Last Monday was International Women’s Day, and you may have seen the profiles of women we have chosen to celebrate in our Instagram Stories. We have to keep things fairly short on Instagram, but luckily the blog allows us to share one more inspiring story. We are convinced that Elise Gasbarrino’s experience can resonate with many of you. If you’re fantasizing about starting a new career, no matter your age or your work history, you may find it helpful to read about Elise’s thought process, doubts, and the steps she took to undertake her career reboot. We are very grateful to Elise for sharing her experience, and we hope it will inspire other women to follow their passions, or at least show that this is an achievable goal.
When I was 21, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. I spent that whole summer at home and in the hospital, undergoing surgeries and chemotherapy. Naturally, it was terrifying to go through, but when it was all over, I knew I wasn’t meant to follow a typical path. After my college graduation, I spent time in England, Australia, and Italy before moving to New York, where I spent a decade working in the fast-paced, exciting world of fashion.
Aside from the whole “going through cancer” part of my story, I’ve been able to live a life many young women dream about. And for a time, it was my dream, too: I worked for major fashion houses like Oscar de la Renta and Burberry, was flown to Paris for fashion week, sold in the showroom with John Galliano, and attended dress fittings with Sarah Jessica Parker. It was just as thrilling as it sounds.
But after 10 years, the glitter wore off.
At some point, I realized that I was living the life 20-something Elise wanted, not the life that 30-something Elise wanted, and it didn’t feel right. I had what can only be called a “dream job,” I loved the people I worked with, and the truth is, I enjoyed my life. So why rock the boat?
But on a really important level, I knew I had to. I had this sneaking, underlying feeling that what I really wanted was to start my own business. I knew I wanted to create my own company culture, lead and inspire a team, and be a part of actual change. I may have liked my job in the fashion industry, but there was no way I was going to achieve any of these new career goals unless I set out on my own.
During the 2019 holidays, it felt like the universe was giving me a sign that now was the time. I had been planting some seeds for a few years, spending time on projects I was passionate about, and slowly making investments I hoped would pay off in the future. One achievement that I’m very proud of is Pink Pearl Canada, a charity that supports young women across my country who are undergoing cancer treatments.
The other project has been STYLE Canada, a lifestyle destination that I’ve been able to lead and grow as Editor in Chief. What has been most exciting about my time at STYLE Canada has been the opportunities, people, and progress we have been able to make in such a short period of time. A start-up has a very different feel then the corporate world, and you can see the results of your work much more quickly than you can in a corporate environment. I didn’t realize exactly how much I would value that until I had it.
That doesn’t mean there haven’t been hard parts to this journey.
I spent over a decade in the fashion industry in New York, and in many ways, my identity and sense of self were tied to that image. I knew in my heart that I had more to offer than I was able to in my fashion career, but it has been hard to break from this part of myself. Your 20s are such formative years, and I was essentially saying goodbye to a big portion of what I had built in that time. However, while there have been some ups and downs, I’m hopeful that this is just the beginning of a really great second chapter, and it’s been incredibly rewarding.
Right now, we all have an opportunity to rethink our current situations and what we want to be and do next. I want to acknowledge my privilege: I was lucky, I’d been smart about my finances, and I was in a position to not get paid for a bit. However, while it’s not realistic for everyone to get up and leave their salaried jobs to pursue a dream like I did (especially in an uncertain economic climate) jumping ship tomorrow to pivot your career isn’t the only option.
Instead, you can take steps towards a goal you really want to achieve and a career you’ll find more fulfilling. Taking a small step towards living a life you genuinely love you will genuinely love can be as simple as buying a domain name, setting up a brainstorming session with a close friend, or finding a business mentor. Whatever it is that you want to do, start building towards it piece by piece—and remember, there’s no such thing as too late.