One of the lowest days of my life left me sitting on my friend’s kitchen floor bawling my eyes out. I was tentatively out of a home, out of a boyfriend (he left to work in Alaska for 5 months), and completely out of money. I was miserable despite successfully graduating from the most difficult challenge of my life: college. I had no career plans, no marriage plans, and no money. I had nothing but childhood dreams that I had to make magically happen: with nothing.
My friend, seeing me in distress, let me stay at her apartment. She was my last standing hope of emotional sanity and a comfortable night’s sleep.
As I persevered through one of the lowest points of my life, she never once judged me, criticized my decision, or asked anything in return for her hospitality. Instead, she made me breakfast, packed me a lunch and promised me it was all going to work out. Guess what?
It all worked out.
WHERE I BEGAN
I’m the product of a loving family and farming lifestyle. My parents were solid partners, both as parents and in business.
They were loving, they were tough, and they made me work for everything throughout life. Ask me what the best quality anyone could have is and I’ll confidently tell you that it’s being able to work yourself from the bottom back up. This is a trait that I will always thank my parents for.
As a kid, I grew up attending school events, helping on the farm, hunting, fishing and that was about it. Then there was the weather. As a kid, I was obsessed with the weather.
I’d always loved storms and when I was 10 years old I PROMISED myself I’d get my degree in it.
So I did.
When I graduated high school, I attended college for Atmospheric Science (aka weather). This was an incredible opportunity that let me do things such as fly through thunderstorms, attend research conferences and be around people who truly believed in me even when I didn’t even believe in myself.
I ended up graduating early. This was an incredible feat for someone who barely crawled through physics-based calculus. However, the taller the wall, the higher I would climb (even if that climb was a crawl). It’s almost like I lived for the pursuit even if I didn’t actually love the final result. Tell me I couldn’t do it and I’ll show you all the reasons why I can.
A WOMAN DOING A MAN’S JOB
Growing up I always thought that after graduating college everything would magically come together. However, it didn’t work like that for me. As much as I wanted to feel excited about my newly earned degree, I couldn’t.
Meanwhile I was booted from my on-campus housing, had a temporary position that couldn’t pay the bills, and was spending my free time applying for jobs I never dreamed I’d actually get.
You see, we have now caught up to the beginning of my story - on my friends kitchen floor.
This is where my life truly started to begin.
After a couple months of despair it started to come together. I was eventually given a “real” job at a university as a research specialist. This was where I was able to continue my education while working full-time. In the blink of an eye, my entire world changed and I LOVED IT. I was given things such as
money, money, and more money…
For someone who learned to live with nothing, this was a real revelation. I was suddenly handed all of these things with a simple signing of paper. I could pay my bills, travel, and buy things. Oh how it felt so good to be able to buy things.
I had gone from incredibly broke and in debt (I paid for my own college this way) to what I had considered luxury living with a job I never dreamed I’d have.
You see, I always hated “girly” things. Therefore, having a career where I was able to make a living driving a pickup, working with my hands (and my mind) in overalls, cutoffs, and jeans was a dream come true.
For a young woman with too much ambition, I was on cloud nine. I was able to build a new sense of identity and self-worth from the labor I would put in.
I also loved the element of surprise my existence brought to the world I was entering. It’s amazing the people who struggled to comprehend a young woman working with tools, trucks, and electronics. What others may have found insulting, I found empowering.
SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH BETTER MAKES YOU BETTER
I also continued to work with people twice my age (at one point three times my age) for which I credit my “growing up fast” to.
My greatest mentors and friends have almost always been older, wiser, and critical of me. Looking back, these things made me wiser as well. As a young adult, I had gone through a large evolution of character in a small period of time - and something I couldn’t be more thankful for now.
BUT… goals, dreams, and ambitions can’t stop when life gets comfortable, and for me, it started getting too comfortable.
After a couple years complacency sets in. Things become more of a grind than a pursuit. I figured this was the time (when you feel like you got what you always wanted) when people get bored with life, with each other, and with their career.. but really they are just bored with themselves. I was bored with myself.
At this point, all I could think about was “where does my story go from here?”
So I decided to rewrite it.
I told my husband and family I was quitting my career (and my nearly finished master’s degree) to create an opportunity for a “better home life for my future family”… but really I did it for me. I needed to do it for me. To be a better me.
I needed to feel a rush of the unknown, of goals, challenges, changes, and pursuing things I didn’t know I wanted yet. I wanted to build something from the ground up. I didn’t know exactly how, or what, or where it would lead: but I needed to do it anyways.
I wanted to take the most important things to me and see what I could do with them.
I knew that what I had was good but it didn’t stop me from wanting better.
So just like that, I quit. I told my boss that I needed a change, to pursue something that was exhilarating for me.
He never judged me, criticized me, or asked anything in return for his years of advice. He simply wished me the best and in his own way, reminded me it would all work out.
He was right… it worked all out.
WHEN IT’S WORTH THE RISK
As a human, comfort is our greatest sense of relief. However, it’s our discomfort that reminds us that we are alive and reminds us to keep pushing to be better.
In the span of my very short tenure as an adult, I’ve been able to educate myself, fly through airplanes, run a 3-state mesonet, travel the country, and leave a great life for an even better one.
Most importantly, I’ve learned that my own happiness is up to me. It isn’t up to my husband, my parents, my friends, or my job. Only me.
I make my own money, my own dreams, and I make my own happiness, with nothing buy hardwork and learning how to be comfortable with discomfort.
Perhaps most importantly however, I’ve learned to embrace the people who have always chosen to believe and drown the rest of the criticism out.
Hopefully someday I can invest my knowledge and support in someone I owe nothing to, too.