It was October 2008. I was taking my early evening walk around the neighborhood, listening to Martha Beck’s audio book “Steering by Starlight: Find Your Right Life, No Matter What!” And as I rounded the corner, my flashlight guiding the way through the darkening twilight, a voice in my head (sounding suspiciously like Martha) said, “Quit your job, go back to school and start anew. Be happy!”
A little background here. For almost 30 years, I was an IT/IS professional. I was considered an “expert”, someone others looked to for answers and solutions. I was very good at my job. But I was searching for something that I couldn’t find in my cubicle or during my job commute. As a lifelong crafter, I wanted to combine my computer expertise with my artistic abilities. I wanted an outlet for experimenting with digital design, honing my craft and bringing a small dose of beauty to the world. I wanted the student discount for the Adobe Creative Suite software package.
But this whole ”quit your job” notion was crazy, wasn’t it? How could I leave a high-paying IT job with great benefits that provided a good standard of living for my family? Give up my matching 401k contributions, my expert status and the self-esteem derived from my specialist position? Give up my free cable TV? And for something as uncertain as a graphic design career? Would I even be any good? Didn’t I read the headlines – how could I leave a “sure thing” in the middle of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression? How could I walk away into the unknown?
I can’t really explain why I listened this time to that small voice (although Martha can be pretty darn convincing). It certainly helped that my wonderful husband, children and family were all amazingly supportive and that the local community college had just started a graphic design certificate program that was a perfect fit for me.
And now, here it is – the opening days of 2011. I have completed my formal educational training, earning certificates in Graphic Design, Advanced Graphic Design and Digital Photography. I just completed a six-month internship with a local design firm. And I am in the process of launching my freelance graphic design company, Gott Graphics Design (“helping small businesses build better graphics”).
On May 1, I will reach another milestone as I will officially take early retirement and begin drawing my pension – a final good-bye to the corporate world and a big hello to whatever comes next.
It has been a wonderful, humbling, amazing, scary, extraordinary adventure. Building this website and launching my blog is simply the next step on this path that I have chosen for the second half of my life. I expect this journey will take me in directions that I cannot anticipate and will bring unexpected changes to both my life and my design work.
I am working to fill my “empty nest”.
Some inspirational words from the poem “Crossroads” by Joyce Sutphen:
The second half of my life
will be ice breaking up
on the river,
rain soaking the fields,
a hand held out,
a fire and smoke
going upward, always up.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.