PR girls, plot twists, and something about Kansas

“I don’t want to be a PR girl anymore.” I snapped my mouth shut and held my next breath as I waited for a reaction. My boyfriend turned in his office chair to look at me, wearing an expression that I couldn’t read.

The confession came out in a nervous jumble: “I don’t want it. I want to go back to school for nutrition. I want to coach full time.”

There are plenty of ways a man could react when his girlfriend announces, out of the blue, that she wants to be a life coach and plunge herself into student loan debt to start a brand new four-year degree. He could have laughed and called me crazy. He could have stared at me in disbelief and asked if I’d lost my mind.

Instead, B nodded and asked, “Okay, how do we get you there?”

It was the reaffirming question I needed to start plotting my way out of a decade-long career in public relations.

When other peoples’ opinions are actually your job

Last month, in the chaotic shuffle of clients and creative projects, I found myself with several empty days between contracts. It’s the ebb and flow of entrepreneurship I’d grown accustomed to over the past year. Usually, this was the moment I would pivot into “new business” mode and start looking for new clients.

But when I couldn’t even manage to drag my exhausted self out of bed the next morning, I gave in to the rest that my body and subconscious were not-so-subtly demanding.

What would a couple of days off change? In retrospect, just about everything.

The days that followed were empty. No Zoom meetings, no urgent emails, no deadlines, no media requests. It was the first time in almost a decade-long career that I stepped away from my laptop and into deafening silence.

Of course, I’d taken plenty of long weekends and vacations over the years. But the job was always there in some way, whether it was a text from a co-worker or the awareness of a looming meeting on my calendar the day I got back. There was always something—an identity—I went back to.

I’ll be the first to call myself out here. Corporate stereotypes of Millennials aside, my professional existence has always been a defining part of my identity and self-worth. Job titles, promotions, and salaries were my measuring stick for success. And while I worked hard to rip apart that mental construct over the past year, it bled into my business too. There was always something to prove and justify… even though I’ve never been able to clearly identify what that thing was.

But maybe that’s what happens when you turn the opinions of others into a career. It’s the essence of public relations: What will people think? What are they going to say? Will they still like me? And my people-pleasing subconscious latched onto it with fervor, and those questions became my mantra.

Please understand that I’m not here to condemn the public relations profession. And I’m not here to take a metaphorical shit on anyone’s career choice. The work that communication professionals do is necessary. I know so many colleagues who thrive in their work. And will continue to thrive in it. But I’m just not one of them.

In those few quiet March days, I wasn’t anything to anyone—in the professional sense, at least. It was a chance to reflect and explore the future without boundaries. And what bubbled up in that space shocked me.

Who are you after stripping away outside opinion?

In our modern society, I think silence is something that scares people the most. You are alone and exposed. There’s nothing to drown out the things you’ve tried so hard to ignore. For me, it was symptoms of soul-crushing burnout and crumbling self-worth taped together with phrases like, “I’m a PR girl! Look at my business!” 

Even after years of hard work, I wasn’t fulfilled by the career or business I’d built. It was a hard truth to swallow.

I sat with the realization for a few days, and then, something else came into focus. I didn’t know her right away but I recognized her face… as though I’d seen her across a crowded room years before. She stood with unencumbered ease and a wholehearted presence. She was smiling. It was a beaming grin that made her nose crinkle and eyes squint with pure glee—a type of unapologetic and incandescent joy.

I’ve been staring at her ever since, slowly recognizing her as the girl I’d buried under the opinions of others. A creative, compassionate woman with passions and interests I’d long forgotten about.

The plot twist I referenced in the title? Nope. This is just a melodramatic metaphor that has become the best way to describe my return to self. I know she’s been waiting for me this entire time, manifesting as moments of innate curiosity and passion as I unwrapped myself from external influence.

Now I can see this transition didn’t just happen in a few days. Instead, it’s been a progression over the past several years. The initial shifts were just subtle and harder to recognize. It was the hours I spent listening to podcasts about mental health and wellness, rather than business and digital marketing. It was the unexplained impulse to sign up for a six-month life coach training program in early 2021. It was the client meetings I completely sidetracked with questions about mindset and staying hydrated, rather than earned media strategies.

There in those subconscious actions was the work I really wanted to be doing. And coming to a full stop in my business finally helped me connect the dots.

I made a career out of other peoples’ opinions. And then, I spent two years building a business that helped female business owners convince the world they were worthy. But at the end of any workday, it wasn’t the high-profile media feature I cared about.

My joy came in watching a client fall in love with her own narrative, purpose, and worth—even just a little bit. And now, I want to do that every single day for the rest of my life.

Is this the plot twist? Absofuckinglutely.

I’m making a monumental shift in my life and business. In the past, every career change—albeit small compared to this one—were things I shared as neatly polished LinkedIn updates. I ran my personal brand like a strategic public relations campaign with my curated professional persona in mind.

But this isn’t a promotion or new job. This is a new adventure that comes with mess and excitement. And it’s the type of adventure that I want to share in full color. No editing, no facades, no hiding.

If you’re skimming, here’s the plot twist. I’m shifting into the personal wellness, mental health, and nutrition space to help women and female-identifying entrepreneurs show up wholehearted in their lives and businesses. There’s plenty more backstory to how this alignment happened, but we’ll save that for a future blog post.

I’m one short application and exam away from my Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credential with the International Coaching Federation, following a year of training with the team at CTEDU. I’m starting some essential learning with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and NASM. And this summer, I’m starting back to school at Kansas State University (KSU) to pursue a degree in dietetics. 

While purple isn’t exactly my go-to color, I love that I found a high-quality, affordable dietetics program that is ACEND-accredited, which puts me on track to becoming a Registered Dietian in a few years. And since I have no plans to trade my Birkenstocks for a pair of ruby red slippers and move to Kansas, it’s an added bonus that the KSU program is entirely online. 

Please read that again, Grandma. We are NOT moving to Kansas.

What about Coffeehouse Communications? My little agency is officially out of business. It’s been an exciting two years of growth. I worked alongside some fantastic brands to tell their stories. I landed coverage with more top-tier publications than I can count—the Associated Press, The TODAY Show, Forbes, Consumer Reports, SELF, Men’s Health, USA Today, and Rolling Stone, just to name a few. I proved to myself that I could build a six-figure business before turning 30. I reaffirmed that I was really good at being a PR girl… and I don’t want to be one anymore.

As I close out that chapter and start anew, the one constant is writing. I’ll be here blogging the entire journey of changing careers, building a new business, going back to school after 30… and everything else in between. You can also follow along on Instagram or get in touch any time over email at hi@calliegisler.com

If you stuck with me to the end of this blog post, thank you for reading, friend. We are the authors of our own life stories, and sometimes, you just need to write yourself a really good fucking plot twist. 

3 Responses

  1. As I said elsewhere, I’m so proud of you for following your heart. And I’m excited to see how this journey goes for you.

  2. So powerful! Cheers to you on your new path! Thank you for being an amazing example of following your heart and not continuing PR just because you ‘should’ because you’re good at it. Can’t wait to see what you create next. 💕

  3. While I officially “retired” several years ago, I stayed very active in public relations as a volunteer leader and held an especially challenging role when the pandemic struck. Last spring, I told colleagues that I planned to make 2022 a PR “gap year.” I have found such joy (still as a volunteer) in exploring interests that I had put on hold. Writing for a newspaper. Doing feature reports for a radio program. Performing a program of music from Broadway. The challenges of these past years have reminded so many of us of the importance of making every moment count. As my husband always says: Don’t postpone joy. I’m happy and proud to know that you are finding yours. Again.

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I'm Callie.

Pour yourself a cup and take a seat! Coffee and Cardigans is a personal blog documenting my crazy adventures in a new decade of life—and, of course, the many cups of coffee in between. I live in the beautiful state of Oregon with my wonderful and far-too-patient-with-me boyfriend and two tenacious corgis named Renney and Booker. Thanks for reading along, friend!

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