How I Recreated My Life 3x: From Dancer to Corporate to EntrepreneurFeatured

I spent my younger years building a life around becoming a professional dancer only to have it come crashing down around me on the cusp of finding my big break; I found the break, just not the one I was expecting.

In the past 15 years, I’ve recreated myself three times in three different career fields.

My first career, I was a lifelong dancer. The only career I ever wanted was to be a professional dancer. I lived in the dance studio from the time I was three years old until I was twenty-three. I went to college and obtained my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.

However, I regularly burned the candle at both ends between school, multiple jobs, an audition schedule, and a performance schedule. I rarely slept, I rarely ate, and I was always business networking. We were taught that every connection could lead to a possible job. Looking back, we were told to work connections even if they did not align with us.

As an artist and an introvert, networking was the most exhausting and draining practice. I constantly pushed myself beyond my comfort zone and never gave myself any recovery time. For anyone who is an introvert, you know how important it is to have your recovery and recharge time. Since I made no space in my routine for that time, I hit the burnout zone fast and then kept pushing through.

By the time I was graduating college, I was burned out, exhausted, and over the idea of a dance career. I had no idea what else I would want to do for the rest of my life. I kept doing what I knew even though it made me miserable.

Since I wouldn’t stop, my body finally made me stop. It was the beginning of an audition when I heard a double pop in my right knee. As I finished the combination, I was having difficulty with my right quadriceps responding. Nevertheless, I continued on with the three-hour audition.

On the drive back from the audition, my knee had seized up and I was in pain. I later found out I had torn my meniscus. Many may think that is not a career-ending injury. You are correct, but it was the break I needed to end a toxic cycle that was no longer serving me. I was twenty-one when my life and everything I had worked for came crashing down around me. It was time to figure out; Who was I if I wasn’t a dancer?

I stepped back to completely re-assess my life. Not only that, but who I was and what I truly wanted for myself. During this time of reflection as well as recovery, I was honest about how I really felt when I thought of having a dance career and what I really wanted for my life. I made a list of the things I wanted which, at the time, were:

  • One job
  • Consistent income
  • A home, a car, and to live outside of the city.

Essentially, I wanted to live the Corporate American dream. It was the stability I needed for that time in my life. I went back to school to become a paralegal and ended up specializing in Trust & Estate Law as a Trust & Estate Administration Paralegal. I got the house, the car, and lived outside of the city.

But, something was missing.

Living The Dream

By the time I was five and a half years into this career, I felt like I was on a hamster wheel. Doing the same thing over and over with no change. My life was dictated by the alarm clock, the office schedule, and my hour commute Monday to Friday. Anything I wanted to do for myself was crammed into the weekend or smashed in between meetings and lunch times during the week.

I was, again, burned out and always tired.

I would have full-on conversations with my fiance, now husband, and not remember them the next day. There was nothing left for myself and my loved ones at the end of every week. I started to ask myself, was this really what I wanted for my life?

I went back to the drawing board to search for what was missing. I wanted freedom over my schedule, I wanted to build something that was mine, I wanted work-life balance, and I wanted to make the income I wanted without fighting for it in the boardroom.

One of the things I loved most about being a Trust & Estate Administration Paralegal was working with the clients. Technically, our clients were the deceased, but it was the Executor/Trustee family member we supported in their role. I loved being able to help support them and put their mind at ease along the way. Coaching started to call to me very loudly as I entered the final year of my corporate career.

At first, I was hesitant to leave the second career that I had worked so hard to break into. I would have thoughts about what my fiance would think, what my family would think, and so on. I, of course, doubted the financial stability. I had been working so hard in my current career that even though I had very little cash flow to show for all the hard work; the income was a constant I could count on. Any extra funds went into car maintenance, car payment, mortgage, and education debt. There was nothing set aside to begin my own practice.

Living My Dream

I made a plan to find another job in the coaching field to allow myself space to build my own practice. However, at the time, no one was interested in or doing remote-online coaching. I wanted to build an online coaching practice working from home while also working with an online coaching company. I felt it was absurd how much we spent on housing to rarely enjoy it between work, appointments, and extracurricular activities. My thoughts were always, why not meet people where they live.

I was no longer able to tolerate the commute and job, I left my corporate career to work at a local marina. I started to slowly build my practice. It was rough to start. I had to work to focus on my why when I was met with naysayers. As I held on to that dream in my mind, I took it day by day one step at a time; building my network, making connections, and learning where I could.

I worked on letting go of past and current fears to allow my network to flow toward me. As I let go of those fears piece by piece; my network slowly started to rebuild in the entrepreneurial world. This network became my support who also believed in my dream. I do not know where I would be without them to this day.

This journey to building my dream started in 2017. By 2020 I started working for an online coaching company. As I reflect on where I was in 2017 to where I am now:

  • I have complete autonomy over my work schedule
  • I work for an online coaching company in mid-level management supporting other coaches and their careers
  • I have my own private practice supporting high-level career women looking to make similar changes to their life
  • I get to create something entirely my own
  • I make the money I want to make without fighting for it in the boardroom
  • I have found my work-life balance.

Things still continue to grow and expand. The growth never stops and it becomes more fun each day.

If I had never taken the time to self-reflect on my own needs and desires I would not be where I am today. Self-reflection is a crucial first step to acknowledging ourselves and our desires; without it, we become lost in the daily grind feeling stuck.

The first step is also one of the hardest steps to take. Once you acknowledge what it is you’re looking for in your life; you can create a plan of smaller steps that help get you there. This process looks very different for everyone. We’re all different people with different desires. Each of our journeys uniquely reflects ourselves. No two stories are the same and they shouldn’t be. It’s what makes us and life interesting.

I would like you to find some quiet time to self-reflect on what it is you are truly desiring in your life, without limitation, and consider one small step that will help re-direct your path towards that desire.

It takes so much courage to reinvent. To be honest with oneself. And patience to do baby step after baby step to figure out the new future.Many thanks for sharing this painful/exhausting/exciting/curious/hopeful journey @TaraHaislip. It's truly inspiring at a time when I find myself accompanied with more and more question marks.I was close to start my career as a violinist, tried out theatre stage design but then became an architect/urban designer. Unfulfilled and barely paid I moved on to become a project manager in the startup world. Right now I build and lead a team of project managers, am involved in building the company's strategy, work cross-functionally and directly report to C-level. There is so much in it that I love but at the same time I must admit that I am also close to there:„There was nothing left for myself and my loved ones at the end of every week. I started to ask myself, was this really what I wanted for my life?“ I enjoy what I'm doing. And I enjoy knowing that things will change 😉
@kathrin Thank you so much for sharing some of your story. It's fascinating to me how many of us started in the art world before moving to a more "structured" work environment to then end up in something that balances our creativity while providing a little bit of structure. I was in the start-up world in health + wellness for a short period of time. I truly enjoyed the starting, crafting, designing, and building aspects of the work. So glad to hear you enjoy what you're doing. What's something about your work right now that sets your soul on fire?
@TaraHaislip I share your fascination and cheered just recently when I found out that the singer of one of my favorite songs right now is also a project manager at a consulting firm.My dad is an electrical engineer and he never became tired to explain to me that we can be creative in every job - I laughed at him loudly at that time :DNow I begin to find more truth in what he said. Sure, it's not the pure artist's energy that I can find and apply in my current job. But the availability of an inner creative source somehow still shapes the way I work, communicate, come up with proposals and solutions or tend to work with risk.I'm on fire e.g. when I present and defend scenarios or proposals that I'm convinced of because they were created by myself or my team out of solid data. There is an organizer as well as an inspired optimist in my soul and as soon as I have a team around me, magic can happen ;)You said in your post that you (and your fun) continue to grow each day. That's so beautiful. What are your red threads that keep you moving?
@kathrin Yes, I love all of this for you! It's so true how much our creative fire comes through in our consulting work. Even though it may not be pure artistic energy, it's still there throughout how we create, review, and represent our work. Your dad is so right!I love the fire behind defending scenarios or proposals you believe in especially if it's your work or that of your teams. I'm very similar that way as well. Thank you for asking! My red threads that keep me moving are my creativity. I really don't know what I would do without it. When I feel stuck in my creativity, I turn to my spiritual practice to help me clear my mind which was something I never did in my dance career. It's how all the doubt and fear around that career built up to a toxic level. In addition to my creativity and spiritual practice, I thrive on building community among clients as well as among similar businesses that offer services that I don't offer. Something I get fired up about is changing the way we do business by breaking down the hierarchy structure. I don't believe in being a one-stop shop because I don't want to offer everything that someone may need. Instead, I'd rather offer what someone may need in my particular field while providing a trusted business network for the other things one might need. It promotes growth in the business (mine and others), growth within myself, and growth within clients. I would love to continue this conversation further if you're interested?
@TaraHaislip Love your story! Reinvention is a beautiful journey. It is amazing what happens when we give ourselves permission to ease up, to just Be and to recognize that everything we seek is already inside of us.
@MaryGervais6 Thank you! Exactly!
I absolutely love this, thank you for sharing this <3I feel like I can't even get to the self reflection when I'm struggling to offset the edge of homelessness and further debt.I would love to live life on my own terms, not fight or struggle with money, and find what it is that I truly find joy with my work and passions.I love the distinction you made between the dream, and YOUR DREAM. Such a huge difference!Cheers to your Success!
@RuthUribes Thank you so much for sharing this with me! I very much understand where you're coming from when you say how hard it is to get to the self-reflection part when you're feeling on the edge of homelessness and further debt. That is where I was three years ago. I would love to chat with you more! Would you be interested in catching up over "virtual" coffee?
I most absolutely would love to!Sending over a PM
As an artist and an introvert, networking was the most exhausting and draining practice. --- can't agree more! The best thing I love about online community/social media/remote working is that it offered a way for introverts to connect.
@torizhao Yes, yes, yes to all of this. I used to give off an extrovert vibe so when I would retreat people often thought I was being "anti-social" or uninterested. It was really a way for me to recharge. The online community/social media/remote working has definitely helped us introverts connect better.
@TaraHaislip - Wow! Thank you for sharing. Fellow Introvert and Artist here. This was definitely the read I needed today. I literally fulfilled my one dream (of being a billboard charting songwriter) and then immediately chose to walk away because I was unfulfilled and burnt out… but also - the panoramic. 😓 I too thought I wanted the home, car, etc… but I’m currently going through a major mental change and more than ever, I know that I need to step away from corporate and my current role in marketing. I have a deep desire to do “Work that Matters”. Work that is impactful and purpose-filled. So this post is right on time for me.
@rosalynlockhart I am so glad this read spoke to you in the way that you needed. You are truly transcending how to make the changes in your career that align with your needs as well as your passions. It can feel like such a lonely road where you currently are. In the one hand is immense passion and in the other, there are all the questions of 'how' to merge the two. I would love to chat more about what your passions are if you're up for it?
Thanks for sharing. Resonated as I’ve currently just changed careers and am now also pursuing coaching. Trying to determine my niche and incorporate my passions to make it something that truly gives me energy!
@drewtaylor you're so welcome. This is such an exciting and nervous time when you transition your career! What are some fields you're passionate about when it comes to coaching?
Thank you for sharing your incredible story with us, Tara. I'm also in a time of transition as I consider my next steps after a layoff from a startup this past fall. I've been in the media and tech industries for 15+ years doing partnerships work. I've enjoyed it and have grown professionally; still, the volatility of the industries as well as the lack of time freedom and general anxiety due to the work can be burdening. I'm grateful for this time and am excited about what's next as I keep an open mind and heart. Thank you for inspiring me!
Hi @jisonchoi thank you for sharing your recent experiences. The start-up industry is very volatile. I'm very sorry to hear you went through a lay off process as well. But I'm glad you are looking forward to what the future holds. I'm very interested in understanding more about your partnership work. Would you be interested in chatting more?
Would love that! I just emailed you. :)
As someone who nearly had a similar path, I love this share. Dancer - corporate - entrepreneur! I feel seen since it was always hard to explain to ppl, no I was a dancer and that was an actual career into my late 20s. Congratulations on the hardwork and success you earned!
@ebonypeayramirez Yes! To a fellow dancer!! Love to hear that. What was your focus in dance? What is the business you're building now as an entrepreneur? I would love, love to hear your story!
Thank you for sharing this. It is everything to me right now to feel less alone. <3 So many of my friends and community don't understand. I'm in a huge period of change in my life. I've been researching and navigating a career change. And this isn't the first time. Working in fashion was my dream from 12 to about 25. Then, I got into luxury travel sales because I loved travel. Fashion didn't turn out to be what I thought. The hours and working around the holidays made seeing family difficult so I moved from NYC --> CO (where I went to school) --> back to the Midwest to be closer to family. I quit the luxury travel gig to prioritize my family and move. Ever since I moved I haven't been able to find my footing again. I am currently unemployed after losing my job on Halloween. My manager was making my life hell and I didn't like what I was doing anyhow so it was the shove I needed. I just accepted a job offer that I was originally ecstatic about, but the negotiations made me uncomfortable. I'll be taking an $11k pay decrease and I've already been in a difficult financial situation. They weren't flexible on any of my ideas/questions on benefits and pay to make me feel more at ease. I want to get into behaviorial health and ultimately will need to go back to school (get a Master's in Social or Mental Health Counseling). I want to, but I don't know how I'm going to have the time and energy to do it all. I've already been scared, and now I'm even more scared. I don't know how realistic it feels for me to work 2 jobs barely scraping by while getting my Master's ... so for 3-5 years since I'll also need to get hours post-grad. I need to save for a new car. I'd like to have an emergency fund. I'd like to travel AT LEAST once a year, and I'd like to save for a house. I likely won't be able to do any of the above for more than 5 years. I would like to be excited for this opportunity, but how can it in these circumstances?I just discovered Space Force, if anyone is familiar, and I'm considering it because grad school could likely be paid for entirely and I think I'd feel so much more taken care of than working a corporate job, in healthcare, or by proceeding unemployed hoping to find something else (entry-level jobs in behavior health are near nonexistent so I want to feel fortunate), but I don't because of the pay. They have social work and advocacy roles. It feels weird to have just signed my offer letter, but meanwhile, I want to consider joining the Space Force and maybe even move elsewhere. And typing all of that feels nuts, yet so liberating. It feels like I need change. I know the direction I want to go, but I need a financially secure way to walk the path to feel set up for success. Small steps. I reached out to a Space Force recruiter to learn more.
Hey, @Lindy154, thank you so much for sharing all of this. You've been navigating a lot the past year+. I'm very sorry to hear you went through a job loss experience. It's positive to note that you recognize how toxic the work environment was. I actually experienced something similar within my last job and was laid off around Halloween. Many of us are experiencing the same things-layoffs, financial instability, and life/career directional changes. It's extremely scary. As you mentioned, the job loss was the nudge you needed. It was the same for me. I am a creature of habit and need to have a plan A, B, C, D. I hung on to some "traditional" work while I turned the lights back on to my online practice. The Universe knew I wanted my practice more than a job and it shoved me out that door. I was prepared for it. For the next few weeks, I'm sharing some of this story with my audience through my vlog and Instagram page. I would love to connect with you more one-on-one or through social media. Would you be interested in connecting more?
It always helps to feel less alone. I'd be happy to connect more 1:1!