This week’s Career Change Story comes from Nicola Jones, a former lawyer turned antenatal practitioner. She is about to embark on a family adventure to explore three continents, grapple with home schooling, learn a lot more about themselves and have a whole lot of fun.
This is a guest post in a series designed to inspire mums thinking about a career change. To find all the stories use Career Change Story in the Categories drop-down.
If you have a career change story to share, click here to contact me. I am always delighted to receive guest posts on this subject.
Over to Nicola
“I am a 39 year old mother of three boys who works part time facilitating antenatal courses for a national charity and occasionally acting as a deputy registrar of marriages at the local Register Office. I have a law degree and in years gone by I practised law in a pressurised corporate environment. Three young boys are more work than any day I ever had in the office!
None of that tells you who I am. I am a people person; I like being with other people, listening to their stories and laughing with them. After a few years working in that corporate environment I realised that to be happy I need to care about what I’m doing; working with documents and intangible transactions was never going to do it for me. I value the ability to think and constantly question and revise my own views. I am drawn to doing unconventional things. When I go with the majority it indicates that I haven’t given much thought to whatever it is I’m doing. When I break away from the norm it is because, rightly or wrongly, thought and reason have led me down an alternative path.
I feel most alive when I am exploring new things. My husband, Nick and I have joked for a long time that our decision to take the boys travelling for a year is our mid-life crisis. Some people find comfort in routine but in my case it is the opposite.
The itinerary, very much subject to change, will take us through North America from Washington DC to Philadelphia to Vancouver, down to San Francisco and Los Angeles. From there to Australia and New Zealand via the Cook Islands. Finally we visit Asia: Japan, Borneo, Thailand and Singapore.
Of all the questions I am asked, why is the biggest.
We believe it is exactly the right thing for our family, right now. Nick and I know that our lives changed direction as a result of the years we spent in Japan; our beliefs and understanding of the world were fundamentally altered by that brief experience. Japan is a unique place and whilst culturally very different from the Western society we grew up in, many aspects of life there are very similar. We loved it.
Being so obviously “foreign” was a liberating experience. In England, social norms and expectations can be suffocating – I am guilty of caring too much about what others think or expect, and the constant worry about negative judgement is exhausting. I’m sure this isn’t the case for everyone and I admire those with the balls to say, “sod it, this is what I really think.”
Living in Japan was like starting again, conscious that I wouldn’t even be aware of half of the social faux pas I unwittingly perpetrated, it was easier to assume that others could see that I was doing my best. My grasp of the language was weak and there was no risk of being able to detect a disapproving tone or sarcastic comment in the way that I feel besieged by them in England. I simply carried on like an indulged child and it was a gloriously happy state. I could relax and be myself.
Within a few years of being back home, I am overly concerned with toeing the line and keeping up with everyone else. The pace is so hectic that I can no longer be sure why I’m doing most of the things that take up all the time. It’s easy to get into the cycle of earning and spending, consuming and discarding without ever checking that we are happy in the present moment. I seemed to be constantly working towards some nebulous concept of happiness that probably resembled my parents’ utopian idea of retirement. As each year goes by, the less certain I feel that I’ll even make it that far. I don’t mean to be morbid but the older I get, the closer I feel the tragedy of loss and the more I reflect that we must not take life for granted.
On one level, it’s as simple as: we love spending time with each other and with our kids and we want to enjoy more of it. Conscious that our eldest is almost 10 and that in another 10 years he could be on his way to living independently; we want to make the most of our time with the boys while we still have the chance.
It goes deeper than just wanting to do more of what makes us happy. I really value the education that I have had and how, even after three children, I can occasionally summon the energy to think for myself. Living in Japan taught me to question things I always took for granted. I am fascinated by how cultural norms influence our beliefs and behaviours in a way that can sometimes prevent us asking why?
We’ve grown up with the belief that formal education is vital to success; that it is one of the greatest advantages of living in a wealthy society. It goes against those instincts to start to think – why? Is it possible that we might be able to help our children engage in an education so richly rewarding that the things they learn help them succeed in life in other ways? Might they learn the true meaning of compassion and love and purpose and ultimately happiness through extended travel, or am I being arrogant? I don’t know. A year though, a year where we leave the door open to come back if it feels right for us, that doesn’t seem like too big a gamble.
Sometimes it feels like a bigger gamble not to go.”
To follow Nicola’s progress, visit her blog. Don’t miss another career change story, subscribe to the blog to keep on track of future posts.