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  • Writer's pictureSusan Carr

It's so much easier to just eat the peanuts...

Squirrel Appreciation Day was a week ago, and I had an absolute blast setting up the perfect little party for my backyard friends. They had a pinata filled with walnuts, a cluster of balls to play with, a triangle to swing from, a tunnel to crawl through, a sensory ball to push around, and a boat filled with water to splash in. I also hung up three sunflower-covered cobs for them to munch on. What more could a squirrel want?

Apparently, anything but all of this.

They didn't play with anything. Nada. Zero. Zilch. I just knew I had thought of everything. But they couldn't care less.

I bought a pinata because, you know, squirrels love pinatas. I filled it with walnuts and hung it from their tree. But, nope, still nothing. These guys are apparently not party-hearty.

I had a couple of curious fellows who attempted to investigate what the brightly colored, oddly shaped thing was hanging in their environment, but none would attempt to go inside for the walnuts. I provided them with two access points, a hole in the top and one on the side, both of which they could have easily crawled through. But nope, not one of them would make the effort.

So, I moved the pinata from the tree down to their usual feeding spot and attached it to the pole where the bird feeder hung. Still, nothing. These guys would not go near it.

And then I realized something. 

Because I had wanted them to have a lively party, I threw out their normal handfuls of peanuts, hoping that these would attract them to the area, and they would play with all the fun toys I provided. 

I found out instead that I had made it so easy for them just to eat their peanuts that they didn't care about the walnuts.

So, I placed three walnuts on the edge of the side opening of the pinata where the squirrels could catch the scent and hopefully go over and find the feast I had laid out for them.

Remember those hanging sunflower cobs? Well, a snarky squirrel removed one of them from its hanging place and carried it up into the tree. 

This video shows what happened to my plan for luring squirrels to the walnuts.

So, the walnuts were knocked off the pinata, and after watching the same scene unfold for three hours, I was pretty sure the squirrels would never go inside it. When squirrels are hand-fed their peanuts, apparently they won't spend the energy to discover a separate feast of walnuts.

And this reminded me of one of my favorite dialogues between Former Detective Adrian Monk and his therapist, Dr. Bell:

Sitting at the party, I observed squirrels who only went for what they knew without attempting to discover the unknown treat. Maybe they didn't think the unknown was so great after all, either.

And I don't know how they do it, but once again, these squirrels made me think about my mom and my new adventure as a small business owner.

When Mom needed to move into 24/7 memory care, I wanted to make sure that others would know her as Jean. She spent so many years being known as mom, or sister, or daughter that, over the years, I think she really started to lose her identity as a person with dreams and goals.

And so, one day, while I was trying to clean out her house before she moved, I found a folded-up piece of notebook paper where she had written down every job she had ever had in her adult years. I made an 8x10 picture of these jobs, which I displayed in her memory care room. She really did so many different things over the years!

My mom cared for my oldest daughter when she was first born and up through her toddler years until she started grammar school. They had the most fun together, and The Oldest still talks about some things they did. 

After Mom didn’t need to be there all day for The Oldest while I was working, she worked a couple of different part-time jobs and then went to work at a temp agency. A bit into her time there, she was offered a full-time position as a Fulfillment Specialist with Marriott Vacation Club International. For the rest of her life, she said it was the best job she'd ever had. She took pride in everything she did and was especially proud of her role with MVCI. 

Looking back at this now, I’m proud of her, too. Mom was 56 when she started this new career. Just six years away from “retirement age,” she took a chance, walked into the great unknown, and trained to work in an industry she knew nothing about, and she excelled in her role. 

When I think about this, I realize why it’s been difficult for me, at age 49, to start over in a new career, especially one so demanding as a small business owner. 

Technology: The digital landscape has changed so much since my early professional years. It sometimes makes me feel like I'm getting hit in the head each time a new technology, app, or software is introduced. Embracing this constant evolution is a challenge as I try to bridge the gap between my foundational skills and the demands of this era.

Competition: As I enter a new, unknown field, I find myself just one among hundreds of talented editors and writers, all vying for and deserving of attention. This competition means I have to create a new, even strategic, approach to set myself apart. Marketing and trying to stand out from the crowd becomes a part-time job.

Networking (aka an introvert's nightmare): As a remote worker for over 20 years, making professional connections at this stage in my career has proven uniquely challenging. Building relationships has required a different thought process and has taught me the benefit of making true connections with others.

Credibility: In addition to peer connections, establishing credibility in this competitive industry demands more than just having a strong portfolio. To gain potential clients' confidence, I need to showcase my skills and authentically represent the dedication that defines my approach to editing and writing.

Financial considerations: Starting a business at this stage of life and being uncertain of how I'll meet the budget, much less put aside money for emergencies and my future, weigh heavily on my mind. I'm passionate about editing and writing and believe my skills can benefit my current and future clients. But I must balance this with the need for a stable income and retirement planning. So, I have to develop a calculated approach to provide for both.

Self-discovery: Most of all, this new adventure isn't just a professional transition for me. It's become a journey of self-discovery and reinvention. Daily revisiting the emotional and psychological aspects of such a significant life change shows me the importance of strength and flexibility.

As I watch the squirrels in my backyard stick to what they know, hesitant to explore the unknown treats right in front of them, I'm reminded of my mom's courage in embracing the unknown in her work life. Her own journey of self-discovery serves as an inspiration as I navigate the challenges of starting over at my age. As I venture into this unknown of small business ownership, I try to embrace the twists and turns, ready to discover the "hidden walnut feasts" of opportunity and growth ahead of me, proving it's never too late for a new chapter, no matter how challenging the read may be.

But, wouldn't you know it? These little squirrels got wise once the walnuts were knocked off the pinata and onto the ground. And I ended up having quite a few laughs at the party.

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