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5 Steps In My Turning Point:  How I Twirled My Way Into A New Career

Joane Socha October 2020

Midlife Musing Kuel Life Contributor: Joanne Socha

What if you could pivot into a new gig post-pandemic? Wouldn’t it be nice to throw out the old and move into something you have been yearning for, while making a living doing so? 

Some of us have had career changes forced upon us, having been pushed out of our current jobs. What if you embraced the upheaval and allowed yourself to search for a career you want to do, not have to do? One that ignites a chorus of birds in your soul, not one that fills you with the Monday morning dreads?

Bet On Yourself:

My career change was prompted by a series of unfortunate events”

You don’t need a financier or benefactor like Kip in Great Expectations to effectuate the change.  

I pulled off my dramatic mid-life career change slowly but with a larger vision in mind, all while on a shoestring budget. The challenging part was the inner work I had to do to turn the tables on my legal career. Travel back in time with me for a spell as I snake through my transition from lawyer to luxury travel designer. I’ll share my insights for effectuating the change.

My career change was prompted by a series of unfortunate events, albeit with a happy ending. I lurched from healing an ill child, to the protracted illness of a spouse, losing my parents, and divorce. Throw a couple of moves (West Coast, East Coast and Down South) and trauma from a childhood accident into the mix. While I enjoyed my occupation in law, I felt a strong calling to help others. I loved supporting women through will contests and divorces, but the transactional nature of the law wasn’t very gratifying and I knew I had to leave.   

So I Jumped!

Way before lawyering, though (yes, age three), I donned my first tutu and decided that I wanted to be a prima ballerina. I studied classical ballet for all of my young years, and boy did I put in the time! However, I realized around the age of 18 after having been accepted to several prominent colleges for dance that I was too tall at the time. And, I wasn’t good at it early enough. Thus, I quit; giving up on dance, and myself as well.

It took me a decade to realize that my decision had been a wise one for me. And, that I needn’t regret it. I had a true turning point moment in my early thirties from… of all things, the film The Turning Point.

Life Imitates Art:

If you haven’t seen the movie and are interested in dance, beautiful people, and fine acting it’s excellent. It stars Leslie Browne and Mikhail Baryshnikov, the former as a young dancer in the film (as she was in real life). Years after the movie came out, I had several occasions to get to know Leslie. She was friends with my former husband. At the time, she was the prima ballerina with the American Ballet Theater, a very beautiful dancer, and a lovely person as well.

Unbeknownst to us, we would re-enact a similar scene from the film after one of her performances. I can’t remember the specific ballet, but I’ll never forget Leslie and her dancing- and being so moved by her performance. At the end she was showered with roses and numerous curtain calls. The applause itself was resounding. We went backstage and chatted.

The Scene Played Out:

Right then and there I realized, I didn’t have to regret giving up on dancing or myself.”

I had just had my first son three months earlier. And, I had also done the whole lawyer thing. I had to take time off for reasons I won’t recount here, so I was home with him and it was wonderful. It was very happy time. Backstage with Leslie, I was in awe! It was then that we had our Shirley McLaine/Anne Bancroft interaction (minus the animosity). The only difference being that they were older in the film and near the completion of their respective career choices. One had had the brilliant career as a dancer. The other didn’t. There was a mutual longing for each others’ lives.

I wistfully said to Leslie “You’re so incredible and it was such a beautiful performance. You are so lucky and…”, Leslie nonetheless rebuffed whilst looking at me “You have a husband and you have a beautiful son, and….” at that moment I felt like we were performing an outtake from the film. Our manner wasn’t competitive at all, though. It was rather sweet with mutual respect. We were both being kind of introspective about our lives and what we had put aside in order to pursue something else. Right then and there I realized, I didn’t have to regret giving up on dancing or myself. Perhaps dancing wasn’t meant for me and it allowed something more meaningful to arise in its place.

My Internal Turning Point:

That was my internal turning point. There have been several others since. I’m thankful for the hills and valleys in life. Why not embrace your own repositioning or turning point if you are being called or pushed?  Perhaps you have shelved your career, are working on Wall Street miserable, running a third world country, or are CEO of your household. Perhaps you are questioning what you left behind, and want to come to terms with regret and make new choices.

I’d like to share with you the 5 steps in my turning point where I fled my life as a lawyer to become a luxury travel designer, coach, and author.

5 Steps In My Turning Point:

No. 1: It Doesn’t Have To Look Good On Instagram

While I love the law, in retrospect I chose the path for all of the wrong reasons. I wanted my parents to be proud of me and I desired  the approval of my highly competitive siblings. My decision was also based upon a bit of anger and “I’ll show you” mentality. I never wanted to be controlled by another with respect to money and made the decision to never rely upon anyone else for financial security. Sometimes I wish I could go back to that girl and tell her that she had nothing to prove and that it didn’t matter how the career looked to outsiders. 

No. 2: Earn your bread and butter.

This doesn’t mean that you just stay stuck ram-in-a-rut style in a job where you are miserable because of the money, complacent, or even fearful at the prospect of a new gig. What it means is that you take a step in the direction that you want to go but you keep earning, nonetheless… Unless you have a financier. Even then, it isn’t great for your self-esteem to rely on another person for funding. Perhaps for a short-term measure, but try quickly to create revenue from it. “Always make sure your talent and autonomy are growing.”

No. 3: Listen to your lure.

Even if you are clueless, as I was after my law practice, listen to your lure.

Oh, I thought I’d transition into a leadership role in a non-profit, but found out rather quickly it wasn’t for me! … But it was part of the thread that led me into the travel business and I followed it, taking steps in that direction. My self-esteem grew so much that I was hired to reposition someone else’s company. It was all part of my journey to today. My lure was travel, but in the end it was just the trigger and pretext for inviting lasting and glorious change into my life.

Be willing to take a step back or even two steps back”

No. 4: Be willing to be demoted.

Be willing to take a step back or even two steps back, and be uncomfortable in a lesser position. I was a lawyer and I’m proud of that, because I worked hard to accomplish it and I had my own practice. It was certainly gratifying, but I had to be willing to throw it away.The lady lawyer persona and all that came with, including the three-piece suit. I threw it into the wind without so much as a backwards glance, much like my great grandmother had done with her scarf when she lost sight of Sweden’s shores en route to America. Then, I was able to see what I wanted to do and what I was capable of doing post-law. I knew deep down that I would accomplish whatever I set out to do. Now you do the same.

No. 5: Superimpose the old on the new.

Perhaps you have done this before- I hope it is in a new light under today’s different circumstances.

I didn’t bring my tutu, but I brought all of my lawyering skills- my counseling and listening skills, troubleshooting problems and finding solutions. What can you bring? CEO at home after having shelved your career? Believe me, your day-to-day organization is priceless.

Pour your life’s expertise up to this point into the next phase… And I’ll be the first to throw flowers at your feet.

About the Author:

Joanne Socha is the author of The Red Bandanna Travel Book: The Medicine of Traveling, a lawyer turned Luxury Travel Advisor and Your Wanderess Host™ She mentors her clients through their inner and outer journey to celebrate wellbeing and usher in lasting and glorious change into their lives. You can fInd Joanne at joannesocha.com  And, follow her on social: FacebookInstagramTwitter, and LinkedIN

2 thoughts on “5 Steps In My Turning Point:  How I Twirled My Way Into A New Career

  1. Lisa Gates says:

    Fabulous article and I would love to connect. I recently experienced this “dance” and am still going through the “performance”, so I can relate to everything mentioned in this article.

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