How to Let Go of an Old Career and Start Anew

Inertia while important in physics, isn’t especially helpful when one wants to start a new career after, say 15-20 years or more doing the same thing. Commonly referred to as Newton’s first law, the concept of inertia says, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

We all know people that have come before us who picked a career and hung on for dear life for 40 plus years. Hopefully, these are the truly passionate people who have found their life’s calling; or they’re especially good at concealing moderate discontent; or they’re miserable to be around.

But for the rest of us who got into one career for one reason or another then slowly start to feel themselves dying inside, change is the only way to go. Fighting inertia does take concerted effort, energy, and attention, but it can be worth it in the end to achieve change.

It can feel daunting, scary, and downright overwhelming. Whether you have to quit a job, sell a company, or go back to school, fear is an inevitable component, like a toddler who won’t let go of your leg and head into the kindergarten classroom.

When do you pull the plug? Will your spouse and parents approve? Will your friends think you’re crazy? Maybe, probably, but the rewards in finding and following your true passion can be worth more than any kind of financial gain.

Listening to our lives

In his profound work, Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, Parker J. Palmer writes, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” We tend to discount our previous life and work experiences, thinking that we must scrap it all, throw the baby out with the bathwater, and begin anew. Not so.

There is a philosophy expressed by Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, which suggests that nothing is wasted in God’s economy.

I started out my career in public relations, after enjoying and completing a glorious English literature degree. I wanted to get out of school fast, in order to get married (needed a full-time job, hubs wasn’t quite done with school yet).

But as I look back, there are things I loved about studying literature that remain unmatched in anything else I’ve done. I also let my desire for songwriting and performing music die a slow death until a church friend gave me her piano years later.

Fast forward, ahem, 19 years, a husband, four kids, and several businesses later, it seems like of days of discussing plots, themes, and women’s literature are long behind me.

What happens to us as adults?

The trajectory from high school into college seems so promising. We might even find a passion and pursue a calling – yet the calling changes even fades. The tasks at hand of paying bills and raising families alongside workplace demands, difficult bosses, leaking roofs, and cars that break down – all the minutiae of life can easy entrap us if we’re not careful.

It’s like the proverbial frog in the pot coming to a slow boil or culture around us that persists in depleting us of depth and vulnerability.

We have to intentionally make space to keep digging into ourselves and listening to our lives speaking to us.

Life begins moving fast as we move from childhood to adulthood, then it picks up with lightning speed if we let it. It’s all-consuming, overwhelming, overtaking–if we don’t stop it. It is possible to slow down the effects of age and time, but it’s incredibly counter-cultural.

Slowing down our lives

There are a few good books I’ve been blessed to come across that have stopped me dead in my tracks and taken me out of “the grind” long enough to delve into the part of my psyche that needs to be heard.

For most of us, the inner self that doesn’t get much play time, but is always clambering for attention whether or not we listen.

The problem is, of course, the longer you ignore, deny, and disregard that inner voice, that inner child who still needs attention, the deeper you can sink into that feeling of despair – that you’ll never hear them, you’ll never feed them and watch them grow.

No one enjoys that feeling of stunted growth – you wouldn’t treat your own child this way – ignoring them and leaving them to starve in the back of your closet, yet we willingly do this to ourselves.

We unknowingly leave ourselves unfed, unloved.

How do we get back?

How do we get back to our desires that we know are there? How do we quit doing something we hate and more on, through faith — in ourselves and in God to direct us — to get back to what we most want to be doing? How do we make time and space to lean into those inner passions and desires which God has placed before us – deep down inside?

Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

For me, the desires of my heart led me slowly away from being a public relations consultant, back toward more authentic writing, with a side of music. Getting to this point, however, took lots of introspection and slowing down.

If you speak with artists and musicians about the creative process, many of them will often talk about ‘living light’ or creating a life that has some freedom and margin in it. Most people can’t create when their backs are pressed up against the wall to produce, earn, or have every moment of their lives scheduled.

Slowing one’s life down is key.

Finding your way

On a visit several years ago to my parents’ house near Dallas, I slept on the guest bed in my mother’s office, surrounded by bookshelves. I took an old copy of The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron off the shelf. I was a junior in high school when this book became all the rage. My mother bought a copy and worked through the first few chapters, leaving notes in the margin.

Fast forward 25 years.

I asked her if I could take the book with me back to my home in California. The book pretty much changed my life and gave voice to so many desires that had lain dormant for so long. While I never gave up personal writing, poetry, and songwriting, the book became a tool that gave me the strength to start heading in the direction that I originally began in.

It’s never too late to make a change. It’s never too late to shift; to adjust; to morph. People do it all the time. There’s no reason to stay stuck or to lose hope.

As you contemplate your “do over” (another great book worth a read by Jon Acuff, Do Over: Make Today the First Day of Your New Career), I challenge you to go deep down and do the dirty work of listening to yourself, to your God-given passions, and to hear what your life has to say about yourself.

It’s not easy, but you will never regret changing the inertia of your life for the better.

2 thoughts on “How to Let Go of an Old Career and Start Anew

  1. And, to remember … it is not about us but rather listening to that still small voice and His calling on our life – our day – our moment.
    God’s Word will revitalize your soul.
    Proverbs 3:22 “fill your life with living energy”.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Stephanie.

      I looked up Proverbs 3:22 (21-22)

      21My child, don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment.

      Hang on to them,

      22for they will refresh your soul.

      They are like jewels on a necklace.”

      Love this!

      I’m not sure that “fill your life with living energy” is a Bible quote – can you share the source, please?

      I completely agree that God’s Word always revitalizes the soul–like water to the thirsty.


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