How I followed my heart and found work I love

"You don’t have to have an interesting life, but you do have to have an interesting story.” - Libby Cox (/Douglas Brooks)

10 years ago, I was working overnights at a window factory in Minnesota. Everyone said it was the smart thing to do. Good pay, benefits, etc. I had my whole career ahead of me and they were the ‘safest’ company to work for. If I did well and stuck with it, I might even get to celebrate my retirement at a team meeting and see my picture on the break room TV.

The day I turned 18 was the day I got hired at the factory. It was also the day I walked down the street to check out the local GNC for the first time. I thought it might be convenient to have one so close to my new job, since, at the time, I was so into supplements. I loved the place. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I was so confident from just landing my ‘secure’ job I asked if GNC happened to be hiring. I was nervous, doubtful and sure the answer would be no. I just knew I had to ask. To be honest, I had no interest in windows, I had no interest in factories, and I certainly had no interest in window factories.

It turned out there were only 2 employees at this GNC, so my chances were slim. There was the manager and the sales guy, and the sales guy had just quit. The manager asked me a few questions and told me to come in on Monday. I followed my heart and said yes, and on Monday, I got the job.

The thing is, GNC was a 20 minute drive from home, and I didn’t even have a car yet. I had a definite carpool to the factory at night, but I would have to make my own way to GNC. Every day I had to ask for rides, for 3 long months while I saved up money to get my first car. I didn’t even have a cell phone then.

The universe was testing me. I had to definitely want this.

So I worked days at the job I loved, and drudged through nights at the job I had no interest in. This was peak season, so overtime became mandatory at the factory. Some weeks I worked 90+ hours at the two jobs. 

I was often exhausted and one night I nearly fell asleep sawing 2x4s. I wasn’t the only one. One morning, I was driving home when my manager walked in front of my car and pleaded, “please, kill me.” I didn’t feel like he was joking. Then, a wave of layoffs began.

This seemed like a good time to quit. I called my boss and said as much. It was the most frightening, liberating moment of my adult life at that point. I quit the “safe” job and kept the job I loved. It seemed foolish at the time; it was so much money. I didn’t know how I would make it work without that job, but I didn’t care. Immediately, I felt a 10 ton weight lifted off my shoulders and I felt a strange new combination of fear and excitement. I went with it. Over the next year I learned security, happiness, and contentment come from within, not from money or a job or a picture on a break room TV.

This story reminds me to trust myself and follow my heart. I knew one next step towards doing work I love; I never could have dreamed how much it would open up and how much I could love my life. It all started there, with one small step -- asking for what I wanted. Followed by another, and another.