Scary thought: I must change my life

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The most ghoulish thing you may confront today are your colleague’s costumes. Says Marketwatch,

According to research from the National Retail Federation, 33.8% of adults plan on dressing in costume for Halloween this year. And there’s a good chance many of them will be dressing up in the office: A CareerBuilder.com survey in 2005 found that almost one-third of workers planned to wear a costume work that year.

Not me. First of all, I’m working from home in order to attend my preschooler’s parade, then escort her on her candy-begging rounds. Second, I’ve never been one for adult costumes. As a woman, your choices at any American Halloween store are a) slutty nurse, b) slutty cheerleader, c) slutty pink pirate (an inexplicably hot outfit this year). And who needs to parade around the workplace dressed like a prostitute doing role play?

No, the scary for me comes not from the holiday but from something that’s been haunting me these past few days. Two women I know are leaving my company. They’re kind of eerily similar in resumé: both rank Number Two on their mastheads at our marquee publications; both have worked in the building for over 20 years; both are making the leap to futures unknown, meaning they’re not leaving explicitly for another job.

Now, these are both women I admire tremendously. They’re scary-smart, ambitious, accomplished people who nevertheless remain, well, nice. I’ve marveled at the way they’ve managed rocket-speed careers along with motherhood, and still manage to come to work with their hair combed.

And now they’re abandoning those carefully crafted, hard-fought careers. “I realized I could be working another 20 years,” said one, cheerfully, when I interviewed her before an audience of colleagues for her send-off. “I thought: Is this what I want to be forever? Is there something else? I’m ready for Act Two.”

So here’s the terrifying part. That’s me in 10 years. I’ve already worked as a journalist for 15 years, 10 of them at this company. Not in my wildest dreams do I expect to reach the heights they have. Yet, I admit I’ve never really considered doing something else. What will I be 10 years from now? What’s my Act Two?

Sometimes, in between packing my kid’s lunch and running for the bus and meeting that deadline by a hair, I think of that line in the Rilke poem: “You must change your life.” And it hits me like a ton of bricks. I must change my life. How?

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