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The Cheshire Cat’s Advice

November '08

Sometimes, in the midst of a midlife transition, you feel like Alice in Wonderland. You’re in a confusing place; nothing works according to customary rules and you don’t know who you are anymore. You need guidance – but from a cat with a big grin who seems to appear and disappear at will?

Well, advice can come from odd places. Haven’t you ever had a stranger say something to you that contained the perfect sentiment at the moment? And it turns out, the Cheshire Cat’s words for Alice were wise ones. To her query of “Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from here?” the Cat replied, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

If you don’t know where you want to go, it’s darn near impossible to get there! When you’re writing a new chapter for your life, you’re usually not sure, at first, how you want the plot to develop. You often know what you don’t want, but as I once learned in an NLP (Neurolinguistic) Training Program, if you get on a bus and tell the driver you don’t want to go to San Diego, you won’t be moving forward.

So if you’re a midlife woman reinventing her life, you can expect to spend time figuring out what you really want. And you can always corral support for this sorting process. You could engage your friends as a sounding board, or you might want to find a few women in a similar position and create a more formal group.

In my early 40’s, I met with two other women on a regular basis with the specific goal of moving our careers in new directions. While we all had good jobs, we each knew we wanted to be doing something different. Within a year of our first meeting, one woman realized an old dream and entered law school at the age of 42, the other woman became a dean at Radcliffe College and I moved onto a job, as Dean of Continuing Education at Wellesley College, which turned out to be a splendid fit for my interests and talents.

You might also want to seek professional help when making a big life change and hire a Life Coach. Or, you might decide to take advantage of all three modes of support when pursuing a new life path.

Once you’ve determined where you’d like to go, when you get on the bus, you can say with clarity, “I’m headed for San Francisco; is this the right bus?” Or, perhaps, you may put yourself in the driver’s seat. Then you could even take a detour and visit that friend in Arizona. And who knows what opportunities might arise?

Happy holidays

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