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EVERYONE HAS A STORY TO TELL

CAREER SHIFTER: ELEANOR HADLEY

Samantha Wills

How losing my passion led me to discover my purpose, By Eleanor Hadley  

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I am 27 and in the midst of my second existential crisis. 

This one came about by way of my recent decision to sell my business… the same business that I bought as a result of my first existential crisis 4 years ago. 

After high school I studied International Community Development and thought I had my life planned out. I was going to ‘save the world’, move to a developing country and make a difference. Little did I know that my studies would actually inform my decision not to enter the field at all. I knew a hell of a lot about development, but I didn’t have any tangible skills or practical expertise that I could apply in the field. I didn’t feel it was right for me to simply insert my white, blonde, Australian self into a community and try to ‘help’. My studies had taught me better than that. 
 

And so began existential crisis number one. I had always identified as the girl who was going to change the world, who was passionate about development.

It was how everyone in my life saw me; my friends, family and their friends and family and most importantly, it was how I saw myself. If I wasn’t working in development, who the hell was I? 

I grew up dancing from the age of three. I never took it seriously but always really loved it. When I turned 18 I tried my first pole dancing class and was flat out addicted from the get go. There was something so satisfying about finally mastering a trick I never thought I could achieve and watching myself grow stronger and stronger. I continued classes throughout my degree and worked my way up to Elite level, training about 6 times a week. 

At this point I was set to graduate and expected to go off and find a job in the industry that I had dedicated such a significant amount of my life to, and that I had built my whole identity around. But that didn’t sit well with me anymore. I was incredibly passionate about pole dancing, the transformative effect it has on women, and the studio that I was part of. I wanted to immerse myself in this new community that I had grown to love. Deep down, I knew that I desperately wanted to own my own studio. But admitting this to my friends and family was so daunting that I put it off for a long time. Although I knew that this was something that I was passionate about and wanted for myself, I couldn’t shake the fear of what everyone else would think of me changing my career path so drastically. 
 

I was also consumed by self doubt. Who was I to own a studio? Who was I to run a business? Who was I not to live up to other peoples’ expectations of me? And who was I to leave behind my noble, wholesome career to enter an industry that is so misconstrued and taboo?


Now, 4 years after buying a studio and running it successfully, I’m ready for my next challenge. This time around, I’m experiencing the same insecurities. How will I identify myself now if I can’t say that I own a pole dancing studio? Who does that make me? How do I respond when I am asked what I do? 

Despite being filled with a lot of fear around changing careers again and creating yet another new identity, I know I have already done it once so surely I can do it again, right? What I am trying to remind myself is that my job and my career, whatever it may be and however it may change, does not define me. It is okay to completely change your career when and as often as you like. We are so lucky to live in a time where it is relatively easy to change careers without losing everything or putting it all on the line. 

I’ve struggled a lot with losing my passion for something that once consumed me. Again, it has me looking around for my identity. If I am no longer passionate about community development, who does that make me? If I am no longer passionate about pole dancing, who on earth am I now?

From the outset, community development and pole dancing seem like polar opposites. I was so caught up in their differences that I hadn’t seen the similarities, until now. I can now see that the two have actually worked together quite synergistically in my life. At the core of both these industries is transformation. That’s what I’m passionate about. That’s my purpose. Sometimes it takes an existential crisis or two to realise the common thread that ties everything together. 

With this clarity, I now feel far more prepared to move into the next phase of my life and begin a new, transformation-focussed career

In fact, my experience in both industries has directly informed my next career shift and for that, I am so grateful. Existential Crisis number two, done. I look forward to learning and growing until the next one.

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