06.14.12 Career & Finances

Losing My Identity, Reinventing Myself

Losing My Identity, Reinventing Myself

BY Kim Jackson Reeves

Working in television was always my dream, but for the past couple of years, it has become a bit of a nightmare.

My dream began when I interned at MTV at age 22. Over the next eight years at the company, I worked my way up from Production Assistant to Producer. Fulfilling the desire to spread my wings, I left the company at age 30 and since have been producing under my own production company. Now, I’m 39 and CRAVING a career change.

If I’m really honest with myself, the reason behind the need for a change is because although I’m really great at what I do – my heart just isn’t in it anymore. I don’t want to sit in a dark edit room for 36 hours arguing with an editor to make the smallest of changes from the network, I don’t want to lose my shit when my first scheduled interview of the day is 45 minutes late, I don’t want to worry about how not being able to afford that Oprah clip will affect the show. What I do want is to be inspired again, to not allow my work to be EVERYTHING and to contribute something beautiful to the world. I don’t think that’s too much to ask – do you?

After much consideration and contemplation, I’ve decided to study floral design at the NY Botanical Garden. Sure, floral design might seem like an odd choice, but for me it made perfect sense. Not only will it still allow me to be creative and evoke an emotional response with my work, but instead of my end product being an entertainment news piece or a one-off special that practically no one will watch, my end product will be a thing of beauty that enhances its environment and makes people happy. And, instead of going back to school for God knows how long, the certificate program that I’m pursuing is relatively short and can be completed on my own schedule.

Speaking of schedule, I just completed my fifth floral design class and have been thinking about beginning my internship in the New York City flower district. I can’t believe at my age I’m starting over again. What if I made the wrong career choice? What if I fail? Will people like my designs? How will I ever remember the botanical names of every flower? Will I be able to cope with the major decrease in salary?

But in the face of all my fear and doubt – I do believe that I can do it.

The main struggle for me has been my identity and how that’s always been wrapped up in being a “producer”. If I’m no longer a producer, what am I? Of course I know that I shouldn’t identify myself with WHAT I am, but WHO I am, but it’s difficult to practice.

Everyone in my life from my friends to my husband was comfortable with me being a producer. It was how they identified me and identified themselves, in relation to me. My husband always bragged in the past about how his wife was a producer and quite frankly, I’ve always been excited to answer, “What do you do?” when meeting people because I was so proud of what I did for a living. It was the coolest job ever. But what I needed to learn was that I was much more than what I did for a living. I was and remain a strong, intelligent, sensitive woman who also happens to be a loving wife, daughter, sister, aunt and friend.

Those were the roles that defined me. And as a result of this realization, my priorities shifted. What used to thrill me – creating television at the cost of my relationships, my health and sanity – became silly. I wanted sleep. I wanted to be healthy both psychically and mentally. I wanted to spend time with my husband, family and friends and be truly present. I wanted to achieve balance. And at the end of the day, I listened to my inner voice and did not allow myself to become swayed by other people’s opinions and expectations of what my life should be. I was the only one living it, after all.

And don’t get me wrong – I haven’t gone in with blinders on. I understand that just because I change careers it doesn’t mean that I will be magically transported to a world where stress, hard work and long hours don’t exist. I am fully prepared to put in the effort, but hopefully once I complete the Floral Design certificate program, I will kick off this new career with a renewed spirit and drive, much like I had when I was 22.

That girl had no doubt in her mind about what she wanted to do with her life and she made it happen. Maybe after experience replaces naiveté, doubt creeps in because you know you’re not always in control.

If I could say anything to my 22 year-old-self,  it would be follow your heart and don’t panic if that eventually leads you away from television. Dreams can always be redesigned.

Whether I succeed or fail as a Floral Designer, my story has a happy ending because throughout this process of losing my identity, I found something I wasn’t expecting to find. Myself.

Featured image via

Producing television was my passion until I decided to pursue a second career in floral design. If I’m not in class at the New York Botanical Garden or writing for A&E Biography, you’ll find me cycling in the green mountains of Vermont, walking on the beach with my dog, Lucy or on my couch hogging the remote from my understanding husband. For me, life’s all about balance.

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  • Comments

    • Paris

      Hi Kim,

      I too found your article while searching ‘career change from tv production’ and I am so glad to find inspiration in the form of the piece you wrote. I am finding this a year after you published this and glad I stumbled across it.

      I have been working in tv since i left university, I too started at MTV and then went to numerous tv stations. After 4 years working in the up-and-down industry I have realised that the career in this just isn’t for me. The freelance lifestyle doesn’t suit me (I want stability and not having to be on a constant job hunt!) and permanent positions in tv production are few and far between.

      Unlike yourself I have no idea on what career I want to go into, I know my skills (people management, organisation etc) but not sure as to what job path I should be going down. Its been great to read your article and also the other comments on here.

      Although I am still working out this next step in my career life, I know I am already much happier now living my life rather than worrying about the constant stress I found working in tv to be.

      Thank you again for such a great article and good luck with your future career!

    • Andrew Garland

      Hi Kim… It was inspiring and wonderful to read your story… It sounds like we have found ourselves in a similar place. I am now a 40 year old Producer, and – about a year or so ago – I realised that my heart wasn’t in the whole TV lark either and that I needed to find inspiration again. For me, that has come through retraining as a life coach (I have 6 months more to do until I qualify!), with the plan that I can find fulfilment through helping others achieve theirs. Speaking for myself, TV is fine when you are young and enthusiastic and happy to work crazy hours, but that’s neither sustainable or desirable when one gets older (and wiser?!)…. Anyway, you know this! I just wanted to say thank you for telling us your story and for having the courage to face your fears and be brave. That is totally awesome. Dreams can be redesigned, and you are proof of that. Huge good luck with your Floral Design adventure, and I hope it brings so much into your life. All best wishes…. Andy 🙂

    • Christine O’Donnell

      This is pretty funny. I came across your post, searching for the opposite – a story of someone who’d had a different career and wanted to switch to television production. But instead, I’ve found a plethora of ladies like you, which is sort of terrifying because all I’ve ever wanted to do was be part of making a great television show (drama, sitcom, sketch…) I had a few years of theatre production under my belt before becoming a single parent and getting a ‘real’ job in advertising/comms where I spent the last 15 years. So, here I am at 46 years old, newly married and living across the river from NYC, trying to break into TV.

      I’m hoping its not too late to achieve my dream – even if I have to work for free and stand outside in the freezing cold during shoots and maybe miss my husband for a while. One day (fingers crossed,) this experience will allow me to create and develop my own show.

      Thanks for your insight!

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