there, unless doing so would somehow mean you're being a shitty person some in some way.
posted by angrycat at 5:03 AM on July 27, 2012

I tried to call up my 83-year-old mother to ask what she thinks of your question. But I forgot - she had her phone turned off because she's at two castings today.

So I'll try to give you a more complete answer from my own experience, as I'm 42 myself, but I'm not sure when I'll fit it in as I'll be getting home late tonight from my brand new job in statistical analysis (I don't know anything about statistics, talk about your learning curve) because, on the way, I'm going to this fab new pole dancing class I discovered. It am making tons of progress very quickly - who knew, as I was totally unathletic as a kid!

Uh. Sorry, went off topic there. Sometimes, older people have trouble with letting their minds wander.
posted by tel3path at 6:04 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

My mom is in her 40s and is working on her PhD, my grandma started her own non-profit in her late 50s.

How to move to NYC? Learn to live without a dishwasher and a car, and accept that all your stuff will probably not fit into your new apartment.
posted by inertia at 7:34 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Make a plan.

You will feel better, and it will be easier for you to see.

I did a search for Library, Archive jobs in New York, and this is what popped up.

If this were my plan, this is what it would look like:

1. Start applying for jobs.

2. Have house appriased to see what it's worth. Put on market.

3. Pare down belongings to bare essentals.

4. Hold Garage Sale

5. If house sells before I have dream job, move anyway and get a regular job until dream job opens up.

See, you're making the steps towards your goal. 42 isn't too old. I will recommend a makeover though. I'm coming up on 50 and I look WAY younger because I haven't let my looks fossilize (also, I have a really ugly picture in the attic). Get an up to date hair do, new makeup and some kicky new outfits. Stop wearing panty hose.

That's all doable, isn't it? Good luck kiddo, you're going to have the time of your life!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:49 AM on July 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

I, for one, don't think you're too old. Many of my friends and family members have made career changes older than you. It's illegal to discriminate based on age...but personally, I would be more likely to hire someone with more and more varied life experiences, and that takes time to achieve. :)

Also, I'm working on a career change myself, and the best advice I got was: your MLIS will take three years. You could start now, or you could be three years older and still not have made a change. I'm loving San Jose State's online MLIS program, FWIW.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:37 AM on July 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

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