The email asked why I limited my new program, Kickstart, to ’young adults”, ages 20-30. Really?
The age designation isn’t intended to limit anyone. I did this as my own personal ‘shout out’ to young people. Why? Because the opportunity for change is that much greater when you’re starting out, less encumbered by personal responsibilities and choices you wish you hadn’t made. (But please, don’t let my arbitrary age bracket limit you. I have a friend who insists that she’s a young adult at age 40!)
I created this program because, frankly, it pains me that so many folks find that illness has meant that their work options are severely limited. Just this week another person showed up in this tough spot.
Suzanne (name and details are changed) signed up for my Just in Time program, a short, highly focused, single-topic series of 3 sessions. She’d given three months notice at her current job because she believes that the nature of the work and the lack of support is making her sicker and more debilitated daily. She said that she wanted to identify what to say in an upcoming job interview to determine if she could get the accommodations that she believes would allow her to keep working.
But Suzanne was unable to focus on the interview in our first call because her challenges overwhelmed her. Although she’s lived with chronic pain for 20 years, it’s become severely debilitating since she started her current job three years ago. The pain is so bad that she no longer drives, lifts or carries anything beyond 2 pounds, and can only use computer for a few minutes at a time. Adding to her sense of burden, she’s in serious financial debt from her medical bills.
As we spoke, she was stuck when she considered what she might ask in the interview. The worry was so great and the barriers so large that she had trouble thinking clearly, the negative tape in her brain went into ‘play mode,’ and the roadblocks left her speechless.
Suzanne is an example of someone who, by her own account, should have addressed this years ago. Now in her late 30′s, she has spent 15 years struggling to stay in a career that has become increasingly difficult to sustain. Unfortunately, she’s backed into a tight corner and lacks the wiggle room she needs to make the kind of changes that would improve her quality of life. In a good moment, she hopes to find a better job. But her experience leads her to feel trapped. She fears that she’ll take any job she’s offered to pay the rent and have health insurance. Even worse, she fears that she won’t be able to keep working. She doesn’t see choice. She’s so exhausted from the years of just ‘getting by’ that she has neither the time, energy nor resources to develop techniques for living with pain or new skills that give her greater employment flexibility.
Suzanne isn’t alone. Too many struggle to find employment. But a chronic health condition adds a dimension that can make this a seemingly impossible task.
I don’t believe this has to be the case. But when you’re young, you’re less likely to want to view challenges created by difficult health. It’s hard to believe that anything can stop you — if you really want it.
And that is the conundrum. People who are young, because of their age and life phase, would greatly benefit from addressing and exploring these issues in a guided and supported program. And those same ‘young’ people are unlikely to think they need this or seek help.
Your thoughts on this? I’d love to hear them.