Rewiring During a Pandemic and Beyond

by Mark Howard

An open notebook with blank pages

In 2017, I left being a successful financial business owner to become a fifty-seven-year-old, first-year high school English teacher. I made that change because I wanted to. Now, countless thousands are being faced with a career change because of the pandemic. In my little town, there are numerous businesses that have closed and will not be reopening. What if this change could be the best thing that ever happened in your life? What if your age or your financial resources do not define the stage you are in on your life’s journey? What if these stages are dynamic and fluid?

Man has tried to identify the stages of a person’s life for centuries. Hippocrates first attempted it 2400 years ago and came up with seven stages from infancy to old age. Shakespeare eloquently identified seven stages as well in As You Like It with his “All the world’s a stage” speech. It also ranged from infancy to old age. Freud had five stages, all dealing with sex, of course! With the pandemic, I propose four stages, and they will be fluid and conform to your new life situation and desires.

The first stage is Apprentice. We all begin in this stage as children. We look up to people in our lives and see them as someone we would like to emulate. Somewhere around the age of eighteen, most of us leave our family’s home to begin a first form of independent life, yet we are still in the Apprentice stage. We further our education to home in on a career choice or begin a trade. We may focus on that occupation or change our minds multiple times. If you choose a trade, your title is Apprentice.

In your twenties, you enter the second stage: Warrior. You are on your own and making your own decisions. You have begun a career, hopefully acquiring a passion for what you are doing. You have become adept at what you do, leading to a higher level of comfort both emotionally and hopefully financially. Some are still undecided, while today others have returned to their parents’ homes to live. One crucial element of this stage is to find a mentor who can help guide you through this stage, sharing their wisdom and experience.

Next, perhaps, you find a mate; family becomes a major part of your life. Today’s trends say this is happening later, commonly into your mid-thirties. Children are born. You and your spouse (or partner) are now providers, and responsibilities grow exponentially. You might have a sense of fulfillment, but it is accompanied by stress now that people are dependent on you. Sometimes, you may no longer even enjoy the work you do, but feel trapped. There are bills to pay, and a change seems impossible.

If you remain in your field, over time you become a Mentor. This third stage happens in your fifties. You are successful in your profession and now you counsel young Warriors, imparting wisdom you gained through your experience.

The fourth stage is becoming an Elder. Society has dictated this to be around age sixty-five. Our country has minimalized the importance of this stage. Older people are deemed out of touch. It is important to know that this stage is not the final stage, though. Look at my own life’s example:

As a child I looked up, literally and figuratively, to my father. I also had two sports heroes as well—baseball player Willie Mays and golfer Arnold Palmer. When I was in college, I was a prelaw major (changing from an English major), then moved to Aspen, Colorado, as a ski bum. I taught skiing and managed a restaurant. That certainly had nothing to do with my degree! A longtime family friend became a Mentor who counseled me to find a career I could own myself. I got into the insurance business, initially working out of my house. I was an Apprentice learning the business. After two years, I became an independent broker—a Warrior.

Nine years into that twenty-five-year Warrior period, I met and married my wife. She came into the office, and I became a Mentor to her. Another fifteen years, at age fifty-seven, I left the business to become a first-year high school English teacher! Suddenly I was an Apprentice again. Quickly, I became a Warrior, and soon thereafter I was mentoring young teachers.

After nine years of teaching, I moved to my new occupation: writer. As an Apprentice writer, I took online writing classes and attended writer groups, sharing our manuscripts with each other. Three years later, I published my memoir A Rewiring Life. I was a Warrior writer, and the book exhibits characteristics of an Elder.

Today, I still have two sports in which I can be a Warrior. When I golf, I can sometimes beat younger players, and skiing I can still hold my own. Baseball and basketball are distant memories, but I’m an Apprentice at guitar and yoga.

I like the philosophy of taking fifteen minutes a day to learn something new. It might inspire you to learn a new language or play an instrument. Think of something you always wanted to try. It might go beyond a new hobby, perhaps a new occupation.

With the pandemic, many people are being forced to rewire. My definition of “rewiring” is that life is a series of changes. Embrace the change, become an Apprentice, then a new Warrior in something that you never expected in your future. Enter this portal with wonder and excitement. The fluidity of rewirement is how life is meant to be lived.

Category: Featured, Memoir, Nonfiction