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I Changed Careers In The Middle Of A Pandemic... And Then, Life Happened.

Life happened: “An idiomatic way of describing normal life as having undermined one’s plans.” -Urban Dictionary

Have you ever had a season in life where you beat yourself up because you felt like you weren’t getting anything done? You felt like you hadn’t accomplished anything? That the things that you said you wanted to get done, the things you said were important, that you really wanted for your life, you didn’t even start? You know, “life happened”?

That’s what 2022 was like for me. I learned a long time ago that if you want new things in your life, you have to make room for it by clearing out some of the current things. So this year I did.

I quit a career that I loved.

When I stopped working behind the chair as a hairstylist, my days were no longer full of client conversation and creative work. I stopped having a routine, a set schedule, and a concrete direction. I started doing hair at 19, and spent 39 years of my life, being a committed, passionate, dedicated successful hair stylist and educator and then… I stopped. I didn’t stop because I didn’t like it, because I was tired, because Covid and the ill effects it had on hairstylists careers soured me, (however it did piss me off) I stopped because I have always known I wanted a “second act” in life, a “second career in my industry”. I didn’t want to fade out of my career, I wanted to pivot.

I wanted the time to impact my industry and a new generation of hairstylists with my years of skills and wisdom and create something powerful, creative, satisfying and new. I have always been angry at the way society looks down their ever condescending nose at my industry, my peers, and me. I know the importance of hairstylists. Hairstylists uncover an individual's beauty and create confidence where it was lacking. The world needs us, and that's amazing. So I stopped working to just… “jump into” that second act.

Well, (of course), I found out, it isn't that easy! I thought when I stopped working, I would have plenty of time, and it would be easy to transition into my “second act.” After a successful career as a hairstylist and educator for New Talent hairstylists, I assumed that if I “stayed in the same field” and created an online course to teach new hairstylists the same thing I taught new hair stylists in the salon, it would be no big deal. Well, guess what? Life happened and it is a big deal.

Underestimating how much mental and physical work comes with change.

What I found out this year is that second acts are really just another name for “starting over”. Simply put, I’ve been humbled. This passion project I envisioned, of teaching and training brand new hair stylists all over the world, is actually more than a passion project, it is starting a brand new business. That brand new business I am having to research, grow, and learn how to do. So yeah, I’m realizing the significance (irony) of having to start “over” while teaching others how to start “new”.

The Inner Critic

When this New Year arrived, so did my inner critic. It came in like a flood. The regret and shame I felt for letting myself down, for not accomplishing the career goals I had laid out for myself a year before overwhelmed me. I’ve been career focused my whole adult life, not having a career felt like losing my identity. And, to be transparent, the thought of sitting down and writing out the same career goals and dreams from last year, again for this year, was depressing. Can anyone relate? The goals I had ARE important to me, however they didn’t get done. Nada.

What to “do” when you didn’t “do” what you set out to “do”.

This New Years, I recognized how hard I was being on myself. I know that what I need when I’m being hard on myself is self kindness. I know that I have a tendency for black and white thinking and what was needed was to throw a little gray into the mix and soften up the way I looked at this last year. I decided this year at New Years to do something different. Instead of making New Year Goals, I reviewed. I reviewed this past year.

Photo Reflections

I pulled out my phone and looked up my pictures from the previous year and visually reflected on what had taken place. Wow. My pictures showed me that while I wanted to launch a new business this last year, “life happened” and that “second act” took place in other important parts of my life.

Not only did I quit my career in 2022, but I also sold the family house I bought as a single mom 20 years ago.

Quitting my career and selling my house was ridiculously scary! Like free falling. However, those two major changes allowed space for new things in my life. I moved to the cozy beach town of Seal Beach. I made the decision to share my life with the man I had grown to love and feel at home with. I embraced minimalism, and moved into a tiny house. I got rid of “stuff”. I put a new support system in place for my son with Down Syndrome. That support team advocated for him, and regained his rights and services. I now have the pleasure of living with my son Luke two weeks out of every month, and seeing him grow and thrive as a man. I started a yoga practice. I’m able to answer the phone during the day when my kids, step kids, or parents call me. I took my 2 “kids” (30 and 33!) to Hawaii. A vacation together that I wish had happened a decade sooner, but “life happened”. My adult kids and I enjoyed a week of uninterrupted play and laughter.

Life happens, and you know what? That's a good thing.

This last year I got very little done with my online course business for new hairstylists. That frustrates and disappoints me. I miss my daily interaction with all of my clients and friends, and that at times feels lonely. However, as I sit here in my tiny beach house writing this first blog post, I can see the beginning of a beautiful sunset, and I’m feeling hopeful.


Karen Spinelli is a hair educator and mentor to new talent hairstylists and cosmetology students across Los Angeles and Orange County. Karen is from Pasadena California where she had a successful 30+ year career in the hair industry at an award-winning salon. To book Karen as a speaker at your cosmetology school, click here.

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