You've put in the slog, climbed the ladder, you're at the top of your career... what does it take to give it all up and start again? Richard Fitzpatrick meets three people and finds out what made them give up their safety nets and pursue their dream jobs.
School Teacher to Florist
I spent 20 years in secondary school teaching — teaching English and working in special needs. I began to get an itch towards my late thirties.
I felt a bit disgruntled. I started to question myself. I looked inwards and asked: Am I really happy? Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life? The answer was,
“No.” I had hit a wall. I needed to do something else. I needed to find my mojo again.
I was uncertain because when you’re teaching, and you’re part of a system, you start to think it’s the only thing you can do.
Teaching is such a specific kind of career.
But once I was honest with myself and began to explore different aspects of myself, I began to see there were other opportunities. I started meddling in different creative things.
I started doing research, looking into options. I did an upholstery course.
And once I tapped into my creative side, I knew that was definitely the area I wanted to move into.
Then one day I was sitting in a bar in Bunratty, Co Clare, with my cousin and told her I had spotted a flower course and said: “I know this is mad but there is only one place left on the course.” Basically I took a risk.
I had contemplated doing floristry on a part-time basis, but an opportunity came up — and I’m a big believer in fate — to take on a flower shop in Terryland, Co Galway. This happened over a period of a year.
Myself and my husband met with the owners and it felt right even though I’d sleepless nights, but underneath it all I knew: nothing ventured,nothing gained. What was the worst that could happen? So a year ago I took over the florist.
There have been times now when I’m thinking:
“Am I out of my depth here?” But once I move beyond that I know I’ve made the right decision. It’s been a massive learning curve — moving from the confines of a classroom. So many people said to me when I started out:
“Oh, your life is over once you own your own business.”
But I feel freer than I ever have. It’s a funny thing. I used to have three months off over the summer as a teacher, but when you enjoy your job, it’s not a chore.
Clothes Design to Acupuncturist
I was working in fashion in America for Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and The Gap. I used to manage designers, rather than designing myself. I ended up in this huge job, which was probably too much for me.
I was managing the pre- and post-production for The Gap’s children’s sweaters in Europe and Asia. I wasn’t sleeping. I was travelling a lot.
I loved the fashion industry, but I felt all I was doing was working. I was completely stressed out because I thought the whole world revolved around children’s sweaters.
I started going for acupuncture to help me go to sleep. Then I became very interested in acupuncture, quit fashion, and went to acupuncture school.
I had a private practice in New York for 10 years, and moved back here two years ago so I’m busy trying to establish myself in a clinic in Ballincollig, Cork.
I guess I hit a point in my life where I decided I wanted to do something else. There was a huge fear of change. It was very expensive to go to acupuncture college.
It probably cost me about $45,000 (€40,365). The biggest shock I got was after I quit fashion, I had to go waitressing in an Irish bar in New York for about six months until I got an acupuncture job. I really felt I lost my identity.
Here I was back studying. I’d no money, and I had been making a lot of money in fashion. I wondered if I’d done the right thing. It felt like it was going to take forever to become an acupuncturist, but I don’t think I ever truly regretted it. Maybe just for a minute.
I was so stressed doing fashion I feel now as if it was the best decision I ever made. My family have told me that over the years. It changed me. I’d be far more laid back now.
When you’ve climbed the ladder, it’s hard to walk away, and to start at the beginning again, but what I really enjoy as an acupuncturist is that I’m constantly learning because there are thousands of years of learning with it. I only answer to myself and, not to sound cliched, but I get a lot more out of what I do now because I’m helping people feel better.
I volunteer at Arc Cancer Support, I’m there once a week helping those with cancer, side effects of treatments like chemo, but the emotional effects of going through cancer too.
I find it hugely rewarding and the feedback has been wonderful. I don’t know that I could say the same about children’s sweaters!
Software Developer to Landscape Gardener
I’m from Lyon, France. I moved to Ireland in 1991. I got a two-year degree in IT back in the 1980s.
I basically worked in software until last year. I wanted to try something different. I was 55 at the time. I was thinking if you want to do something different, and give it a good go — you need to do it now. Otherwise it’s going to be too late.
The planets were aligning nicely. Financially, I finished paying my mortgage.
My two children are practically raised. The youngest has two more years in university to do. My wife works as well. It gave me the option to make that decision.
I didn’t have anything in mind, which is strange really. My way of thinking was: Look, stop work. Take a few months off and something will come up. That’s what I did. I finished in June. I took two months off. We went to Greece, took a couple of nice holidays.
Then I looked around and there was a job advertised and for whatever reason, I said I’d apply. It was a gardening job. Originally I didn’t think it would last for more than a couple of months, but I stayed on — I was enjoying it. A year later — I’m still here.
My day to day is reasonably straightforward. I’m at work for 6.30am. I work for a landscape gardening company.
There’s seven of us. It’s mainly the maintenance of gardens from private homes, housing estates, blocks of apartments,industrial estates. Wherever there’s green, we’re near there.
Like with any job, there’s good and bad. It’s cold in winter, but I enjoy being outdoors. I’m no spring chicken, but I’m a lot fitter and stronger now.
I don’t want to be over the top, but there’s something strangely satisfying about cutting grass or a hedge. You look at it at the start and it doesn’t look great and by the end of it, it looks nice and neat.
Sometimes you don’t get that sense of achievement in an IT job because it takes a lot longer to see results. To produce a piece of software and to sell it takes a lot of effort. It can take months.
Gardening is a form of meditation as well I find. Let’s face it, it’s not the most demanding type of work, but it allows you to disconnect.