Lessons from my mid-career gap year

After I left my full-time job at the start of the year, I felt invincible. For the first time in years, I was brimming with hope and positivity. I went on “early retirement” because a sabbatical leave is not at all a common practice in this country. There was no going back. For my physical and mental health, I needed to take a break I felt I very much deserved.

So I travelled all throughout summer and happily devoured educational and motivational podcasts (my new addiction). It was July when I started to seriously look for a job. September is almost over now, and apart from a few writing gigs here and there, I have nothing to show for my extraordinary sense of bravery (or so I thought) when I quit my corporate job.

I’ve had a few wins, but for the most part, life has been difficult. I was applying for jobs not aligned with my former level and what I used to do because I wanted to try and do something different.

I sent out applications and went in for countless interviews (I logged them at first but lost count already), and had my fair share of rejections which broke me some days, and toughened me up some days.

I applied for positions I was overqualified for, and applied for even more I was underqualified for because I figured it was something I had to do to get a foot in the door. I was gunning for institutions and industries new to me.

And then there were applications I myself had to decline and stop pursuing after an interview or two, because I simply felt it was not a good fit for me.

Remote project work involving writing or content management still hugely appeals to me (I actually signed up with a startup), but honestly, I’ve been fiercely craving human interaction after staring at my laptop for very long periods of time.

I’ve been resisting working in Makati/BGC which hosts a chunk of job opportunities in Metro Manila. With dwindling choices, I’m softening up and now considering returning to full-time office work (but only if the location is in Quezon City, Manila, Pasig, or Mandaluyong — my self-imposed criteria which further complicates the search).

I know it’s a tough call, but I’m this close to selling out, without any regard for the location whatsoever. And I just might give in to that one job specialization I’ve been avoiding like the plague. With a clearer mind, my non-negotiables are transforming right before my eyes as soon as I have removed my rose-colored glasses.

How could I be this old and still searching for my place in the sun? I had to look back at my choices. Through it all, there are no regrets. Things happened for a reason. Life happened. Surely, I’m not the first one in the world to feel this way, and that’s strangely comforting.

And so I’m writing this as part of my search. A job search is changing my life in so many ways. Acknowledging that I have much to learn no matter how many years of experience I’ve racked up, I am still eager to at least try and do new things.

There’s a big, exciting world out there. I’m starting over.

TL;DR: Realized I’m too old for the job market, and have a sinking feeling that I’m screwed. BUT I’ll carry on. 🙂

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