Sometimes I wish my story was slightly more scandalous and interesting… like those actors who started out cleaning toilets or bar-tending and now have Golden Globes sitting on their mantle, run a clothing empire, and own 6 cars.
However, my story is pretty ordinary, and definitely not as successful.
Not yet, anyway.
When I was little, I dreamed of being a writer or a psychologist.
My family moved to Illinois from southern California in 1986 (I was two), so that my dad could get his Masters of Divinity degree from a university located just outside of Chicago. I grew up in a Christian home, and my sisters and I were home schooled from kindergarten through 8th grade – an experience that truly shaped much of who I am today. Those years allowed me time to develop a strong sense of creativity and curiosity, as well as a passion for writing – something that I spent much of my time doing.
My parents got divorced when I was 14, which completely shattered my heart. My sisters and I moved out with my mom, and I remember feeling this deep sadness for my dad, along with intense guilt for leaving him. I hurt for him, and for our broken family.
That same year (1999), I entered my first year in a public school as a freshman in high school. The academic part came pretty easy to me and my sisters, but the social part took a bit of adjusting. We didn’t wear name brand clothing, or get fake tans and manicures, and we didn’t have our own cars at age 16 like the rest of our class. We didn’t have friends in school that we grew up with or went to grade school with. We were complete outsiders, totally new to the customs and expectations of typical teenage life.
I had spent my entire childhood dreaming about what “real” school would be like, and it wasn’t anything like I had hoped or imagined.
Halfway through my junior year, my mom decided to move us to a town about 45 minutes away from all of our friends and our dad. Although it was mostly for financial reasons, I was pretty angry about it. At the end of a miserable semester where I refused to make any friends, I told her I wanted to move in with my dad. And I did.
It was my first significant, independent decision.
Since the purpose of my move was to be closer to my friends and my dad, I hadn’t thought much of the (third) new school I’d be attending for my senior year. Shortly after the move, I learned that this new school had a different scheduling system, which meant that I didn’t have enough credits to graduate at the same time as my friends. I was devastated, and really concerned for my reputation (of course, I was 17).
Instead of being smart and looking for a solution, I went and got a full time job leaving my high school diploma in the dust.
Not long after that, I enrolled in some writing and journalism classes at a local community college and moved into an apartment with my best friend.
From there, I hopped around from job to job for a while, dabbling in a little bit of everything; working at a hotel, managing a retail store, working in various restaurants, etc. In truth, I actually quite enjoyed the diversity of my work experiences… I met A TON of people, learned about a variety of different industries, and really fine-tuned some important skills and abilities.
In 2006, just 3 months before my 22nd birthday, I stumbled upon a cute little lingerie boutique near my apartment. Little did I know that this small shop would change my life.
The owner of the boutique was a strong, assertive woman with an intense drive to help women feel beautiful and confident. I was strangely drawn to her and the vibe of her business. I had a full time job at the time, but I applied for a sales position out of sheer curiosity. I had an interview that same week and got hired almost immediately.
Everything about that job, over the course of my 5 years there, gave me such joy and fulfillment – although I didn’t realize this until the boutique closed and I had moved on to something else.
In the summer of 2012, about a year after I began working as an admin assistant at a medical office, I called my mom and told her that I desperately wanted to get back into the lingerie industry. I remember sitting in my car on my lunch break, telling her how much I missed doing bra fittings and making a REAL difference. I didn’t just want to do it, I felt like I HAD to do it. I had to, or I’d just explode.
Not only did she tell me to go for it, but she offered to help!
I had a little bit of money saved up, a whole slew of ideas, and a strong determination to make my dream a reality.
Although I had never worked so hard for anything in my entire life, the work came so easy. It felt pleasurable. It was as if I was doing EXACTLY what I was made to do.
I opened my shop less than 4 months after that conversation with my mom. In every way, I leaped without looking.
My shop was open for an amazing two and a half years, where I grew a loyal client list of over two thousand people, launched a positive body image campaign, and made a significant impact in the community.
In 2015, pregnant with my first baby, I decided to close – with every intention of reopening in the near future.
My kids changed my life. And honestly, not in a way I had ever wanted. I felt as though they had stifled my entrepreneurial fire and yanked freedom and opportunity right out from under me.
But on the contrary. They gave me strength and courage and determination. They opened my eyes to a whole new world where I control my thoughts and actions. Where I get to choose my path. A world where I get to be whomever I want to be.
Today, I am running a candle business that is truly so much fun, and fulfilling my lifelong dream of becoming a published author (by co-authoring a book). I am also writing and building a blog that just completely fills me up and makes me feel alive.
But in 5 years? Who knows.
Maybe I’ll open my lingerie shop again. Maybe I’ll write more books. Maybe I’ll be living off-grid in the mountains somewhere.
I think life, to a certain point, is about doing the best you can with what you’ve been given. But the important part is that you are wholeheartedly grateful for it. Because whatever you’ve been given… you’ve been given for a reason. We all go through tough times, lose people we love, fall off the wagon, and occasionally become lost. Sometimes we get scared and let opportunity run right past us. Sometimes we allow resentment and fear to rule our lives.
But it’s in these moments of pain and struggle, that we sometimes realize we are stronger than we thought we were… and capable of doing much more. It’s only in that realization that we can really chase our dreams, go after our passions, and ultimately, fulfill our true purpose.