“I want a job that suits me and doesn’t drive me crazy. And includes music, or allows me time to make music.”

This is the story of my long and winding road to life coaching.

I hope it inspires you to seek life coaching much earlier than I did.

Looking for my ideal career, I went down a rabbit hole and got lost.

But I’m Alice. I know about rabbit holes, right?

I do now!

It took me more than 10 years to find my way out.

Finally, I was stuck enough to hire a life coach named Scout.

She was a great choice for me.

As well as being a coach, Scout Wilkins is a licensed wilderness guide based in Zion Canyon, Utah. There’s more about her later in this blog.

I knew what I didn’t want

When I turned forty, I had a corporate journalist job as deputy editor of a magazine. My work was valued and I was well paid, but my job satisfaction was diminishing.

I didn’t aspire to be the editor. I also knew I didn’t want to work for any of the other 20 publications in that company.

After several months of increasing internal pressure, I knew burnout was around the corner, and I didn’t want to go there.

I knew what I didn’t want. But I didn’t know what I did want. Also, I didn’t know how to find that out.

I had a history of getting burned out by jobs. I would get some kind of chronic illness. And then I would have to resign and spend months recovering.

I could see the pattern. It was discouraging, frustrating and expensive. And it wasn’t good for my health.

When my sons were settled in school, I decided I would figure out how to do it differently.

I wanted to make life choices that I wouldn’t regret

My father and my aunt had both died in their early 60s, with many regrets for life not lived and work not completed.

The other factor was music. I’ve known that music is my “thing”, my soul path, ever since I was six.

But I didn’t feel I’d found my musical niche, my sweet spot, despite a lot of experiences.

With my husband’s blessing I resigned from my job. (Thanks, Matthew!)

The universe immediately sent me positive signs. I was offered lucrative freelance work that exceeded my previous salary. So far, so good.

And I set off to find work that suited me better. I was excited and confident that I could do this.

Alice and the white rabbit

Above: That’s me, following the white rabbit.

Down the rabbit hole

And then, I spent more than ten years looking for the answer.

I attended many workshops, trainings and academic courses. I got a postgraduate qualification in Health Science/ Expressive Therapies.

I trawled endlessly through academic research. I thought researching was where I was heading, until that led me into a dead end.

I was constantly scanning for opportunities.

I read many self-help books and carefully followed their instructions.

I would get excited and hopeful and follow each trail until it disappeared.

I worked with counsellors and psychotherapists, to figure out what was wrong with me; why I couldn’t find sustainable work. This was incredibly valuable. We’ve all got some kinds of trauma in our past and I am no exception.

I reached a place where I had pretty good mental health. But I still couldn’t figure out how to move forward in my work life. Also, I knew I didn’t want to train as a counsellor.

I worked at several jobs that didn’t last, for various reasons beyond my control.

I networked. I volunteered for community organizations, and started a few as well.

Tiger worms and cleaning

I had a couple of startup businesses.

The first was a house cleaning service. I was definitely not well suited for this. Although I must have been doing okay, because my clients were happy to refer me to their friends. The experience gave me huge respect for the people who do this important work for a living.

Then I had a cottage industry selling tiger worms for people’s worm bins. I have a knack with earthworms. Plus I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, thanks to a childhood spent helping my archaeologist mother on digs.

But expanding the worm business beyond the backyard proved too complicated. Also, my clients would kill off their worms with neglect and shamelessly come back to buy more.

What stuck looks like

Rather than getting clearer, things got more complicated.

I explored a lot of exciting and interesting places, but they all led me into dead ends.

I waited for the right opportunity to come past. I tried to keep my hopes up.

The years went by.

Friends and colleagues (and my husband) seemed to be flourishing in their jobs and their university studies.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t even hold a minimum wage job.

People would say things like, “Oh you’re lucky that you don’t have to work.” I’d snarl at them.

Others would ask, “When are you going to get a job?” I’d snarl even louder.

And then I’d go off and cry.

I wasn’t doing this on purpose. And my family were paying a big price. We couldn’t afford to repair the house, or go on holiday. Let alone saving for retirement. Also, I was grumpy and resentful, behind the positive smile.

I was ashamed that I couldn’t figure this out.

Alice Bulmer life coach

Above: I eventually worked out that I was looking for solutions in the wrong directions.

I signed up to work with a coach

After more than a decade I’d had enough. I admitted that I was stuck, professionally and personally.  

It felt like I was a climber, stuck on a ledge. I was halfway across a rock face on a steep mountainside. I couldn’t go forward and I didn’t want to go back. And I wasn’t going to jump off.

The longer I stayed there, the more stuck I got. I knew I couldn’t get myself out of this on my own.

Why did it take me so long?

Even though I’d been reading books by high-profile coaches, including Martha Beck, it had never occurred to me to get coaching myself.

Partly it’s the name, “coach”. I’m not from a sporty family. My parents emphasised academic success and music lessons, not sport. I didn’t have any previous “coach” experience.

I had no idea what life coaching could do for me. And how different it was from counselling and psychotherapy and career advice and personal growth courses.

For me, working with a coach was yet another step into the unknown.

Also, I was reluctant to spend money on coaching, having had so many years making very little income.

But it was a great investment. Those frustrating, discouraging years were costly in more ways than money.

Choosing a coach

I chose through gut feeling. Something resonated for me. This felt strange at the time, but I’ve since learned that this is a good way to pick a coach.

Scout Wilkins was a great choice for me – even better than I realized at the time. A wilderness guide, to help me find my path when I was lost and stuck!

One of Scout’s professional skills is helping people get across scary rock faces. She’s a very practical person who used to co-own a building company and has a huge wealth of skills and expertise.

Most coaches offer free introductory sessions, so you can get a sense of what they’re like in person. Every coach is different.

Scout Wilkins and Alice Bulmer at Zion

Above: Me, on the right in green, with coach Scout Wilkins in Zion Canyon. Mostly we worked together via online calls. But once I travelled all the way from New Zealand to Utah to meet Scout in person and attend one of her retreats. It was an amazing experience.

Let things go

I eventually realized that I’d been looking for solutions in the wrong places.

I kept trying to figure it out by myself. But actually, it would have been helpful for me to surrender and accept that I couldn’t do on my own, a lot earlier.

The model I was raised with says: find your place in the world and fit into it.

But what if your place hasn’t appeared yet? What happens if the job you’ve trained to do makes you sick? What if you’re endlessly scanning the situations vacant, but you’re better suited to be self-employed?

I had to stop second-guessing myself.

I had to stop trying to set myself goals that belonged to other people.

I had to learn to live in my own story instead of looking for stories that I could fit into. Which for me meant I had to start telling my stories. You’ll find some of them on this blog.

And also, I needed to let some things go, in order to follow my path. Which is not the same thing as giving up.

My coach didn’t tell me this. I figured it out for myself.

Life coaches don’t tell you what to do, in my experience. They hold space, ask questions, sometimes make suggestions, help you celebrate every step in the right direction, every small success.

Scout also introduced me to a life-changing toolbox of skills, practices and techniques. Including EFT, EMDR, the Sedona Method, and a daily gratitude practice.

Out of the rabbit hole

This story has a happy ending. With the help of my coach, I did get going again.

Things started working out for me. I got back in the flow.

I found my way back to my first love, the ukulele. And it was just as fun and joyful as it had been when I was six years old.

Ten years later I have a business teaching ukulele, online and in my community.

And I’ve trained as a life coach.

So I can help other people figure out how to use their gifts and talents.

I know a lot about rabbit holes, and how to navigate them successfully. So your journey won’t be as long as mine.

I don’t really regret my years in the wilderness.

Many of the pieces I learned along the way are turning out to be useful in my present life and business.

I can now reframe (that’s something a coach can help with) to say that during those ten years in the wilderness I was doing exactly what I needed to be doing. But I would have preferred less frustration and resentment. Also, it was a very humbling experience.

And I could have made much faster and probably more direct progress towards my goals with the help of a coach.

About Alice

I’m a creative life coach for mid-life women who are passionate about music, but struggle to find a musical niche that feels truly aligned and rewarding, and doesn’t lead to endless cycles of burnout.

Find out more about me here: About Alice.

Want to find out more about my coaching? Check out my services page here.

Or book a free, no obligation half-hour consult with me here

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It’s full of my favourite tips for regaining your feeling of playfulness.

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