I’m on vacation at the moment, in one of those charming ski towns where people work to live, not live to work. And talking with the locals, many of whom have been here for 20 years and are now in their 40’s, it occurs to me that doing pretty much anything to stay in a particular place is a mixed blessing. As these tales will tell you.
I was chatting with a massage therapist yesterday, a single woman in her 40’s, who came to Whistler for a few months and found herself staying for 25 years. Over the years she’s expanded her practice to include palliative care and has also become a doula. Her goal, she said, is to stay here since she can’t imagine life anywhere else. But she realizes that she’d have different kinds of opportunities in a city, and that the small-town environment is a bit stifling socially. I had the strong sense that she’d outgrown this small village but was scared about making a new life for herself elsewhere, Vancouver, for example, and was stymied even more since she lacked a partner to provide the momentum for change.
The other night our taxi driver, also in his 40’s, talked about his five year stint as sous-chef at a great restaurant here; he shattered his knees in a skiing accident and had to quit in order to recuperate. A couple of additional injuries later and without a university degree to bolster his options, he’s driving a cab. Unhappily. And yet he stays.
There was also the handsome ski patroller who tobogganed me off the mountain when I tore my ACL last week, who of course was a part-time model and real estate salesperson…Talk about slash careers!
These stories are repeated over and over again in this little mountain village. And what interests me is that many of us have fantasies about throwing in our big city towel and starting anew in a village, whether it be in the mountains or at the beach, to get away from the stress and go-go lifestyle we are tethered to. But this may be a case of the grass always being greener, since the small town lifestyle choice is also fraught with peril and potentially dashed hopes.
In the end we all make our own lifestyle choices, but there are a few cardinal rules to observe to provide you the best foundation.
Number one in my book is: finish your undergraduate degree. Do not get caught up in the romance of a place or a fun plan and neglect to finish school. In today’s market, an undergraduate degree is the basic credential, nothing more. Without it, your choices and earning power are severely limited.
Number two: arm yourself with some good training and learn a trade. Commit yourself to a field and ideally, get a graduate degree. That way, even if you decide to take a few years off to do something offbeat, you can come back and resume your career.
Number three: figure out which fields are growing and plan your career choices accordingly. Foolproof fields for the long-term are anything to do with healthcare and support of our aging population. Educators will always have work. And accumulating credentials in compliance will stand you in good stead. These are of course just a few examples.
If you do these things, it is unlikely you will find yourself driving a cab at 40, no matter where you live.