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A 'Feel the Fear' Story

I achieved the impossible!

In October 2001, at the age of 53, I chose to give up a wonderful well-paid job in Paris as a financial translator to go to Spain because I thought I had re-found the man of my dreams (we had met when we were in our 20's) with whom I would spend the rest of my life. Our story was magical. It was too wonderful ever not to work out. So I found a job as a financial translator in Madrid, moved my furniture and went to Madrid!.

After seven months, however, it became obvious that this glorious story was not going to work out. I did not want to get old in Madrid, and had only ever wanted to live in Paris (I am English). A year after I had gone to Madrid, I took what I consider to be the most courageous step I have ever taken in my life: to return at the age of 54 to Paris, where all my friends were. I was terrified, but I felt the fear and did it anyway. I handed in my notice, and had removal men come and take my furniture out of Madrid and put it in storage. Then, one beautiful autumn day in 2002, I drove out of Madrid to Paris.

Paris is the most beautiful city in the world, but it is also one of the toughest in which to get work particularly in your 50's. And I desperately needed work. How do you sell yourself on the job market when you are in a bad way emotionally, no longer 20, 30 or even 40? Ghastly!! And I wanted to retrieve what I had so blithely given up. The job market professionals said I would never get an equivalent job again because no financial institution would employ me at that age. Friends also added their fearful, negative comments.

Job hunting was tough. I taught English at Berlitz. I managed to get a job as a financial translator in a translation agency, but they sacked me after two weeks, saying that, although I was excellent, I was not cut out to work in an agency! More months went by, then I took a very simple secretarial job with a patent translator (replacing a girl who was on sick-leave) and eventually another more high-powered one with a former UN Ambassador. This was a blow to my ego as I had gone to university at the age of 39 to get away from being a secretary: I have a BA in French and Portuguese, and an MA in Latin American politics.

In terms of accommodation, two and a half years passed before I was able to have my own furniture and possessions with me again. Meanwhile, I lived out of my two suitcases. I moved seven times during the first year from one friend's flat to another, I lived 18 months in a ''maid's room'' (bathroom across the corridor, WC down the corridor) and at last, in May 2005, I moved into a rented flat where I could have my own possessions around me again.

Then, one day in January 2007, the husband of the girl from whom I had taken over the job with the UN Ambassador rang me and asked if I would be interested in replacing the financial translator where he worked! You bet! In fact, the job offered was only mornings with a salary which was a two-thirds drop on the salary I was being paid by the UN Ambassador. I was very scared because I have bought a flat in Paris (during those terrible years, in April 2004, my mother died .. ANOTHER thing to cope with .. and from the proceeds of my share of the sale of her house I was able to buy here) but I have a loan on it and the salary was only double the loan). But I knew that the godforce was giving me my dream back, so I felt the fear and accepted In April 2007, at the age of 58, I signed the so coveted indefinite length contract for a job as a financial translator. Since then, I have set myself up as a freelance translator and at the beginning of 2008, the wonderful job increased the salary and added an extra day.

I was terrified of getting myself back on my feet in Paris, but I did it! And, eventually, I even got my job as a financial translator with a proper contract! By feeling the fear and doing it anyway, I achieved what for me appeared to be impossible!

Elizabeth, Paris, France