How I Switched Careers At 40, Spurred By An Endometriosis Diagnosis

"I had to put a stop to that narrative for the sake of my mental health."
And just like that

If Cameron Diaz can switch careers at 48, anyone can. In her late 40s, she went from actor and author to the co-founder of wine business Avaline (she also threw a baby into the mix at 47). By her own admission, Diaz knew nothing about the alcohol industry, but it didn’t stop her. “We knew nothing about how [making wine] worked, how it was structured or what it would even take to enter it,” she says. Diaz is not alone – the average person will go through 3-7 careers in their lifetime.

For Sydney-based 44-year-old Kate Pascoe, the decision to make a career change came after 15 years spent working in a fast-paced PR gig. She left the industry to focus on raising her two kids and launch a homeware business, Kate & Kate, which she ran for over four and a half years with her sister-in-law. It was during this time that Kate was diagnosed with endometriosis, a chronic disease that effects one in ten women globally. Like many women, Kate was shrugged off by her doctor and told to get on with her life. She tried – until her body told her to stop.

“I kept going for the best part of 10 years until my body literally just gave up. Then I started to take notice. I had to. I never realised that there was such a thing as flexibility in the workplace, in life. Up until I couldn’t physically do it anymore, I thought full time push push push was the only way. I spent more than a decade fighting what was going on with my body – it was always a fight between work, life and health.

“I realised I needed to make some tough decisions. I needed to take time off, be honest about what I could and couldn’t do and take it from there.” She closed the homewares business and returned to the world of PR as a freelancer. Despite finding comfort in the familiarity of what she knew and enjoying the slower pace, an underlying itch to find her purpose wouldn’t subside.

Kate Pascoe
Kate Pascoe. Credit: Supplied.

“After we came out of the first Covid lockdown, my Pilates studio announced that they were going to start training instructors. I thought, maybe I could give it a go just to build up my own skills. Initially, I was embarrassed to ask about joining because I thought I was too old. Then we went into second lockdown, and I started training my friends in my garage and down at the beach to build up my training hours. Over two years later, I’ve never looked back. I’m really proud to be older doing this work and working with women of all different ages.”

For Kate, finding purpose in her job by prioritising herself and her health has not only mended her approach to her work but also her relationship with her body. “I spent most of my adult life feeling as though my body was letting me down. I was so sad, and it showed. I hated it and it hated me.

Over the last few years, I’ve learnt to listen to my body, to work with it, not against it. To know when to push and when to back off. I expect a lot from it, but I give it a lot in return. It has actually turned into a beautiful relationship, and I cherish what my body can do, what it has overcome and how it carries me throughout each and every day.

“I was always so down on my body throughout my twenties and thirties. I had moments of feeling good, but most of the time, I just didn’t like it. I was so picky. My pain, my cellulite, my veins, my scars, my stomach, my hips… endless self-talk on how it wasn’t any good. I think as I moved into my mid-forties and becoming a Pilates trainer (and thus in an industry mostly run by incredible women in their 20s), I had to put a stop to that narrative for the sake of my mental health. Now I just feel proud. What a body! I suppose the beauty of youth is a thing of that past and that’s ok. I feel more confident than I ever did as a young woman. You come to terms with what we have always been told are flaws and celebrate them. It’s weird but it’s true. The negative chit chat takes you nowhere. I like to focus on the good stuff when I can. And when I find myself in a downward spiral, I jump off real quick.”

For many of us, turning 40 is a major milestone. It’s an age that comes with a plethora of expectations and a pressure to have found ‘success.’ For Kate, dwelling on the anxieties of turning 40 was a luxury she was not afforded, after her endometriosis left her bedridden for over a month. So she looked for the silver-lining. By reframing her perspective on aging, Kate saw 40 as an opportunity for change.

“A major health episode coinciding with me turning 40 created a perfect storm though. I really had nothing to lose. Everything in my life was upside down, so stepping into a fresh career didn’t feel as big as it might have otherwise. In fact, it felt refreshing and new; keeping me connected through some of my darkest days,” she says. “Aging is confronting – don’t get me wrong – but you learn that, if you’re lucky, things keep moving. The alternative is not appealing. We are just lucky to be here, lucky to be living this life. You know yourself well, understand your place in the world and don’t care as much about pleasing everyone.”

“I spent more than a decade fighting what was going on with my body – it was always a fight between work, life and health. I realised I needed to make some tough decisions”

Kate Pascoe

How to make the leap

“If making a big career change is something you a seriously considering, my advice would be to dip the toe in and see how it feels. I didn’t do my Pilates qualification thinking I was going to be an instructor. There are so many things that you can do to really boost up your skill level and then you kind of can take it from there. 

Take a little step by reducing your days in your current job and then spending a day a week on your passion so that you are creating space for what you want to be doing. I  believe that you can make whatever you want happen, but you’ve got to be proactive about it.

Having flexibility in your thinking and your approach is always important. I think if you’re stuck in what you’re doing, nothing is going to come to you if you don’t have any space for it.

What to consider before quitting your current job

“Your own financial situation is definitely something everyone needs to consider before they dive into a new career. For me, moving from a full-time job into a casual position it was challenging when you consider that you don’t get sick days or holiday pay. That said, here are a lot of pluses including getting to work your own hours.

For me, my background of marketing and PR to fall back on really helped as it means I have the flexibility to do work in either space. It never hurts to be multi-skilled and to be able to do a bit of everything.

One thing that I didn’t prepare for was having to adjust my timetable. I was so burnt out last year. My body at 44 is not the same as it was 20 years ago. I’ve had to really find a happy medium where I can physically do what I want to do and keep that energy up.”

Image: Instagram

How to find your balance

“I’ve had to be more realistic about what I can do in terms of my work. When the kids were little, I ran a business, worked like a dog and loved every minute of it. But I found it easier then, because it was more about meeting the kids’ physical needs. Moving into the teen years, the kids need me. They need that emotional support and I need to be around them more to understand what’s going on in their lives.

My son has ADHD and autism, so he requires a lot of care – and I have to provide that. It means I’ve had to take a step back from career opportunities, but with that have come other opportunities. When I stopped trying to fight everything and started to find some flow with my life, things really turned around. I’ve got a good balance now between work and home – that looks different for everyone, but it’s worth taking the time to find that balance if you can. And keep re-evaluating. What is needed one day, one week, one year will change. So being a little flexible works wonders.”

Why is job fulfilment important?

“Switching careers has taught me how important it is to carve out time for myself. Even if it’s one hour a week,  you have to give yourself that time. Women are constantly multitasking, so to have time for yourself if really important. I found that working in PR could be a bit empty at times. There’s nothing worse than doing a job where you’re not happy, and you’re not being fulfilled. Of course, with any work there are going to be times where you say to yourself ‘I don’t want to do this’ but I think to be satisfied your work needs to be an extended study situation in a job, where you are continually learning and also getting back as much as you are giving.”

Be kind to yourself

“We need to realise that there is a season for everything. Nothing stays stagnant. Sometimes it’s good just to lean into where you are. Before you know it, another season comes and it’s time to lean into that. Sometimes we can’t do it all, but let’s do some of it some of the time – the rest will have its day when the timing is right.”

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