'I gave up my life goal. And that's okay.'


What it’s really like to give up your big career dream once and for all.

When I finished year 12, I headed off to arts school to study musical theatre. I had a dream: I was going to be the next (significantly shorter) Rhonda Burchmore.

After completing a three-year musical theatre course, I started auditioning for professional shows. Month after month, year after year, I stuck a number on my chest and bared my soul to a panel of strangers while I nervously tried to hit the impressive notes.

But at a Cats audition I was told I was “too heavy” despite starving myself down to a size 10. After elbowing my way to a callback for The Producers, I was told I was “too short for a Pretzel girl”.

Jacqui on stage. Image courtesy of Gavin D Andrew.

With every rejection, my confidence diminished until I started resenting what I once loved. I started dreading auditions, and headed down the road of self sabotage.

It all came to a head when, the night before my Phantom of the Opera audition, I drank mojitos with mates until 3am and ended up croaking and sweating my way through a heinous rendition of “Unusual Way” from Nine (as a side note, that was the night I met my now-husband, so it was totally worth it).

Related: A contestant sang a Delta song on The Voice. Delta didn’t turn around.

Eventually, I had to face up to the fact that I was good but good wasn’t enough.

You can fairy floss it as much as you like, but life is too long to battle against reality.

So as I approached 30, I decided it was time to pop my tap shoes in the hobby box. And while I thought I would feel sad, instead I felt the most liberating sense of relief.

That hard little nugget of dread that had taken up residence in my stomach was gone. I was free to start again. I could eat carbs without worrying about looking bloated in Lycra.

coping with rejection
“I had a dream – I was going to be the next (significantly shorter) Rhonda Burchmore.” Image: Supplied.

My second love had always been writing, so I decided to work with that.

I dragged my tattered self-esteem back to uni to study professional writing and editing. A lecturer encouraged me to send one of my articles to a major newspaper and… they published it.

I managed to pick up a regular gig writing opinion pieces for the paper, which gave me the confidence to apply for a full-time communications job. And… I got it.

When I recognised that I needed broader skills to go further in my career, I returned to uni and started studying a Master of Communication. And then I got a promotion and ended up managing a team of five.


Related: How to negotiate a promotion.

Is it hard work? Hell to the yes! It can be daunting to return to uni as a mature-age student.

I’ve often dragged my breastpad-stuffed bra to lectures after two hours of sleep, feeling like Frumpy Fran amid the cast of Australia’s Next Top Model.

While the rest of the class heads to the pub after lectures to drink cocktails in mason jars, I rush home to soak poonami-stained onesies and pash my Thermomix.

When I have an assignment due in a few days, work deadlines to meet and a tantruming toddler and teething baby clinging to my bolognaise-covered leggings, I often think, “What the hell am I doing?”

But somehow, it all works out. The assignments get finished (sometimes at 2am), the deadlines are met, the teething and tantruming stops — and I inch closer and closer to graduation and another big, fat, highlighted qualification on my CV.

It can be hard, frustrating and overwhelming at times. But god it feels good for my hard work to finally be paying off.

coping with rejection
Jacqui with her kids. Image: Supplied.

This year I’ll be 35. I’ve nearly completed my master’s degree. I have two gorgeous boys aged 2.5 and one and I’m working as a Communications Advisor to the CEO of a major health organisation.

My life is glorious, insane chaos but I love it. I go to the theatre every chance I get, and last night I performed the opening number from 42nd Street for my kids while they smiled, clapped and stamped along.

I don’t have one ounce of regret about walking away from my theatre dream. I also have no regrets about spending 10 years pursuing it. I gave it a red hot and Rhonda crack.

So if you find yourself on the treadmill to sad-town, if you’ve sung yourself hoarse and the chairs refuse to turn, give that worn out dream the finger and start again.

Option B might turn out to be the shiz.

How have you coped with rejection in the past?

If you’re coping with rejection right now, here’s some inspirational quotes to help.

Want more? Try these:

I gave up my life-long dream. And I’m glad I did.

8 signs it’s time to change your career.