If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can check it out HERE.
Gahhh I’m so happy with the response to Part 1! I loved reading through all the comments and seeing so many people relate to it in some way. The main thing I want to accomplish by sharing my story is to just reassure anyone out there who feels a little lost or unsure about their career path that THAT IS PERFECTLY NORMAL and there really is no “right” way to get where you’re supposed to be. It can be hard not to compare yourself to others and think “why does everyone have their shit together except for me??”—but trust me, 90% of those people you’re comparing yourself to don’t have their shit together either.
Universe Guides Dumb, Unprepared Girl into Fitness Industry
Part 2 | Living’ the 9-to-5 Life and Realizing It Wasn’t for Me
Chapter 2 | My 9-to-5 Life Working as an Editor
Oh man. When my internship turned into a permanent position, I was PUMPED. Not just because it was a great place to work, but because it was the most glorious feeling of relief to just have a “real” job. At that point I was a year out of college and the feeling of anxiety/embarrassment/unsettledness/instability/confusion/failure that was coming from not having started on a career path yet was crushing me.
Growing up, you’re always on the same general track as your friends and at pretty much the same point in your lives: elementary school awkwardness; high school and all that drama; college and all those questionable decisions—then you graduate and suddenly there’s no fixed “next step”. Some of your friends go on for additional schooling, some get jobs, some get married and start having kids (which is by far the strangest part of getting older)—the paths are endless. And at that point in my life, all my friends seemed to have taken the next step (whatever it may be) except for me—I was still kind of a directionless mess. And it was spirit-crushing. But now I had a big girl job! I was a real person! I had a salary! I had a title! I had a fucking 401K! And on top of that, it wasn’t just any job—it was one I was genuinely excited about. Life was good. I happily fell into the 9-to-5 routine that so many of us do: Wake up, go for a run, grab a coffee from my neighborhood coffee shop, drive the 20-min commute to work, grind it out at my desk, hit up the office gym at lunch, back to my desk, drive the 40-minutes-with-traffic commute home, make dinner, crash on the couch and watch TV, go to bed. I liked the routine because, well, I’ve always enjoyed routine, but more importantly, this particular routine made me feel like a “real” adult—whatever that means.
I won’t bore you with the everyday details of those years, but let’s hit the relevant, formative pieces:
My office had a gym and I started making up my own workouts to do during lunch. I had been passionate about working out for years, but up until then had always just done others’ workouts—in a class, or routines I found online and in magazines. Now, wanting to go into the gym with a plan so that no time was wasted (it was just a lunch break, after all), I started putting together quick HIIT workouts using exercises I’d done in other classes or seen online.
At first, it was pretty hit-or-miss. Sometimes, I’d finish the routine I’d planned and feel like it was totally ineffective and I’d wasted that time I could have better spent on a real workout. But then other times, my workout would totally kick my ass (in a good way). There’s a whole other level of satisfaction that comes with waking up sore from a workout you created. I started to learn more about which exercises paired together most effectively and became more familiar with the effects different moves had on my body.
About six months into my 9-to-5 life, I started Pumps & Iron to have a fun hobby outside of work. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I had an extremely random blog when I first graduated college that I had deleted after a few months. But I had never stopped toying around with the idea of blogging, and actually really missed it. I knew I wanted to start another blog, but wanted this one to have more of a focus.
After months of imagining what this blog would look like, I knew I wanted it to encompass health & fitness, but also fashion—oh and DIY projects. I was really into DIY projects at the time. Maybe I didn’t have a direction after all. But then the name Pumps & Iron somehow popped into my head and I thought it was perfectly clever: pumping iron (fitness), except pumps (shoes). I remember I was so excited I had come up with the name and told my mom and her response was: “Yeah, but it doesn’t have a great ring to it.” LOL. But so true—“pumps and iron” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. Maybe one day I’ll go all Madonna on you guys and just go by “Pumps”…
Anyway, I made the blog, and while I wasn’t posting very regularly at first, I started playing around with photography and making picture tutorials in Photoshop, and loved the whole process. I did fantasize about being one of those girls whose blog is also their livelihood, but that seemed like a farfetched possibility. Then…
Barely three months into starting my blog, one of my workout tutorials randomly went viral on Pinterest. For any of you who use/have used WordPress (not the self-hosted version—I’m talking .com), you’re probably familiar with Freshly Pressed. Basically it’s the homepage that all WordPress bloggers see when they login, and it features a different selection of blog posts from around the WordPress community every few days. Well my Medicine Ball Interval Workout was unexpectedly featured, which drove a bunch of traffic to it, and a lot of those visitors pinned the pictorial. I wasn’t thinking of Pinterest optimization when I made it—LAST thing on my mind—but the workout tutorial was long and a sort of visual how-to, both of which make for a popular pin. The thing went viral. I was shocked and overwhelmed with both excitement and insecurity.
What if someone I know sees that picture of me doing medicine ball burpees on Pinterest? So embarrassing! What are all these visitors to my site going to think about my blog? It’s still so new—it’s not ready to be seen!
I was a little uneasy about it, but ultimately it was that stroke of luck that made me start to think that maybe it was possible to turn blogging into a career. The boost in traffic was only temporary, but I had gained some permanent readers and the positive response to the workout post helped guide me as far as focusing the blog. I continued working on P&I nights and weekends and watched it steadily grow until, at the ripe old age of five months, it outgrew itself. It was time to switch over to a self-hosted WordPress site and start putting some ads up on this thing!
At first, I was only making like $30 a month through AdSense (whaddup, ¼ of my cell phone bill!), but just the fact that my blog was making any money blew my mind. And brands were starting to reach out to me wanting to send me free stuff—what??? I was so excited and falling more and more in love with blogging and this crazy idea that it could one day be my job. Meanwhile, at my actual job …
I was getting a glimpse at the business side of running a website. I already mentioned I was an Editor—well, how perfect is this—it was for a website. I was immersed in the world of online marketing, web content and blogging every day from 9 to 5, and learned a ton that I could then apply to Pumps & Iron. And then to make it even more perfect, we started working with a PR company, and I got to talk social media strategy and blogger outreach all day. Outside the office, I was the blogger being reached out to by PR companies; and then during the workday, I was the one reaching out to bloggers. Talk about insightful!
While I was really enjoying what I was doing (writing, creating visual web content, working on social media strategies, etc.), I wasn’t passionate about the subject matter. Imagine you’re a substitute teacher and adore teaching, but always end up having to sub a history class when your real passion is math. You’re doing what you love, but it’s still not right. A little over a year into my job, I knew I couldn’t keep subbing history. If I was going to be truly happy, it was math class or bust.
(I don’t know why I used math and history as the examples. English and PE would have made more sense, but whatever I’m keeping it—“math class or bust” is making me giggle.)
Chapter 3 | Meeting My Boyfriend & Having a Quarter Life Crisis
So there’s this little spark inside me questioning—well, just about everything—and then in walks Joe with a bottle of hairspray and it all goes up in flames. Hairspray is perfect for this analogy because it’s flammable and my boyfriend is obsessed with his hair. Anyway…
Joe had just left his corporate job to open a fitness studio. I mean, c’mon, talk about timing! That’s why The Universe is getting credit for me ending up where I am now. I was already starting to question if my job and the corporate world were right for me, and then I’d go out for drinks with Joe and we’d get into these (alcohol-fueled) passionate discussions about how soul-crushing long commutes and cubicles are. My commute actually wasn’t very long and we had open desk cubes, not cubicles—but hey, try telling that to my fourth shot of tequila.
Before I knew it, I was having a full-blown quarter-life crisis. Considering just two years prior I was also an emotional disaster, I think it’s clear my early twenties were a success. Woof.
Everyday, my in-“crisis” mind looked something like this:
My blog will never grow as big as I’d like it if I’m not devoting more time to it—do I leave my job so I can work on it full time? What do I do for money in the meantime? Do I get certified to do personal training or teach group fitness? That’d be great, but will I make enough from that? What if I don’t and then end up having to get another “real” job? That’d be like starting back at the bottom of the corporate ladder. Ugh and having to go through the interview process again? No thanks. Maybe I stay at my job for another couple years while becoming a personal trainer on the side and slowly continuing to build my blog? Yeah. I can do that. I can make it through a couple more years. Wait, but no! Life is too short to settle! I can’t settle. I can’t keep going through the motions. I need to be happy! But rent. How would I pay that? Should I move back in with my parents to save money while I work on the blog? No, they live on an island. So what do I do? WHAT DO I DO? WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE?????
I also want you to keep in mind that I worked in an awesome office environment with great coworkers and an amazing boss. Sure, I wasn’t fulfilled by my job, but it was also easy to be content. And that made it even harder when deciding if leaving was worth the risk. I knew something needed to change, but I didn’t know what and I didn’t know how to make it happen. Well, once again, The Universe stepped in to help.
Chapter 4 | Getting Laid Off: Thanks, Universe
Our CEO was let go. A replacement came in. Whispers of big changes started going around the office. Soon it became clear that layoffs would be a part of that change.
I remember driving into work the morning of the layoffs feeling really weird. Could the thing I’d been too chicken to initiate now happen to me passively? Would that be the best thing ever or the worst? I half-hoped I’d be one of the people let go, but was too scared to fully entertain the scenario in my mind. So I tried to just not think about it at all.
It wasn’t far into the day when, one by one, coworkers were being brought into an executive’s office. I was so anxious. Would I be next? Did I want to be next? I was unsure of what I wanted, but ultimately knew that my biggest fear was that I would remain stuck in this stalemate of indecision I’d been living in for months. Good or bad, at least losing my job would put the gears in motion.
And lose my job, I did. I lost the shit out of that job, my friends.
I cried the whole drive home. I called my mom when I got home and cried again. I took a nap and then woke up to cry some more. I met up with my boyfriend and cried one more time for good measure. It was a very cathartic kind of crying though. I was sad and a little scared, but also relieved.
It took a couple days to fully sink in, but I could no longer ignore the big question now staring me in the face: What next? I felt like I had just been given a gift—an easy exit from the corporate world—and now it was my job not to fuck it up.
Third and final part of this series coming your way next week! Stay tuned…