I am a Square Peg and Over 60 Years of Age
I admit that I am a square peg! The nice round holes that my corporate masters created for me were a painful fit. I did manage to squeeze myself into those holes and got paid well for it but at what cost?
I have written about square pegs in the past:
- Are You a Square Peg Trying to Fill a Round Hole?
- Are You a Square Peg? Define Your Unique Career Hole
What I want to discuss in this post is what happens to square pegs when we enter the 2nd half of life.
I have been talking with a variety of individuals who are all square pegs and are now struggling to maintain their careers in the 2nd half of life.
Square Peg Problem
The problem that square pegs have is they have to conform to the damn holes that our employers create for us. We become actors when we go to work and we play a role. The problem is that consumes a lot of energy.
Early in our career, this is tiring but we are young and vibrant. In the middle of our career, this starts to become exhausting but we put up with it, but when we enter the 2nd half of life late in our careers, it is debilitating.
The results often show up as physical ailments or burn out.
Let me give you 3 examples.
The Closet Introvert
This is my story. I am a closet introvert. I appear to be an extrovert because I am a great public speaker, I can work a networking event with the best of them and I can meet and mingle with strangers with ease. When I am done, I am exhausted.
This did not happen overnight. In my 22 years at IBM, I slowly became an articulate techno-weenie or a geek that could speak. I was paid more and more money to do this.
When I hit my late 30s and early 40s, my back would spasm once or more times a year. I would be done for a week or more. Finally, my l3/l4 discs ruptured and after taking 3 months off for bed rest, I kept going.
I convinced myself I was an extrovert. After a near-fatal bicycle accident shook my world, I decided to go off and teach high school math wherein the end I collapsed from exhaustion. If you want to hear the full story of how I seduced myself listen to the podcast episode From High-Tech Training to High School Teacher, and Why I Left. [Podcast].
Now that I am over 60 years of age, I have to be careful how much public speaking I do. Several weeks back I presented a multi-generational workshop for a bank in Dallas on a Saturday. I drove for 3 hours up in the morning, listening to podcasts, gave the 2-hour workshop and then made the 3-hour drive home. Those 3-hour drives were my restorative niches.
I have to allow a lot of alone time before and after being around people. If I do not I am dead the rest of the day. Even though I am really good at being around people and presenting workshops it is exhausting.
I am a square peg and shoving myself into that round hole is EXHAUSTING, especially now that I am older.
I have met multiple musical technologists over the last few years. It is very common for engineers to have high interests in music.
Most recently I was speaking with a gentleman I will call Ron who works for a very large hospital system. He evaluates systems and he has to stay on top of all technologies the hospital is implementing. With the advent of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) and all of the downstream technologies, the rate of change has accelerated.
At the same time, Ron has a huge interest in music that he has relegated to the side for many years to raise a family, pay off the mortgage, and put his kids through college.
Ron can keep up with the technological changes but …. he does not want to. What once was fun, interesting and lot of work is now just a lot of work.
He has spent the last few years taking care of elderly parents. His priorities have shifted.
Ron spent years shoving the square peg of himself into the technology round hole.
This last example is Sam who wandered into technology a long time ago. He did not really select it but it was there at the time he graduated from college.
Over the last 20 years, he has worked for large companies in their IT departments. He has gotten pretty good at it. Today he is in IT security which is a hot area. The problem is he is sick of it. He is both mentally and physically tired.
Now that Sam is in his mid to late 50s he can no longer keep shoving his square peg into the round hole of his job. He is physically fit and can do it but … he does not want to anymore.
Sam is highly creative and would love to marry his technical knowledge with some form of art. He is now exploring different video options with virtual and augmented reality.
The big question is can he make a go of this AND keep putting his kids through college at the same time.
Square Pegs and Financial Requirements in the 2nd Half of Life
I was quite blessed that my first tech startup left us debt free in my late 40s. We had children early by today’s standards in our late 20s. So many of the square pegs I have talked with lately waited to establish their careers before having children. Putting children through college in their late 50s or early 60s is no longer unusual.
As we all have lived through 2 horrible recessions that decimated both retirement and our kid’s college savings, many square pegs feel they have to keep shoving themselves into the round hole of work.
This is one reason we are working our plan to move to a lower cost place in the world along with a slower pace of life where I can continue to avoid that damn round career hole. Check out the latest about our journey at the How to Move Abroad and Take Your Job With You Series Page.
Are you going to keep shoving yourself into the round hole?Marc Miller
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