This is part of The Recession is Bullhonkey series, where I share stories of those who have gotten hired and/or started their own businesses (or sometimes both!) since 2008. This is Lauren‘s Story, and man oh man, if you’re suffering from a case of the “shoulds” (especially around your degree and/or your stable/traditional job) and feel the travel/yoga bug, this is the post for you. Just beautiful.
I shouldn’t be writing this post right now. I should be staring pensively out the window from the 38th floor of Four Times Square, imagining my slow ascent to the top of the corporate events world. I mean, if 22-year-old me had had it her way? I would be two years away from Director of Events at a Fortune 500 company.
I should be wearing suit right now. It’s a weekday, for chrissakes. Instead I’m three days into my yoga pants. I’ve taught 8 classes so far this week, and haven’t had a whole lot of time for laundry. Plus I was doing bike maintenance on my new ride on Sunday and really haven’t had time to get around to changing.
I went to a good college. A really good college. A college where kids like me are working in the Office of the President (of the United States!). A college where kids like me founded non-profits, started internet companies, and revolutionized healthy corporate lunches in our nation’s capital. All in the last five years.
Pretty impressive stuff, amiright?
And to be honest, it’s what I wanted when I got into said college. It was what I was expecting my life to be like when I graduated from said college.
My recession story doesn’t start with me getting laid off. In fact, in 2009, just 8 months after I had started at this company, my boss held onto me and my entire department like a soggy security blanket. We rode out the storm together, while people at our company were being dropped like Enron stock. But after four years of the same routine, I knew that there was more to my life than clinging to the hope that I would have a corner office if the economy would just get a little bit better.
I applied. I interview. I networked and I was recommended. I was told my resume was good, I was told I just wasn’t the right candidate. Either way, nothing ever felt quite right. It felt like I was interviewing for more of the same job, career, and lifestyle, just at different companies.
And so, recession and all, I took 18 months and saved up what I could save up (like $15,000. There were a lot of nights where I ate toast for dinner), and quit. After five years spent almost exclusively indoors, I wanted to work in the outdoors. I wanted to get dirty, I wanted to wear yoga pants to work. I wanted to work from home, I wanted to have adventures, I wanted to write, a lot, and to work with clients who share my values in this funny little game called life. Maybe not forever, but for a while. I realize how selfish that sounds. How not based in reality it sounds. But it was really and truly what I wanted at that point in my life. And so I did it.
I went to India to tromp around in the Himalayas for two months. I got really good at setting up a mountaineering tent. I learned about prussiks and how to haul myself up and down a snow field. I spent many nights getting pummeled by snow, sleeping in a tent, wondering what it was all for.
After two months, I came back, continued on an epic three-week road-trip up and down the west coast. I went to Montana to work for the summer, to sleep in a tent every night, and when it was clear enough, to fall asleep under a halo of stars. I fell in love (with big skies and clear waters), and decided to stay. After some fierce emailing, I was offered a full-time, suit-and-tie job. After more fierce emailing, I was offered a part-time, no money, teaching-yoga job.
I opted to live out my 27th year in yoga pants and racerbacks. When I realized that wouldn’t pay the rent even in Montana, I emailed everyone that I had met over the last few months, took meetings in coffee shops (wearing yoga pants, of course) and spent a lot of money on lunch. Someone once told me this was called “networking.” If I have one piece of advice for all of you out there reading this? The one, single thing that got me a job, friends, clients, and security in this new industry was those two weeks of lunches.
After the twelfth day of Southwest Salads in downtown Bozeman, I realized that each person I met with WANTED to help me. And reflecting on this back at my apartment, I’d even say people want to help you succeed when they are succeeding. It makes them feel good. After two weeks of lunching, I was hired to do marketing and social media consulting. I decided to work on my writing business on the side. I bought a book about marketing and social media consulting and spent the weekend becoming an expert. I started working on my own website, at night, on weekends, and in between ski sessions.
And after being here for two months, I’ve realized that it’s possible. It’s possible to live out the life that I really wanted. To reject all that I knew for something that I didn’t know. I’m poorer, for sure. But I am conscious every day that this is the choice that I’ve made. I’m putting in the hours, the work, whatever you want to call it, so that someday down the road, I can live this life that I’m dreaming of. Until then, there are a lot of grueling hours that need to be put in.
In the last 6 months since I left my job, I’ve learned will be no “perfect life.” I won’t “arrive” at my destination. It’s not all just going to “feel good” one day. Because the minute I feel like I’ve arrived at my perfect life? I’ll want to grow beyond that. I thought working in the field, sleeping in a tent, spending a lot of time in the great outdoors was my “perfect life.” And now I know that there is so, so, so much more to be accomplished than what I ever thought possible.
Lauren Caselli is a freelance writer and web copy artiste that works with health, wellness, and green small businesses. After five years living in New York City, she had enough of crowded subways and far-too-expensive rent, packed her belongings and high-tailed it out west. She didn’t make it quite as far as California, but decided that Bozeman, MT was a suitable alternative, particularly due to epic snow in the winter and big skies in the summer. You can check her out at her website or her personal blog.