‘She Pivots’ With Carla Stickler: Why the Dream Job Isn't Always a Dream

The former Broadway star shares how you can still get burned out doing what you love.

Broadway star Carla Stickler wearing glasses
(Image credit: Future)

In partnership with Marie Claire'She Pivots' challenges the typical definitions of success and explores the role our personal stories play in our professional journeys.

As the daughter of a pianist, and the granddaughter of an opera singer, Carla Stickler grew up surrounded by the arts. But after landing the role as Elphaba in Wicked in 2010, it was her time to shine. In an industry that is deeply competitive, being on Broadway made Stickler feel as if she had finally made it.

But the massive success also eventually made Stickler feel something else: burned out. Long rehearsals and nightly shows meant she no longer had time for her friends and family. She found herself feeling physically and emotionally exhausted after performing day in and day out. It felt like her self-worth was tangled up in the role. “[It was like] maybe if I give them every single thing in my body, this time, they'll see how much I care and how talented I am and how worthy I am for this role,” says Stickler on the latest She Pivots. “And it's just like this constant seeking validation from somebody else instead of finding validation within yourself.”

It was a lonely feeling. "I had a lot of people that were like, ‘you're living the dream,’" says Stickler on the latest She Pivots. "And I'm like, yeah—but the dream is really exhausting."

That’s when Stickler made the tough decision to leave Broadway—her passion, the thing she had loved for so long—behind. “People have trouble wrapping their brain around that you would ever possibly want to give something up that they see as something that everyone wants,” says Stickler.

For an acolyte of the arts, Stickler’s next career move took an unexpected turn: She became a software engineer. “My expectation for what I want my life to look like has changed many, many times,” says Stickler. “I'm okay with it changing…I think life is long and I plan on living until I'm like 100, so I gotta get used to it.”

To hear more about Stickler’s story—including how she dipped her toe back into Broadway—tune in below.

Emily Tisch Sussman
Contributing Editor

Emily Tisch Sussman is the Founder and Host of “She Pivots,” the podcast in partnership with Marie Claire about women, their stories, and how their pivot became their success. She is a contributing editor to Maire Claire and the guest host of the Marie Claire Instagram Live series “Getting Down to Business.”