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Hi. I'm Laura.

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One of My Biggest Career Change Struggles

One of My Biggest Career Change Struggles

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

–Joseph Campbell

But what if the old skin doesn’t want to come off?

I was sitting on the couch (or my crying station, I may as well have called it), surrounded by little piles of soggy Kleenex, my sad, unintended altar to the life I couldn’t let go of.

I was an actor, dammit. It was not just something I did, it was something I was. From a very young age, I had felt like an actor.

I knew that world, that work, the language, the almost-out-of-body bliss when the ensemble hit it just right. I knew how to tell a story, move an audience, and even how to play the industry game. If I knew one thing, it’s that I was an actor.

And not even piles of soggy Kleenex could convince me otherwise.

But I had started to question. Is this what I want? Is this still what I want? I had started to hurt. The old skin had started sloughing off, making way for something new, and I was furiously trying to tug it back on and put it where I thought it ought to go. Maybe this is why snakes don’t have hands.

Perhaps it would have been easier if the discarded layer was something that felt like it lived on the outside. Identity, one of the hardest things to shift, never feels like it’s at the surface. It’s a root. Roots grasp. Roots stabilize. It’s their job to hold tight; they are devoted to constancy. As you’ve noticed, trees stay put.

And so it took me several years to allow myself to adopt a new identity. Eventually, I stopped introducing myself as an actor. I no longer wrote “actor” on my tax returns. I changed my union status to “honorable withdrawal.” I didn’t need to be known as an actor anymore.

But I’ll tell you a secret: I’m still an actor. It’s still part of who I am, even if I don’t lead with it at parties. Even if I’m not getting paid to do it. It’s in my bones, and I can’t shed those.

  1. sage@sagegrayson.com

    November 13th, 2013 at 4:33 pm

    Your story sounds so familiar to me. I really resisted giving up my title as an editor because that’s all I ever wanted to be. But when I let go of the label and focused on what my heart was telling me, I found a career that’s a much better fit. And I still consider myself an editor inside. But now I edit people’s lives instead of editing manuscripts. 😉

  2. laura@yourcareerhomecoming.com

    November 13th, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Sage, yes. Letting go of the label can be so hard. Love that you found the through-line between your two kinds of work. So beautifully articulated.

  3. dd@deannadeveau.com

    November 14th, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    This piece really resonates with me as well. For the past two decades my life has been devoted, in one way or another, to my life as an educator. Life threw me a curve ball and I realized I needed to close the door permanently on that part of my world.
    The hardest part for me as I worked to build my new identity was realizing that it was not only okay, but absolutely necessary to let go of all aspects of working with educators if I was going to learn to put my focus in my new direction. Now that I have committed to my new direction, I have found joy in what I do. Although thoughts of my days with students got me jumping out of bed every single morning, I have unleashed new avenues and venues for my creativity.

    Change is good. Tough to embrace at times, but really, really good.

  4. lilyscloset@earthlink.net

    November 14th, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    I am not a fan of snakes, but I am in the process of sloughing off the old me for a new me. My “word” for 2013 was “new” and in so many ways “new” has come. All my life I just wanted to be beautiful and to fit in. Having spent 30 years in the image, beauty and retail industry, I witnessed so many women struggling to find their way, acceptance, value and worth. My heart and soul wants to help them because it kills me to see them lost and struggling. I know the journey because I have been living it and believe I can encourage and edify other women on their journey.
    Laura, you are right, letting go of who and what we are used to is hard. But for me, I often feel this glimmer of hope and possibility within along with a sense of peace that the new is just right. So I keep peeling the old away. The exposure is daunting and the shedding leaves some raw spots, but I am feeling lighter and a sense of freedom. I know about image and beauty, makeup and building a wardrobe perfect for your lifestyle and figure, but being able to go deeper, discovering and embracing one’s true beauty and worth is a more valuable gift to self and others.

    Shedding is being courageous enough to let go and embrace the next season of life. As a believer in God, I know my life is not my own and that it is to glorify Him and hopefully, encourage others to be bold and courageous in their living, being and becoming.

    Thank you for being courageous and for stepping into the next thing(s) God has for you.

    From another cryer,

  5. Anonymous

    January 16th, 2014 at 1:45 pm

    […] I’ve stopped struggling with my professional identity. […]

  6. glloftin@yahoo.com

    February 17th, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    I read and re-read this; I love and identify with the Joseph Campbell quote.
    I’m envious of those who know, such as you know, that you’re an actor in your soul… as I just don’t know. I stay where I am, working in a job I don’t love (to put it mildly) because it defines me, or gives me some frame of definition. My fear is that without it, I don’t know what or who I am.

    I want to change that, but so far all the dozens of books and articles haven’t managed to help me get any closer! But this inspires me, and so I hope eventually I’ll find my way.


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