Kimberley Phillips

Writer and Mentor

Why I Started This Blog

Three years ago, today, I took my rescue dogs Marley, a mixed Retriever, and Bobo, a mixed Shephard, on a long walk through a neighborhood near my home in San Diego. As we strolled past a lovely 1920s-era craftsman cottage, I noticed a small Acacia tree with its vibrant green trunk. As I got closer, I noticed postcards dangling from the branches. One caught my eye and I reached out to touch one of them.

“Take a poem,” a nearby sign implored. I plucked Mary Oliver’s beautiful poem, “The Summer’s Day,” which has one of the most challenging questions in recent poetry:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do

With your one wild and precious life?”

–Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”

What was I going to do with my one wild and precious life?

At the time I took this walk, I was recovering from a stroke that had felled me at a relatively young age. I’d never been ill, before, and I had been resisting thinking about what changes I needed to make for my life and career. Yet, I only felt gratitude for being alive on such a glorious day!

Sometimes the Universe offers a jolt for you to act when you most need it and Oliver’s poem posed a challenge I couldn’t resist: “What would I do with my one wild and precious life.”

I had spent twenty-two years in a career I loved, working as a college teacher of history and, later, as a college administrator.  For years I’d worked hard to establish a successful career. While my more recent work as an administrator had been frustrating and stressful, I expected to have years more to teach students and write books. But after I had a stroke, my doctors warned met that stress had most likely caused my stroke.  Along with my loving spouse, they urged me to retire and focus on my health.

What would I do, next?

I’m not going to lie about how I spent those days after this news.  Honestly, I fantasized about what it would be like to do other work I loved, too. What would that work be?

I Want to be a Writer

Okay, I’m shouting.

When and how would I transition to this work?

How I Found the Inspiration For My Encore Career

First, I took inventory of what I learned from my first career: Have passion for my work.

I once spoke to a 98-year-old man about his long life. He’d labored forty years in a steel mill. He helped raise eight kids.  And he became a community leader after helping other men stay steady while working in harsh conditions. I wondered how he maintained his optimism in a job that frequently injured workers. After he finished speaking to me, he walked out to his new Lincoln Continental and drove off to his church where he’d served as a minister for sixty years. Only 35 at the time, I marveled at his energy. “I love my work because I help people,” he said.

This still lively man had a job in a steel mill—one of the most dangerous environments anyone could find—but his work as a minister was what he did for his “ one wild and precious life.”

Second, I considered the work I was most passionate about and that was Writing, but I did not, yet, have or live a writing life.

Instead, I’d spent years teaching history and only occasionally writing history. But, I’d always wanted to write fiction and even with my busy, successful career, I kept that passion alive by enrolling in creative writing courses. While I wrote short stories, poems, and chapters for unfinished novels,  I never published any of this writing.

In my next career, I wanted to live a life writing, which meant:  

I wanted to finish the novel.

I wanted to start that blog.

I wanted to publish my writing.

Once I decided to write fiction and creative non-fiction, I realized I needed to master some new skills, so in the fall of 2016, I enrolled in a part-time creative writing program.

The application process, writing ten to twenty pages each week, and submitting my work to others in my workshop wasn’t easy. I had to learn how to be a student, again, which thrust me into periods of self-consciousness and doubt about my writing skills. I hadn’t felt fears like this since I sat in graduate courses!

I had to be an apprentice in order to become a master.

I confessed to one of my oldest friends, Colleen, that while I loved the program, I also worried I might be too old to start another career. Who would want to hear from a middle-aged newly published novelist?

“Do you need someone’s permission to do what you want,” Colleen asked.

“No,” I said.

“Then what are you waiting for?”

I finished my program and started a memoir. A chapter from this project will soon appear in print.

Even as I felt like a fraud, I felt giddy and grateful. So giddy, I enrolled in the program, again, this time in the fiction workshop and I plan not only to finish my novel, I plan to publish this novel.

Four Things I Learned as I Launched My Career

Launching a new career after a long and satisfying career made me think about what I enjoyed most about my work. I loved teaching and helping students because I have learned as much from them as they have learned from me.

  1. I needed mentors who’d launched encore careers.  I wished I’d had a mentor to help guide me along  new path. Someone to cheer my successes and encourage me when I wanted to stop. I wish I could meet others launching new careers, but worried, as I had, about how to go about turning my passion into fulfilling work.  
  2. I needed a variety of resources to help me launch a new careers, such as how to learn new skills; how to launch a blog; and what to expect as I started a new life. Through trial, error, and happenstance,  I found resources to encourage and guide myself through the sometimes difficult steps towards my new goals.
  3. Whatever you want to do your encore career, you need to call yourself that new expert and you need to live the life of that expert. Long before I produced something I could publish, I realized I needed to live the life of a writer, which meant writing everyday. Writing became my new work and I needed to show up every day ready to work.
  4. As I launched my encore career, I met many others trying to launch their own encore careers. While my specific encore career has led me to creative writing, I became fascinated by others who want to launch new careers after decades of doing satisfying work.

As I learned from my own efforts, and as I listened to others describe their own struggles and triumphs, I wanted to help. I also realized I wanted to continue doing one of the things I loved best in my old career: help others pursue interests they love.  As a teacher and mentor, I loved  helping people identify their passions, interests and strengths. I loved encouraging them as they turned ideas into new projects.

On this blog, I share ways for you to identify what you have loved best in the work you’ve been doing, what other passions you have, what new skills you’d like to learn and master and how to take deliberate steps and actions to launch your next career–your encore career. I’ll help you figure out how to take what you love and turn it into a career that you live and love.

I’ll also provide encouragement by providing interviews with  and resources you need to keep going.   There’s lots of resources on the internet, YouTube, and in books, but finding the ones that meet your needs takes time and money. As I’ve launched my encore career, I’ve learned a lot about how to learn new skills, often for free or at little cost. I’ll show you how to find mentors and teachers, from near and far.

I’ll provide information about, and reviews of the best resources, from on-line courses to brick-and-mortar institutions.

Call to Action

Subscribe to my email list and tell me how you, too, will live your “one wild and precious life?” In return, you’ll receive a guide, The DIY Guide to an Encore Career.

About Kimberley

2 Replies

  1. Loved this! It made me ask myself some questions about what I should pursue, and how I should pursue it. Thanks!

    1. Kimberley

      Thanks, Pat! Good luck and I’m glad to know my post helped your efforts.

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