I was recently at a comedy show where the support was a magic act. I did not expect to be amazed. I was naturally suspicious, as it’s not often I have come across a magician that leaves me bewildered.
But still, many weeks later, I am left scratching my head — with her mixture of visual, card and mentalism effects, I cannot explain how she managed to guess what that one guy in the audience was drawing or how she got the x on that other person’s hand — I was watching him the whole time!
I just so happened to be there with a friend who knew the magician personally, and we were introduced after the show.
To my astonishment, she had only been performing for 2 years. And on top of that, she had made a choice to become a magician at age 37.
I couldn’t resist asking her to share her journey to becoming a magician and how she gained the courage to ditch her previous career and change the game entirely. Because let’s face it, careers aren’t exactly linear anymore. Research shows young people today are likely to navigate 17 different careers over 5 different industries and there’s nothing more reassuring than hearing someone’s story about jumping career ship.
Here’s Simone Turkington’s story as told to me about what it’s like to quit your job at 37 and make a big career change…
I got my first trick deck of cards when I was about 8 or 9, then I got another magic set when I was about 10 and did magic shows at school, Girl Guides, and for the family. It’s something I always loved to watch and do, but I did nothing for years. Then when I was 34 there was a five-week magic class at a place nearby and I decided to take it.
I had a brief flurry of inspiration that I was going to take this seriously and make a splash as a rare female magician, but quickly, my self-doubt took over I pictured myself hoping to be taken seriously and people looking at me and asking “Who the hell are you?”
(Simone Turkington pictured above)
However, the flame was not completely extinguished! Around my 37th birthday my friend was babysitting for me. When I got home I invited her to hang out for drinks. As we were chatting, she mentioned she was into magic and I perked up with excitement.
Inspired by our conversation, I imagined a 60s tiki magic act. I imagined it on my own, but I knew I would never stop doubting myself enough to do anything about it. So I knew the only way anything could come of this is if we worked together. I suggested it and she said yes! That’s how our act Mystiki was born.
If I didn’t have someone to work with, to inspire me and keep me motivated, I wouldn’t be doing any of this right now. Not everyone needs that, but I do. It’s something I recommend over and over to creative friends who are doubting themselves and unable to get motivated. Find a collaborator!
I had an office job for 10 years and quit 2 years ago. My son was 2 then and I was taking a lot of time off to take care of him. As my commitment to magic increased, it was perfect timing.
I wouldn’t say I’m a professional magician. I would say I’m semi-pro, only because I haven’t been doing it for that long. It’s the only thing I do for income now with Mystiki booking paid gigs regularly and having a residency. So I’m getting regular work doing magic, but it’s not enough to pay the rent yet.
I was enthusiastic about pursuing magic when we decided to do it, but it was also scary! We booked our first gig before having our act formed, but that made us get our act together! A magician friend of ours believed in our enthusiasm and what we were aiming for, so she booked us for a Ladies in Magic show. Leading up to that deadline was terrifying but it was exactly what we needed to get it done.
Nowadays, I do get anxious about performing, but as a friend recently pointed out to me, that’s just because I care. I’m not afraid to be on stage, I’m afraid of screwing up, but I think that’s good.
Some of my best moments since becoming a magician include passing my audition to be a magician member at the Academy of Magical Arts at The Magic Castle (magician mecca), which is pretty huge for a magician so I’m proud I accomplished that 6 months after I started learning magic. Another performance highlight is a tour of solo gigs I did earlier this year. I got to perform the opening act for one of my favourite bands, Supergrass, which was pretty insane.
With the highlights, there are also some struggles. I think my greatest struggle is finding time and energy to practice. With a rambunctious now-4 year old, once bedtime hits, I just want to sit and do nothing, so I have to really force myself to practice while he’s at preschool. I have to make the most of that time.
From time to time, I’ll get overwhelmed by various magic goals I’m trying to accomplish (duo act, solo act, kids act, walkaround magic) and can feel utterly defeated so I just have to keep separating it out, reminding myself there’s no rush (even though I’m 39!) and just keep chipping away at it, piece by piece.
My biggest piece of advice to someone who is considering a career change would be don’t let your age hold you back! One might ask “Can I afford to spend x amount of years starting this thing from scratch? I’ll be so old by then.” Well yes, it might take a few years to find your feet with a new thing you love. But it’s better than spending all your remaining years doing something you don’t.
It’s worth the investment of time to get so much more enjoyment out of something else. And as I said before, if you feel silly on your own, find a friend. I’d be nowhere in magic without one.