Flash back to this time in 2016. I was living in Los Angeles. Working in “the business.” I was working towards my dream job of being a writer/producer for Television. I had gone to school for four years, I had left everything I knew (except my husband, Jason) behind and moved out to Los Angeles after graduating.
I had an amazing internship that lead to a connection who helped me find my “big break”. Jason had a job he loved, worked with some great people on the Fox Lot, and was learning the ropes of the movie business. We were making real strides towards fulfilling our dreams.
And we were miserable.
I couldn’t stand my job. I had the typical Hollywood boss who got angry with me about any little thing. I was warned she would be “difficult” to work with, but I had no idea what that meant until I was staring it right in the face. I was afraid to ask questions, I hated going into work every day, I felt my self-worth increasingly diminished.
The whole time, in the back of my head there was this voice that said, “If you can’t handle this, then you’re not good enough, and you might as well just give up on your dreams.” So I dealt with it. I told myself I was tough enough to handle this and I would make it through.
Meanwhile, my life became more and more consumed with work. I had a miserably long commute (sometimes as long as two hours one way depending on traffic). I would wake up early, drive to work, feel miserable while I was at work, then drive home for another two hours, work more while I was at home. More times than not, I was not getting paid for this work, but I was constantly told that if I wanted to work in this business, this is what was expected of me and this is what I had to do. I would eat dinner, sleep, and repeat the whole thing all over again.
I had no time for myself. I had no time to do anything I was passionate about (because I was supposed to be passionate about work and nothing else.) I tried meditation to help deal with the stress of my unhappy life, but I just couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I had everything I wanted. I was working towards everything I had always dreamed of. I was doing it.
Why wasn’t I happy?
Getting out of this miserable place started with a quick weekend trip to Yosemite…
I had gotten to the point at work where I stopped caring to do what was asked of me. I was done spending my evenings and weekends reading and writing coverage and turning in my reports Monday morning. I took a stand. I said I would not be reading anything at all, not for a moment, over that February weekend, because I was taking the weekend off (and less than a month later, I would quit my job on a whim…but we’ll get to that later.)
We packed up the car (and had ordered tire chains online, a necessity in Yosemite this time of year) and were headed for the mountains. The drive took about five hours in total, and we stopped at a few roadside attractions along the way. This was something we had grown fond of doing on our drive out to Los Angeles; stopping at fun, kitschy places along Route 66, but was something we had completely abandoned while living in Los Angeles.
When we finally reached our destination, the first glimpse at Yosemite from Tunnel View, I lost my breath. Like physically stopped breathing. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. That view looking out into Yosemite would be etched in my mind forever.
It had been over a year since we had taken a trip anywhere. This was what I was missing in my life. The freedom to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. This moment, looking out at Yosemite Valley, was when I knew I needed a change.
Any career path that keeps me from doing the things that I love, any job that forces me to miss out on exploring new places, couldn’t possibly be my dream. My dream was here, in Yosemite, with the mountains. I needed moments like these for the rest of my life.
This is what I needed to be happy.
But how would I get back here? Traveling was almost impossible, because it took so much just to get back home; an expensive and long plane ride, our families living in two different states. Any chance we had to travel, we traveled to see our families. We couldn’t possibly see the world one weekend at a time. My boss would never allow me to take every weekend off (despite the fact that I was not paid for this work.) I needed to reform my life to get back to this feeling I had in Yosemite over and over again.
To make a big change, you have to start small. As I mentioned, I started by quitting my job on a whim. One day, my boss asked the same question she’d asked me a million times before: You’re not working hard enough, you’re not asking enough questions. Do you want work in this industry or not? Every single time she asked me this, I said, “of course I do.”
This time. I said, “No, I don’t.”
And with that, without thinking it through, I had submitted my two weeks notice. I didn’t have another job to fall back on, just some freelance work that I had been doing on the side. But I knew this job wasn’t making me happy. We had plans to leave Los Angeles once our lease ended, I was planning to ride out this job until it was time for us to move. With only six months to go, we would make ends meet one way or the other. I just couldn’t fake it for one more second!
On a complete turn of luck, I was offered a job with Universal just one day before my two-weeks notice was set to end. My schedule with them was so much more forgiving. I was given time off and vacation days. I was not only allowed but also forced to stop working once my workday was over. I was able to have my life back.
With a bigger, more consistent paycheck that reflected the time I spent working, I was able to find time to balance the work with the travel.
That didn’t mean I was suddenly able to spend weeks at a time in Yosemite (but that would have been awesome, right?) Now that we knew we were leaving Los Angeles, we knew it was time to finally start exploring it.
There was so much to see that we never had time for. We saw the Getty Museum, we went to the beach, we visited the La Brea Tar Pits and the LACMA. We saw three more National Parks that were all a short drive from the City. We met with Jason’s parents in San Diego. So many things that seemed impossible before, were suddenly available to us. It was all because of a change in our path and a change in our perspective.
We had spent the previous year thinking of all the things we hated about Los Angeles, without ever really seeing anything it had to offer. The closer we got to leaving, the easier it was to see past the things we didn’t like, and start looking to the things we were going to miss.
We were going to miss how accessible all these destinations were, but when we moved back to St. Louis, the place that has always been home for us, we knew to look for great opportunities in our back yard once again.
We began looking for weekend trips, for nearby destinations, for roadside attractions. I found a job that I loved that kept me involved in production, but that allowed me to log off at the end of the day. It allowed me to pursue my other passions, so that when I’m at work, I can give it my all.
Most importantly, I learned life isn’t about sacrifice.
It’s about finding balance.
Finding balance helped me to pick a career that I was passionate about, but one that let me have time to grow as an individual. Balance helped me to find time to volunteer with a dog shelter, travel, and start this blog. It’s not easy. I am constantly in motion and constantly working. The difference now is that the work I am doing is bringing me fulfillment. It’s giving me balance.
Does this story ring true for anyone else? If you’re feeling stuck and unfulfilled, check out my free download with five questions to guide you through steps to unlock your Yosemite Moment.