Kasey Edwards answers questions about her book 30-Something and Over It: What Happens When You Wake Up and Don’t Want to
1. You clearly wrote the book before the collapse of the world economy, in what way do you see your experience as relevant for 30 somethings today who face losing their job or might have already lost it?
I lost my job on the same day as 30-Something was published. It felt like a cruel joke because I’d finally cured my thrisis and found a happy balance between my work and life. This was the second time I’ve been retrenched in my career and it’s a devastating experience; you can’t help but feel rejected.
But I found that it was easier this time because in solving my thrisis I learned how to separate my identity from the title on my business card. I now have many things in my life that enrich me and meet my needs so I don’t rely so heavily on my job to give me meaning. Last time I was retrenched I lost two things – my income and my sense of self. This time I only lost one.
I’ve had lots of emails from people who have read 30-Something saying they relate to it even more now because they don’t have the freedom to change jobs and feel more trapped than ever in an unhappy career. Also, with all the downsizing going on, the people who do have jobs are even busier and feel more stressed and over it than when times were good.
30-Something is about rediscovering what you value and what matters. On a macro level, I think the financial crisis has prompted us all to ask this question.
2. What are the Top 5 signs to look for in someone going through a similar
crisis as you went through in the book?
1. You wake up one morning and realize you don’t want to go to work. Ever again. And you’re terrified of spending the next thirty years of your life in Cubical Hell.
2. You realize that your boss and most people you work with are faking it. They know just us much or even less than you do.
3. It starts to bother you that you haven’t had a hobby or an interest outside work since you gave up piano lessons.
4. You spend stupid amounts of money on shoes, handbags, soft furnishings and cocktails trying to fill the void in your life.
5. Everything you do at work seems meaningless and pointless. The news that your company achieved double-digit growth in the previous quarter fails to excite you as it once did.
3. Your partner seems very supportive of the life changes you have made, what would you advise women to do if their partners felt they weren’t contributing enough, financially, to their life together, with only a part time salary?
Working part-time was part of my answer to being 30-something and over it. It’s not the same for everybody and some people I wrote about in 30-Something cured their thrisis and still worked full-time. It’s possible to cure your thrisis by making smaller changes in your life. The key is to rediscover what you value and find other things that meet your needs rather than just relying on your job to fulfil you.
I was very lucky that my partner Chris supported my life changes and also that I earned enough to survive on a part-time income. I did have to make significant cuts to my lifestyle to sustain the changes, but it was surprising how quickly I adjusted to living on a much tighter budget. I stopped looking for happiness in shoes, handbags, holidays and cocktails and realized that the things that really made me happy didn’t cost anything at all.
4. If you could go back to your early twenties would you climb the same career ladder, knowing that in 10 years you would want to get off? What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
My thrisis was not about looking back at my life with a sense of regret. If I’d been more self-aware and less influenced by society’s definition of success (ie acquiring money, status, possessions), I probably would have made different decisions.
However, all of those decisions led me to where I am now, and that’s a really happy and contented place. A thrisis is an opportunity to look forward with optimism – I still have a lot of years left to do the things that I could have done in my twenties.
But if I could go back I’d take the opportunity to counsel myself about accessorising my bohemian skirts with a thick belt on my hips.
5. You reference a lot of self help books in 30-Something, do you still read them/find them helpful?
I do still read them but I’m far more selective these days. I think that any books that present simple answers to complex problems ought to be put in a new section of the bookshop called ‘Self-Unhelpful books’. In fact, they end up making you feel worse – I used to think ‘if the answer is that simple and I can’t even do it, I’m an even bigger loser than I thought’.
I read books for inspiration rather than answers. The first place I now look for answers is within myself rather than relying on some guru who claims you can fix your life with a just-add-water-and-stir packet mix. You have to trust your instincts.
6. Do you ever regret the changes that you made to your life?
Not at all. I now feel like I’m living my life instead of the one that was prescribed for me by society. That’s the best feeling in the world. In fact, looking back now I wonder what took me so long.
7. What is your favourite way to unwind?
Eating ice-cream in the bath.
8. How has your life changed since you wrote the book?
The biggest change is all the contact I’m now having with people who have read the book. I’ve been told by one guy that I have a ‘Jesus-shaped hole in my life’ and he kindly offered to help me fill it. On a conservative political blog it was suggested that the real reason for my thrisis is my ‘burgeoning spinsterhood and a lack of male attention’. But I’ve also had the pleasure of hearing from and speaking with readers who are going through, or have been through, their own thrisis. It’s satisfying to know that I wrote about something that is experienced by so many people from all walks of life.
9. What are your hopes for the future, as a writer?
I’m working on another book at the moment. It’s not another memoir because my life just isn’t that interesting, so I’m having a go at fiction. I’m still interested in writing about serious issues but finding ways to explore them with humour and irreverence.
10. What are you currently reading and why?
I’m re-reading Inglorius by Joanna Kavenna because it’s a great story and absolutely beautiful writing. The writing style inspired me when I was writing 30-Something so I’m hoping it will do the same for my next book.
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