Columnist, Veronica Clark: Life begins, not ends, at 40!

editorial image

Approaching 40? Well, don’t get any ideas above your station because you’re stuck for life. Over 41?

Well, you might as well forget it because you’re going nowhere, and you’ll be stuck in that job until the day you draw your pension. According to a 2,000-strong poll, employees are most likely to feel trapped in their job by the age of 36. Even worse, most Britons believe there’s no going back after the age of 40. What a miserable bunch we are in this country. It's also utter nonsense.

According to a recent study, the fear of change holds many people back. When asked, workers were twice as likely to describe their employment as ‘convenient’ rather than use words such as ‘success’ or ‘fulfilling’. A startling three in ten people didn’t know what else to do for a job even if they did change career paths; whilst a quarter feared they wouldn’t be good at anything else.

When I was seven, I wanted to be the blonde singer in Abba. I had the same colour hair, so it seemed an obvious choice. The fact I couldn’t really sing didn’t come into it. Hilariously, my older sister wanted to become a nun after watching the Sound of Music. Her name was Maria, but she never went to church - she just liked the outfit. Of course, as you grow your ideas change, but some still hold onto that dream. I never became a singer, and outside the confines of my car, the shower, or a drunken night down the pub with friends, I wouldn’t inflict my voice on anyone. To sing you need talent, and vocally I had none. My second love was writing, so I found a job that paid me for it - journalism. Although I became a journalist at the age of 21, I’d always harboured the desire to write a book. When I told people, I could almost sense them rolling their eyes. It was just a pipe dream, they said. Everyone has them, but that doesn’t mean they actually come true. Instead, for 13 years, I ran a successful company, writing articles for the national newspapers and magazines. It was tough and demanding work, coupled with unsociable hours. By this time I was a mother with two small children. I paid for child care and begged favours from family to do school pickups. I was determined to give my kids a good life, so I worked myself ragged throughout my ’30s, thinking money equals happiness. It doesn’t. Also, you never get those years back with your kids. I was a fool.

When I was 44, I interviewed a lady for a national newspaper. Her story was utterly tragic, but she was such an inspirational woman that I knew one newspaper article wouldn’t do her story justice. Fate had brought us together, so when she asked me to help write her book I jumped at the chance. I didn’t have the first clue how to go about it, so I approached various literary agents and signed to one. My agent sent the book proposal out to different publishers and one decided to take it on. Meanwhile, HarperCollins, one of the biggest publishers in the world, didn’t want the book, but it liked my writing and offered me a second book to write. Now I had a decision to make. Did I continue with my thriving business (which I hated, but which made me lots of money) or did I follow my dream? I decided to choose my dream career. That was four years ago, and now I’ve written eight books. To be honest, I haven't looked back. Today, I adore my life because I’m finally doing something I love. But if I’d listened to that poll (at 44 years old I was way past the supposed point of no return), maybe I wouldn’t have taken that giant leap of faith. Money isn’t everything; but personal happiness is invaluable.