They say that life begins at forty. In my thirties, I always used to think “what are “they” talking about and who in the heck are “they”? As we all know, “they” are a mystical, magical group of supreme beings that have all the answers and anecdotes for everything worldly. As hard as I tried to understand why life begins at forty I generally shrugged it off as something that didn’t apply to me.
After the years of being age thirty to thirty-nine the big 40 came around, somewhat quicker than I had anticipated! And wouldn’t you know it, “they” in all their wisdom, seemed to have a point about the forty and the life beginning at that age thing. Not overnight, but gradually as I eased into my fortieth and forty-first years a soothing calm and understanding of myself and how I fit into the world around me came to be. I was no longer as driven by material things and the almighty dollar (although money still motivates me but to a lesser degree than in my younger years), also, I was no longer afraid of the unknown and of all the challenges and roadblocks that life sometimes gives all of us. I just knew that things will work out, one way or the other. Thus started the years of forty to forty nine, a decade for me of hard work mixed with lots of fun and travel, laughs, a few challenges, a great career, a beautiful wife and a general feeling of well being.
All through the two decades of my thirties and forties I had established my career in sales and had moved up to where I was now a Canadian Sales Manager for a well established and successful U.S. manufacturing company. The future was set, work until I was sixty, maybe sixty five, retire and enjoy the good life which is, of course, defined differently for all of us. At any rate, life was good, the plan was set and that calm, peaceful feeling that came with age was growing stronger by the month. Smooth sailing baby.
My life, scene three, take two, SNAP! September, 2009. Forty nine years of age, fifty coming in December.
The phone rings on Friday morning at the home office and I check the call display and see a number I have seen pretty much every workday for the last several years, my boss’s number.
“Hey Dave, what’s going on?” “Hey Ron, not much, tidying up some loose ends and getting ready for the weekend, what about you?” “About the same, the boys have a hockey tournament this weekend up near Toronto; do you think we could hook up for a coffee?” “I guess so, why, what’s up?” “We need to talk some business”
My life, scene four, take one, SNAP!
I enter the front door of my home that Saturday afternoon and announce to my wife that I am no longer employed. “What?” my wife says, in a state of shock and disbelief. “Why” Restructuring, cost cutting, blah, blah, blah. You are a great guy Dave and we hate to have to do this I was told. Then don’t, I thought. I was a top performer in the company 5 years running, it just didn’t make sense, but let’s face it, things like this seldom do. Remember that feeling of calm and peace I told you about earlier? Well, that was out the window at this point! What are we going to do now? I have not had to look for a job for a long, long time and as I was reminded, at forty-nine, I wasn’t getting any younger, companies want fresh, younger blood, especially in sales, thanks for the reminder.
I pour myself a fresh java from my French press and sit down at my home office desk that following Monday. My wife had left for the office and my trusty assistant, Brady (my eight year old dog) came in and sat on the rug beside and sighed, almost like he knew what I was feeling. I looked at him and said out loud, “what now buddy?”
What now indeed. I remember! I need to plan my week, set goals and targets and follow through. I will use my years of sales experience to get a new job! This will be a piece of cake. Fast forward, December 11th, my 50th birthday and I am sitting at the same desk with the same dog and a similar cup of java thinking, now what? No job offers, no hot leads and a shrinking job market.
That is when it happened, an epiphany, that moment when you realize and decide to take a walk on the wild side. Self employment, you know, pursue your passion, your dream job, right? Absolutely right! What have I got to lose? Oh yeah, a retirement fund, security, which is usually false anyways, and a sense of general well being and a feeling of accomplishment. No biggy.Onwards and upwards I say!
As it turns out I was very fortunate to have a passion in my life outside of work and home. I had been pursuing it and doing it as much as I possibly could through the years. I had gotten really good at it too. Bird and nature photography. That was it that was my answer to unemployment and this was my chance that fate seemed to have placed in my lap at the ripe, young age of fifty. If I don’t do this now, will I ever? Am I nuts? Go get a real job and stop dreaming I told myself. On the other hand, my better half was fully supportive and said “why not? Go for it baby!”
So, go for it I did. I happily set out to start my new nature photography workshop and tour company, Nature’s Photo Adventures. Over the coming months I would work harder than I had in the previous 5 years at my career, or at least it seemed like it. We built our own website, we did a business plan and we were off to the races, maybe, but who cares, I was living my dream, my passion. I had some reservations about turning a love into a business. What if I start hating it or get bored of it? Fortunately, I love it more than ever because I get to teach it and share this with others.
My life, scene five, take five, SNAP!
I am now quickly approaching 52 years of age, my business is not yet where I would like it, but it is turning a profit and showing signs of good fortune for the coming year. Did we make the right decision to totally change our life course and how we would get there? I don’t know. I hope so. I do know that now I am travelling the world teaching people my passion.
I can tell you, that for me, life began at forty, which was wonderful, and then my life began again at fifty, how cool is that? Maybe it will begin again at sixty……
Photographs by Photography Talk member David Hemmings
Written by: David Hemmings. David owns and operates Natures Photo Adventures and has been published by National Geographic and many other magazines and books.