I am 51 – should I risk resigning to pursue my dream job as an environmental lawyer?

The odds are stacked against me and I’m probably being unrealistic ... Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

I am 51 and have reached the point where I can no longer continue in my job, but am struggling to find a way out. I have tried for a long time to stick at it, partly because I believe in sticking at things, even when they are difficult (jobs are like marriages in that respect) and partly because I know that changing career at my age is very hard. Nonetheless I feel I have to try to find an alternative, although it would involve retraining and taking on debt I can ill afford. Even then, I would still have to persuade an employer to take on a 51-year-old rookie.

My dream job is to be an environmental lawyer, but who in their right mind would take on £50,000 of retraining debt at my time of life? Not to mention the fact there is already a huge oversupply of legal graduates on the market. Oxbridge lawyers are struggling to land training contracts and pupillages: what hope would I have?

For various reasons I have no network to help me find work and no references, so my search will be even more difficult. My CV is very chequered: I have had three different careers so far, none with much distinction. I know the odds are stacked against me and I am probably being unrealistic. Should I simply try to accept that I have a job I hate and soldier on, spending the rest of my career in misery? Or should I try to do something meaningful and fulfilling with the rest of my life? The former option seems unbearable; the latter is a huge risk that could well leave me struggling with debt (and unemployment) for the rest of my life.

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