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Why I love the plot-twists and turns of my reinvented life

Why I love the plot-twists and turns of my reinvented life

Reinvention has been a recurring theme in my life, both personally and professionally. In my defense, my early reinventions were forced on me, rather than me deciding to flip the switch.

"Some people know exactly what they want to be, and set out to be that as soon as they can. Others are happier to play the bounce and see where change takes them, one big, bold, and crazy step at a time."

Reinvention has been a recurring theme in my life, both personally and professionally. In my defense, my early reinventions were forced on me, rather than me deciding to flip the switch

I suppose my first reinvention was when at the age of 5, my sister was born and our household went from an Afrikaans one to an English one. My mother died before I could ask her what this was about. My 5-year-old brain wrote this off to the fact that my sister must have been bought at an English hospital (we were told moms bought babies at hospitals).

The next one followed hot on the heels of the English invasion. My father was a tradesman, which meant he had to go where the jobs were. My foundation phase was spread over two cities and five schools. Writing this down feels so much easier than it actually was.

I was a painfully shy child, and my coping so well with all this upheaval is a testament to what a mother’s love and encouragement can do.

I stumbled out of matric and went the national diploma route. My sweet principal’s testimonial read: “Rochelle is a determined young lady who always strives to give of her best. She has a flair for languages and should pursue a career in that field.”

I somehow missed that and enrolled for a personnel management course, which led to me spending three unhappy years in HR after my studies.

My next plot twist took me into the world of TV production. It was fun but I was not fulfilled. There was just no passion. Another five years passed in a blur of just going to work and partying.

A chance encounter with a book publisher at one of my favourite watering holes led me to my next plot twist. This is where my principal’s testimonial finally came into play. After many years of just working, I finally found myself loving my job.

I was a junior editor and loved the journey from manuscript to book on shelf. I realised that “playing with words” as my son calls it, was what I’d always wanted to do. I worked alongside some of the best people in the publishing industry and met incredible authors.

While working at the publishers, I was approached by an English family magazine and offered a position with lovely perks. I loved the fast-paced, deadline driven world of magazine publishing, until my son made me realise that I spent more time putting the magazine pages to bed than I did him.

The only difference between the next plot twist and my earlier ones, is that I was older now. Society tells you that you should be much further along your career path as your 40s loom, and starting over is not a wise move. I left the magazine world for retail content and had to rewire my brain for this new way of writing.

I’ve always been able to laugh at myself and happy to own my mistakes, so being ridiculed didn’t scare me. The friends I studied with were mostly in very senior positions and here I was ready to embrace yet another new stage.

I was in a junior position but I had years of life and work experience, which from a writer’s perspective counts for a lot. My husband’s health and my son’s needs were also always going to outweigh any societal constraints that dictate what I should have achieved by now.

I’m not saying my inner voice doesn’t make an appearance every time I see my contemporaries moving up the ladder, but as I enter my 5th decade, I’ve lost my desire for status.

I’m really keen to do physical work. I have fantasies of being in construction or catching babies. Anything that involves my hands getting dirty, as it were. Or maybe I can be a boilermaker or a fitter and turner. I want to get home after a day’s work and be sweaty and grimy and have to clean my nails with soap and a nail brush, while telling my son what I manufactured that day.

As I was becoming more restless last year, and Googling how to get a trade or where to study midwifery, opportunity came knocking again. I was able to make the change from a fashion and home content lead to a foodie lead.

I now work in the wonderful world of foodies for SA’s most loved retailer and I honestly think this is home. I love food, I love words and in my new role I get to play with both.

Boys and girls, I’m here to let you know that it’s never too late to make a change. Being in your 40s does not mean you’re stuck in your job until you retire. Life and work experience cannot be bought, and any employer who can’t recognise this simply isn’t worth your time.

It’s time to reject society’s rigid rules for where you should be and what you should have achieved by certain ages. Take it from me and Frank Sinatra: play the bounce and do it Your Way.

Rochelle Barrish

Change expert, Rochelle Barrish, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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