Taking the Initiative: Talking With Carol Randolph
Carol Randolph is seventy one, and going strong. To make the most of the twists and turns with which life presented her, she pivoted personally and professionally, learning early how to adapt. She has always worked, and always will. Her approach to retirement is to do very little of it.
Carol, you have always been game for new things, and that hasn't changed. Where does that zest come from?
I have learned that it is never too late to try something new, and there is no one path to success or fulfillment. So much depends on being willing to plough ahead, take risks, and be fully committed to one's values and aspirations. Getting older requires a lot of adapting. That is something I had to learn every step of the way, as things happened, both exciting and not. It is really important now.
You have always worked, What was your first job?
I always had the drive to work. I first saw the benefits of financial independence at about age seven when, unbeknownst to my parents, I used to walk the streets of my neighborhood selling odds and ends out of a basket.
You started at seven? You beat us. But you had to make some changes along the way to your current career.
Yes, I learned I had to take the initiative to get where I wanted to go. I had sales jobs in department stores all through college, and I rather enjoyed them. But then came a difficult stretch. My 1969 sociology degree from UCLA provided me with a liberal arts credential, but did not help me find a gratifying job. I lived in San Francisco, which was exciting in the seventies, but I had to support myself by doing office work with no apparent potential for promotion.
That sounds like the sort of job we all cut our teeth on at some point. But you moved on.
Yes, that job was not going to be my life. After two years I changed course completely--to get a real estate license! I started selling Victorian homes and fixing up old properties in San Francisco. I was at last making significant money--and in a way that I loved. I enjoyed engaging with other people. I rarely showed anyone a property that I would not have wanted myself, so that was really fun, and meant that my enthusiasm was always genuine, which surely fueled my success.
You moved on from that career too. What happened?
Love! In 1982, I met and married a wonderful man whose wife had recently died, leaving three teenage children. I moved to San Diego to be with them. I adapted to a new marriage, family and community (though I treasure my old friends to this day.) The demands of career were subordinated as I invested in creating a home and helping a grieving family to heal. Of course, I didn't know anyone in San Diego, so I turned to volunteer service, which connected me to the community and allowed me to meet scores of people. I became involved in a broad range of cultural pursuits, and served on non-profit boards.
Volunteering was great, but not enough.
I loved it, but I longed for the challenge and satisfaction of a professional career. So again I pivoted. At age 40 I began a Ph.D. program in clinical psychology, earning my doctorate before I turned 50. Becoming a psychologist afforded me the cerebral opportunities I had wanted for a long time. My work is intellectually challenging and emotionally gratifying. I feel I am doing something meaningful with my life.
For 23 years I have enjoyed a vibrant private practice, providing psychotherapy to a wide variety of people. I have also become an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Psychiatry Department of the UCSD School of Medicine, where I enjoy mentoring the next generation by providing psychotherapy supervision to psychiatry residents.
You have years ahead of you. Do you plan to retire from psychology, to do something totally different, again?
I really can't imagine not working, not doing something purposeful, and luckily I am in charge of my own fate. So, even as I watch old friends retire from their careers, my inclination is to work indefinitely.
To be sure, other things matter a lot--time spent with our six precious grandchildren and their parents, and other family, friendships, fitness, travel. The list goes on. So I will adapt--I am reducing my practice hours. I don't plan to start another career--though I think I might make a good travel agent! Being a psychologist makes me happy and gives me purpose. I expect to keep practicing for a long time.