Back in the 90’s I was flailing. See, I really wanted to be a Physical Therapist. I had worked one summer in Clarkston, Michigan, as an assistant to a very kind PT who showed me the ropes. It was a fun job and I loved helping people and learning about how the body works. So, that Fall I signed up for a full load at Oakland University. It was very challenging but I had great instructors who made the hard classes, like physics and chemistry, seem fun and interesting and I got A’s. But by the end of my 3rd year I realized that wasn’t enough. There were younger students who had GPA’s above 4.0 that I was competing with for the 600 slots in the masters program, and there were thousands of applicants. My GPA was higher than it had ever been and I had worked really hard to get it up to a 3.8. But during orientation we were shown a video called, “Alternatives to getting into Physical Therapy school.” This was not a good sign for me. The video offered other options such as Physicians assistant or even switching to medical school. I was so disappointed because I felt like I had finally found something I was excited about, something I would feel really good about doing.
I had been working in retail for the last decade and a half making good money. In 1992 I had been at Saks Fifth Avenue at Somerset Mall for 4 years. I was one of the top sales people there out of over one hundred, but I was craving more. I wanted to do something to make a difference in the world. Plus I often complained to by best friend about the late hours, working on weekends, missing out on family vacations and weekend parties. So when she offered me a job in sale at the cellular company where she was working I took the job and began my new career in outside sales. So now instead of customers coming to me I worked out of my car going on sales calls. It was exciting and fun and I felt like I was climbing the ladder to success.
I truly wanted to help people. So one of the ways I sold phones was to talk about safety. Most people back then, when phones were just hitting the market, wanted them as a status symbol. But I loved the idea of giving phones as gifts to family members , just to keep in the glove box in case of an emergency, and it worked. I felt good about what I was doing. Unfortunately in this kind of work you have to be self-motivated and that was hard for me because I lacked confidence and self-worth.
Three years later a dear friend saw an ad in a magazine to hike a marathon in Alaska for the Leukemia Society. Neither of us were runners but walking was an option so we signed up. Each of us had to raise $3000 in order to qualify. Throughout that Winter we stood in the entrances of local grocery stores holding donation cans and trained in the freezing cold for 4 months. We learned about safety, what shoes to wear and how much water we would need to bring. We hiked different parks throughout the state, stopping for snacks and freezing our asses off. Looking back it was such a great experience because it taught me how to enjoy being outside in the Winter, something I had never done before.
Alaska was breathtaking. We not only finished the marathon, but we rented a car and went whale watching, took a small plane ride over Mt. McKinley and hiked up through the clouds onto Flat Top Mountain in Anchorage. Our worlds had just become much bigger and we wanted more. So when we returned home we were excited to continue our adventure. Both of us had always wanted to live in Denver. She was a massage therapist and I was in sales. We decided we could do that anywhere and started planning our big move.
Summer’s in Michigan are the best but I knew I was not going to spend one more Winter there with the gloomy dark skies and short days. This was one of the main motivating factors for moving since Denver was known for having 360 days of sunshine, and that sounded really good!
By the end of the summer my friend’s business was booming and she didn’t want to walk away from that. So I had to find a plan B. My sister had just graduated from law school in Lansing and had met the man of her dreams. He lived in Florida and she planned to go there to be with him. She offered me a place to live until I found my own place. I knew I did not want to stay in Michigan but I thought Florida was the last place on earth I wanted to be. All that I knew was that it was a great place to visit but there were a lot of old people. But once the weather started turning and Fall appeared I hadn’t found any other options. So I threw myself a huge going away party at the house in Royal Oak I was renting and the next day I was off.
My first year in Florida I worked at a sales job in the cellular industry like I had back home. I was told by my landlord before I left Michigan that the cellular business in Florida had already seen better days, and he was right. I did well in the beginning but after a year I knew it was time for a change.
Each time I called home to check in with my parents my father asked when I was going to finish my degree. Looking back I appreciate that nagging so much because if it wasn’t for him I probably would have blown off all of those credits I had gotten over the years. Back home I had attended a semester here and there at Oakland and Lansing Community Colleges, Wayne State and Oakland University. So I decided to go to the local college and inquire about testing to see what kind of a degree would be a good fit for me. After several hours of sitting at the computer, answering a million questions, it was clear that a graphic design degree would suit me perfectly. I’m not sure what part I missed but sitting behind a desk for 8 hours a day was certainly not my style.
I quit my day job so I could attend classes at FAU and started working nights as a server at an upscale restaurant on the beach in Fort Lauderdale. My life had changed drastically; I was living away from home for the first time and was now going back to school to finish my degrees. I started to realize that the “decisions” that sometimes feel like our only option are really just guidance from the universe pushing us towards our potential. These days I don’t have to be pushed so hard. I also learned that listening and honoring that guidance can change our lives drastically and moving to Florida, something I was so opposed to, had certainly done that.