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I left management consulting to become a flying trapeze teacher

  • David Paasche is a flying trapeze instructor in Dallas who left consulting to do circus full-time.
  • He was approaching a six-figure salary and now earns $15 an hour, but he is more fulfilled and happier.
  • This is what his work looks like, as writer Christine Gilbert put it.

This narrated essay is based on a conversation with David Paasche, a 25-year-old flying trapeze instructor in Dallas, Texas, about his job. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I grew up in New Jersey and went to Brown University for undergrad. My first experience with partner acrobatics was when I was President of the Brown Aerial Arts Club.

In 2019, I graduated and moved to San Francisco for an entry-level management consulting analyst role at Altman Vilandrie & Company. We focused on the telecommunications, media and technology sectors. My daily role was to do market research, create Excel sheets and create PowerPoint slides to present our findings. I was about to earn a six-figure salary.

I was thrilled to have a job right out of college that paid very well, where I worked with smart, interesting people. I liked work and worked 12 to 15 hours a day.

While working there I started flying trapeze in my free time

I went to the San Francisco Circus Center looking for a partner acrobatics class. They didn’t have any, so I thought, Maybe I’ll try that flying trapeze thing.

Flying trapeze involves swinging back and forth on a trapeze bar over a net while throwing tricks. The goal is to get off the bar, do some kind of trick (flip or twist) and get caught by someone who is in another trapeze, hanging upside down by their knees.

As I continued to take classes, there was this slow shift to circus as a possible career. The physicality of the circus was important for this change. In consultation you use your mind, but in the circus you use both your mind and your body. You have to be strong and flexible. There’s the intellectual element to bring your artistic vision to life and the mental training you need for the big stuff.

I was in the circus gymnasium and I saw the people who had done professional shows and been part of big troupes, and they felt like the people I wanted as professional role models.

Then COVID-19 happened and my work became remote

Circus gyms have also closed. I moved back to New Jersey and was working on a tough project. My life was to wake up, work and sleep. I think it accelerated my job change. The experience probably wore me out a little faster than it otherwise would have.

A flying trapeze rig opened up on Long Island and I started training again. I was planning on visiting my girlfriend in Florida, and one of the people on the platform recommended I visit Momentum Academy, a circus gym in Port Saint Lucie with flying trapeze.

I spoke to the owner of Momentum, and he gave me the opportunity to work there. Because I was at a high skill level, Momentum offered me the opportunity to teach some of their recreational classes a few weeks after my time there.

I had a little safety net to make the change. I was on a consulting sabbatical to learn trapeze, so I had a three-month period to go teach as well. I went down and started on January 3, 2021.

I was mostly working on the board and catching. Everyone starts working on the board, that is, the person helping you take off, cutting your safety lines and holding your seatbelt before jumping. To catch you need to have more strength and awareness, but a strong, capable person with limited experience can fit in quickly.

Two months later, the owner offered me a position to stay

I worked there for a few more months and then moved to Dallas to teach at the Dallas Circus Center.

I relied on my savings when I started, but I’m an employee now. My pay is $15 an hour for 30 hours a week, and the gym helps with housing, but doesn’t fully cover the cost. This is the typical setup for flying trapeze teachers – the gymnasium will help subsidize or find affordable housing.

I don’t really think of it as a “pay cut” from my consulting work

It was more like this big life change where I went from having a mindset of working in an exciting and dynamic “job” but not feeling that sense of accomplishment or meaning, to experiencing this new life of doing something wonderful and new that I never imagined for myself before.

In many ways, I really don’t feel like I have a “job” right now. My hours and duties are different each week, and most of what I do involves keeping the gym running smoothly, providing top-notch instruction to our students, and developing my skills as an athlete. . It is much more like being part of a community or a family than a job I changed jobs to. It is a life in which I passed from another life.

Flying trapeze gyms fill their staff with some locals and other people like me who come to camp there. We increase our skills and then move on, making our way through the circus world.

On a typical teaching day, I get up between 9 and 10 a.m.

I’ll go to the gym, clean up and take care of platform maintenance, then work out – strength, flexibility, maybe straps, a trampoline, whatever I need to focus on . I’m going to take a break, eat and hang out outside the gym.

Maybe I’ll practice more, then teach. I mainly teach group lessons, but about once a month I teach a private trampoline or handstand lesson. Usually after class, around 9:30 p.m., there is a team practice session on the rig where I do basic duet trapeze until 11 p.m. or midnight.

My dream is to be in the circus, to fly or maybe duet trapeze in a big show

Hopefully over the next two to five years I will be able to learn the skills to make this happen. I would be eager to work for any circus company where I could perform at a high level, especially now that I am starting my career.

That said, I admit that I have a bit of a crush on Cirque du Soleil. They have some impressive flight numbers right now, and I’ve met a few of the catchers. Cirque is also a major circus company in the United States. I think the brand equity creates a certain appeal, just for having heard its name all the time, before I even thought I could become a circus performer myself.

If you want a side job in flying trapeze while pursuing a traditional career, that’s easy to do. Find a platform, express your interest, and take classes for a while. If you want to be a circus nomad, improve your skills, make it your life and think about how badly you want it. There’s a lot of places you can go, but you’re giving up a lot of stability. If this is going to fill you up and you can’t see yourself doing anything else, definitely go for it.

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