Text read by Mary Peters

In January 2021, Julia from Mannheim in Germany wrote about her unusual and interesting job. What has she been up to since then?

When I tell people that I am studying at age 30, they assume something is wrong in my life. At this stage of one’s life, you are supposed to have a family, a mortgage and be settled, with the pitter-patter of tiny feet in the background. This is not what my life is like. Indeed, I was well on the way to this “paradise”. Everything was moving in the right direction. So, it seemed!

Then, I quit my job this year to start over again. I simply pressed the reset button. I applied to study psychology. When my application was accepted, I had mixed feelings. What appears to be simple, was in fact, a little more challenging. The first thing was to explain the reasons for such a change to others. 

I wanted to go back to university, but I had to break the news to friends and especially my family. I was expecting that people would find it difficult to accept my decision, with many arguments against it. It is understandable, because it is financially a risk, at a time when security is becoming more important.

But the result was different. Close friends and my brother were happy for me. They knew about my situation. They were even relieved. I had been sending negative signals in my conversations, and they were just happy for a positive signal. My parents, understandably, were looking for security. My partner prefers security but wants me to be happy. We are a team. It’s ok that he worries because he is the person who is most affected by my decisions. 

Some weeks later, my mother told me that she often speaks about this to her friends. She grudgingly admires my decision. A little role model for opportunities she did not have because times were different then. As the world evolves, people have different opportunities which past generations cannot appreciate. My father was super proud that I was an engineer. But he finds it more difficult as we don’t have so much in common at the moment.

Even if they don’t understand the decision, your loved ones won’t give up on you. A few months later, even the most critical people got used to the facts of my change.

The question here is “What is normal?” or perhaps, “What is right?” I was more afraid of not fitting in with expectations than I was of my academic and financial future.

You should not be afraid of change. Fitting in is not important if you are unhappy. Often people react differently than you think. I wasn’t expecting this. The feeling was one of great relief. I felt understood and supported in most cases. The consequences now are that I am less afraid to say what I want to do. I was sure my decision was right for me, now I am less afraid to talk about it. I learnt that the risk gave me extra security. If you risk something and nothing terrible happens, then it’s ok to take risks.

However, my risk is uncalculated. I do not know where I will be and what I will do in 3 years when I have reached my first goal. It is a new road of discovery. Normally, people who change their lives abruptly, clearly know why and how. In my case, not having a plan goes deeper. It is a contradiction, but I feel I am on the right track. Interestingly, I didn’t have this feeling when the road ahead was well mapped out. It is important, that one can handle situations as they happen. Planning something is often overvalued. You have to be honest with yourself and be able to handle the unexpected. I now feel more confident that this is possible since I have successfully started a new path. 

How can you deal with the unexpected?

You have to be open to new experiences and life. Flexibility is important, creativity helps. But I don’t think that I could have done this step without the friends and family in my life. One needs these people to take risks.

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