You know, having a career change is hard. It was tough enough when I had both a full time day job as well as owned my dance school, and travelled extensively on weekends to teach/perform. There was the long hours, the insanely exhausting 3 year period, how much my relationships suffered from friends to family, and no one understands why you do it, why you push yourself like that, why you don’t want a normal life. It got to a point where I didn’t understand why I did it, a point where I had a single night off to take my gorgeous man out to dinner for his birthday, he reached across the table to tell me he loved me… and I burst into tears. From exhaustion.
I’m an extremely lucky individual, in that Steve completely respects what I do as a dancer. I’ve never had that. All my life, it was trying to be more than “just a dancer”. I came from a society that eschewed the arts as a career, and hence I spent all my time trying to overcompensate, to have a job, plus own a business, plus be a dancer myself.
When I first even contemplated leaving my full time job, I was wracked with self-doubt, with apathy, with a terrifying feeling I was letting myself down somehow. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any other dancer is “just a dancer”. I just know that I want to do so much more, and I’m passionate about other things as well as dance, and would never feel fulfilled doing dance and dance alone. Having said that, I had no idea what I wanted to do – I just knew I needed out of my then-job, and I needed to be doing something that inspired and energised me. So I was scared, too scared to change that status quo of comfortable living, 2 jobs, and having regular income.
Steve pushed me to get beyond that mindset. He asked me challenging questions:
Are you happy in your day job? Is it driving you crazy? Do you have time to do anything you want to do that isn’t work? Do you want to look back and realise you’re in a dead end job? Do you believe in yourself? What do you want? What are your capabilities? What do you have to offer? What’s your passion? What gives you that feeling of overwhelming joy?
When I couldn’t answer these, he still pushed me to quit. Why? Because he’s an incredible believer in doing what you love, and more incredibly, he was willing for me to quit, with only a slightly formed idea of what I would do.
And so I did. 6 weeks since my last day now, and I have to say I’m happier than ever. In that 6 weeks, I’ve had time for my family to come visit, to take a holiday (unheard of previously). To start all the things I’ve wanted to change in my business and really create some great structure and processes so we can grow. I’ve found my consulting niche, discovered what my “lightbulb” moment is, formed a basis to use my passion in my consulting work. 6 short weeks. I’ve rediscovered the things I love, cooking, eating healthily. I’ve had time to take some lessons myself to develop myself as a dancer, as well as reconnect with old friends I’d lost touch with. It’s all a long slow journey, and isn’t complete, but it isn’t bad for 6 weeks!
Best of all, I have rediscovered blogging – something I’d done for 5 years, and then faltered when life simply got too busy. And when Steve found out all these things I had discovered? He’s super supportive. He doesn’t care that for now, my income may be sporadic. He doesn’t care that I sometimes am working on frivolous things like home decor and making my blog PINK. He’s extremely excited that slowly but surely, I’m becoming clearer in my direction and journey forward. Best of all, he’s a firm believer in my capabilities, and thinks (perhaps a bit delusional) that I’ll be a tremendous success moving on.
My message to all people considering the freelance switch:
Think it through. Consider it carefully. Understand your strengths and limitations (owning a business is great for this!) But most of all, be supported. Ensure your partner, family and close friends help you with your headspace and remembering your goals in this difficult period of self-doubt, soul-searching, and huge decisions. If you have that, everything will fall into place!
The best part? As I assist others with their journey through developing their capabilities and strengths, I get to go through one of my own too.