Chapter 1: Quarter-Life Crisis

Do you remember your college graduation? You know how everyone was so excited and happy?

I never felt that way - I was sad and scared.

It was like, “Hey friends, our lives are completely going to change and we’re going to go move all over the place and maybe never see each other again - YAY!”

Huh?

I remember sitting in Kennesaw State University’s auditorium wearing my black gown and some awkward cap with a gold dangly thing smacking me in my face thinking…

Oh shit, now what?

Truth be told, I was terrified.

Fortunately, I had an apprenticeship lined up after college in New York City which I was looking forward to. Everyone was telling me that I’d be great up in NYC and they could see me living and working up there. But, I had no idea what that meant though. I had been up there once with my mom for the interview and that was all the experience I had. And now fast forward a few months and I’m packing up my bags and moving there for work.

#metoo

It was a new adventure and a new life chapter so it was all very exciting, but when I got there, it just never felt like home to me, which wasn’t how I wanted to feel.

How do you tell the world, “New York City just isn’t for me?”

You don’t.

You can’t.

It’s THE CITY to be in, right?

It sounded so cool on paper. I’m living in Manhattan. Right in the heart of New York City. At a job that I studied for, it’s perfect!

But, it wasn’t.

My heart hurt - and I was lost.

After my apprenticeship ended, I moved back to Georgia – back home to my parents’ house - from NYC to Woodstock, Georgia.

And that’s when people started talking. “Oh, she couldn’t cut it up there. Now she’s living at home with mom and dad, can you believe it? Where is she working now? Oh, she can’t find a job, I thought she always made really good grades? Didn’t she graduate close to the top of her class, what’s going on with her?”

And then there’s the, “Have you heard that XX got a great job at XX and she’s so happy and loving life!”

Just shoot me in the face.

It wasn’t a jealous feeling though, unlike some people might think. It was literally me thinking, “How?! How does someone find a job that they’re absolutely thrilled about right out of school? And that fits them so perfectly? HOW DO THEY DO THAT AT 22 FREAKING YEARS OLD?!”

And the answers I got varied when I asked these happy people. From, “Oh, I just applied online for this job and got it.” To, “I picked something so I could get benefits and it worked out,” or even “I just wanted to live by the beach,” and sometimes, “I wanted to live in LA, so I took any job to get out there.”

I quickly found out everyone’s path is different.

And it’s actually really interesting to hear why people chose certain jobs -- and it’s very cool later in life when you hear that those paths led to something much greater for them unexpectedly.

It was after multiple conversations, confusion with life, and a lot of personal soul-searching, that I decided I was going to hand my “career” over to God. Because, quite frankly – a lot of it wasn’t making any sense - and I’ve always felt that’s when I should trust Him more. So, that was my game plan.

God, if you want me to do something truly special in this world, I’ll keep showing up – but I’m gonna need your help. Like, a lot of help. Please help me.

That game plan isn’t always the easiest to be understood by a lot of people though, but that was my new plan and I was sticking to it.

I’d search day and night trying to find the perfect job – think I’d find it, apply, actually get an interview, interview in person, make it through 2 rounds, take 9 million online tests, and then not get the damn job.

Fail.

It was a vicious cycle that I thought would never end and it started to weigh heavy on my heart.

Hey there God, I’m really not sure what you’re planning, but I’m going to try whatever shows up in my path and hopefully it’ll make sense later. Give me the strength not to listen to the people talking about me. I’m all on board with you to pursue my life’s purpose, but if you could just help me figure it out in ways that I can’t miss, that’d be great - just help me do what you want me to do down here.

So, I continued to work three jobs a day for hardly any money, found an old soccer teammate to get an apartment with in Atlanta, and I was really happy. It was exhausting, but a lot of fun and I was learning so much every day.

I knew the three-jobs-a-day thing wouldn’t last forever and I kept searching in whatever free time I did have in trying to discover my life’s purpose and just kept thinking that perhaps the current jobs would maybe make sense later down the road – my dad has always told me,

“Every day you’re laying down dots - and only later in life you’ll be able to look back and connect them.”

#metoo

What is my purpose? How will I know it when I find it?

I finally came to the conclusion that I’ve always loved playing sports and lived in that world for so long so I thought that would be an area where I could help out right away, as it’s where I had the most experience outside of school. I knew the needs, wants, and thoughts of an athlete and I loved that world – maybe that’s the space where I could help the most?

Maybe I should work for my (favorite sporting goods brand)?

Pffft, how the hell am I supposed to get in there? I don’t even know one person who works there.

God, I’m gonna need your help if this is what you think I should do…

For months I kept working three jobs and applying on XXXXXXX.com for every position imaginable and it was brutal.

I didn’t get one call back. I did however get a ton of rejection emails.

But I kept trying.

At this point in time I was living back at home and my parents’ tv was on around 4:00, so naturally Oprah was on while I was sitting at the desk looking for jobs. And I hear her soothing voice come on and she was talking about finding your life purpose and how it’s possible to achieve it.

And that’s when I freaking lost it.

Really Oprah? Seriously? You don’t even KNOW how hard this has been. I have listened to you for years now and have been trying to pursue my life purpose and have gotten embarrassed and humiliated. I’m not making any money, people are telling me to just settle and get a full-time job – and you’re up there saying just pursue your purpose? Seriously?

FINE, I’ll try AGAIN!!

Then I swivel around in the office chair, boldly face my computer and type in “XXXXX soccer job” like I’ve done a million times before – and a job popped up.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I LOVE YOU OPRAH, YOU’RE THE BEST! I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU, I LOVE YOU!!

"High five, Jess!" - Oprah, May 2007

"High five, Jess!" - Oprah, May 2007

Holy shit. It worked…it really, actually freaking worked. After all this time…

It was a Craigslist ad, for a XXXXX soccer job.

The job was for a midwestern mobile marketing soccer tour and it listed the marketing agency responsible in the email next to a line that read, “Do NOT call.”

So, I called.

“Hi, I came across your ad and was wondering if I could apply?”

“We’re already far into this and have candidates lined up, so you really don’t have a lot of luck at this point.”

“Well, can you keep my resume on file in case something happens?”

“Sure.”

I kept checking in every few days and didn’t have any luck.

I started to give up hope and went back to my computer. I thought that had been my sign! I thought God was finally telling me I was on the right track by showing me this job and now I felt like I was back to square one.

Back to Google and I type in “XXXXX soccer job” again.

And to my surprise, another XXXXX job was posted – this time, it was for the west coast mobile marketing tour. It turns out this company had hired multiple agencies to run this campaign all across the nation.

This is amazing…Oprah, you’re a freaking genius!!

Again, the ad said not to call – so I called.

“Hi, I’m a candidate in the midwestern tour and I just saw your Craigslist ad and I’d prefer this one over the other – are you still hiring?”

“No, we’ve already filled it.”

“Well, can you put my resume on file in case something comes up?”

“Fine.”

“Great, what’s your email address?”

I could literally hear her roll her eyes at me over the phone, as if giving someone your email address was really hard work.

I thought there was no way I’d get a call back. A week goes by though and around 8pm my time my phone rings.

“Hey, are you still interested in the west coast soccer tour job?”

“Hi! Yeah, absolutely.”

“Great, I’m walking into their Culver City office right now, can you take 30 minutes to interview?”

It was late my time and I was exhausted, but I didn’t hesitate at all and said, “Yes!”

She walks into the office and the next thing I know I’m on a phone call with a few managers and the interview went like this…

“Hi! Thanks for joining us at the last minute – do you have a friend that lives in LA?”

“Actually, I do.”

What a weird first question?

“Can you stay with them while you’re in town?”

“Yeah, sure.”

“Good, because we wouldn’t hire you if you didn’t. You’ll be responsible for finding a place to stay while you’re in town.”

“Okay, yeah no problem – how many days will I be staying in LA?”

“We’re not sure yet.”

“Okay.”

“So, tell us about your favorite soccer memory.”

“Well, I was about to give up playing in college, but then my parents told me to check out Kennesaw State University as they were starting up a soccer program. I told my current school I wasn’t coming back after that spring semester, tried out for the other school the next day - and ended up making it. That first season, we won all but one game – and the next year in only the second year of the program, we won the national championship - and I became the school’s first soccer All-American.”

#metoo

“Very cool, that’s awesome! What achievement are you most proud of?”

“Being a captain for three years.”

“Nice! Can you take photographs?”

“Yeah, I’m a communication major and I have a minor in marketing. I also took a photography class in college.”

“Great, we’re going to need you to be a blogger for us.”

“Sure!”

What the hell is a blogger?

The interview goes on and oddly enough, I had a good feeling and they said they'd get back to me in a few days.

And then I went to Google and type in “blogger” and got really excited.

The phone rings about 3 hours later, “You’re hired.”

My hands were actually shaking, I said thank you about a million times and then hung up.

I couldn’t believe it. I had gotten in. Well, technically for a marketing agency for them. But to me, that was one step closer. My life’s purpose was FINALLY HAPPENING!

“MOM!! DAD!!! I got the job!!”

“Do you have any benefits? How long is the job going to last for?”

Ughhh…

“No. And, I don’t know.”

“Well…”

“Listen, I’m going to be on tour – their headquarters is outside of Portland, maybe we might stop there and I’ll meet someone and that’ll be my way to get in?”

“Congrats! We’re proud of you!”

And then, I call my friend Tony, who had crashed on my couch in Atlanta while he was working for the Atlanta Braves – he was living in LA now and I was going to need his couch…

“Hollywood!! Heyyyyy!! How’s LA?”

“Dude, I live in San Francisco.”

“Ughhh, how far away is that from LA?”

“Like 7 hours.”

“Shit.”

I wasn’t NOT going to get into XXXXXX because I didn’t have a friend in LA – I had come too far at this point. I remembered that I stayed in a hostel with my college soccer team in England and thought maybe we have some over in the US?

Back to Google.

$34 a night. Only, $34 - I can afford that!! And that’s WAY better than $320 for a hotel for one night in Santa Monica like a ton of websites were advertising!

The Santa Monica hostel I stayed in

The Santa Monica hostel I stayed in

My life was about to change and I knew it.

And I knew I was getting closer to my life’s purpose.

How else would you describe those exact words that I had to type in at two separate times at just the right time…and have the audacity to call them up when it said not to call?

 

It’s amazing how brave you become when you’re on your path.