I Swapped Performing in a Circus, Doing Handstands for an

  • I joined a circus school in France in 2015 and worked as a circus performer for a year.
  • I now work as a reporter at Insider, and I earn more and have much better job stability.
  • Working as a performer is about more than just the money, however.

Defying gravity and throwing my body through the air was once how I made my living. 

From a young age, I would walk around the house on my hands and do cartwheels and front handsprings — whether indoors or out — at any opportunity.

When I was 13, I joined a gymnastics club and fell in love with acrobatics. A couple of years later, I also realized I loved dancing.

After failing to become an Olympic gymnast, I enrolled in L’École du Cirque Jules Verne, a circus school in Amiens in northern France.

I trained there for a year while performing on the street and in venues including a castle and a traditional circus tent.

I then made the decision to move to London to study journalism at university. Eight years later, I’m now a reporter for Insider and can usually be found glued to the news on my laptop or phone.

Apart from being a sporty person, I always loved learning and writing, and it felt natural to go back to something that I was as passionate about as acrobatics. I don’t regret giving up the artistic life, but I do miss the thrill of flying through the air.

A desk job  gave my working days more structure

Cirque Jules Verne in Amiens, France.

Cirque Jules Verne in Amiens, France.

Wikimedia Commons

The circus school director, Nordine Allal, was quite the character — always loud and busy. Our teachers were from all over, including the Romanian acrobat coach Adrian Munteanu. The aim was to stay in this school for two years before moving to a bigger one such as the Fratellini Academy, or even NexGen, Cirque du Soleil’s training program.

Meeting all these other people from countries including Argentina, Chile, Germany, Spain, and China is what made the experience truly special. I even learned how to speak Spanish fluently during my time there. 

Using your body to earn a living isn’t the same as typing on a computer. Though we had a schedule, it varied depending on the skills you needed to work on each day.

I’d usually get up at about 6:30 a.m., have breakfast, and head to the school at about 8 a.m. I’d then warm up for an hour, starting with basic acrobatics.

Insider's Sam Tabahriti doing a backflip at a beach.

Tabahriti doing a backflip at a beach.

Sam Tabahriti

Depending on what the day included — dance, acrobatics, trampoline, handstands, or hand-to-hand, which involves working with a partner — I’d practice until about 6 p.m. 

But if I was working on a new skill, such as adding a turn to my full backflip, I’d often stay longer if I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Sometimes I’d go with a few colleagues to perform on the street to make some cash.

Things can also go wrong. Once when I was tired, I landed on my back instead of my feet on the side metal bar of the trampoline. It took me about a month and lots of physiotherapy sessions to fully recover.

Frustration is a feeling acrobats need to make peace with. Some days, I could hit every double backflip perfectly, but the next day I could be stumbling everywhere.

I also had to respect how my body was feeling. If it needed some rest, I had to listen to it or risk getting injured, which meant being out of work. 

But being an acrobat meant I didn’t do anything else — all I did on my days off were handstands around the house or in a park. 

More stability, and more money

Working in an office took away the need to look after my body the way I used to. Instead, it gave me another thing to worry about: mental health. 

Insider's Sam Tabahriti practices a one-handed handstand with a partner.

Tabahriti practices a one-handed handstand with a partner.

Sam Tabahriti

When I was in the circus, I spent my time doing the two things that truly made me happy: acrobatics and dancing. And if I happened to go through a tough period, I would take refuge in practice — and it would make everything much easier. 

So when I started facing work-related anxiety, I wasn’t too sure how to handle it because I couldn’t just do a handstand in the office.

People often change careers because they’re unhappy with their job, but that wasn’t the case for me. No words can describe how spinning in the air made me feel.

But I also knew that being a performer most likely meant struggling financially — plus there’s limit on how long you can keep making those demands on your body.

I’m from a family where money was tight, and we were even homeless for a period. I promised myself I’d do everything I could to avoid being in that situation again, so I decided to go back to college and pursue another childhood passion: writing. 

I still enjoy going to gymnastics centers and doing some backflips or some handstands because they help me when I feel overwhelmed with life, but my days of running away to join the circus are over.