I graduated from Arizona State University in May 2011. I was 22 years old. Needless to say, I was pretty proud of myself! A Bachelor’s degree already at the age of 22 and I now had my entire life ahead of me. But I also needed a job. That was fine with me – I was ready to start making money instead of spending it on student loans. The problem? I couldn’t get a job in my field of study, which was history and culture. I went to school to be a high school history teacher but by the time I was ready to graduate with my Bachelor’s, I still needed to get certified as a teacher. Forget it. I started applying for jobs. On August 1, 2011, I started a job as a banker. Little did I know, it was the beginning of a miserable career that would turn into a dream come true.
At first, I was really happy as a banker. I had been working in retail and customer service since I was 16, so I knew that my strength was working with people. I was making a ton of money (well, it was a ton for someone who had never gotten that nice of a paycheck before) and I no longer had to study and do homework. It took some getting used to. Working 8-5 Monday-Friday was definitely monotonous, but it paid the bills. I was very independent. I had my own place, a sports car and lived the life of a single dog mom.
After a while, it turned out to be not so great. I was bored. I hated what I was doing. Sure, it was paying my bills but damn…is it worth it to be miserable? Around March 2013, I decided that it truly was not worth it for me. Without a plan, I gave my two week noticed and left banking.
I took a couple of months off work. I really couldn’t decide what I wanted to do. I was in the midst of trying to find myself. What was my purpose? What was I doing? Should I go back to school? At this point I was living off my savings.
At the end of May, I started looking for another job. I got a low-stress job in the automotive industry working in finance. I was set to start the job in June when I got back from my trip to Hawaii. It was exciting because I had just met Matt and when I got back from Hawaii, I’d be going on a new career adventure. Life was starting to go well again!
In the meantime, things with Matt and I moved very fast. By July we had a house together. I was SO beyond happy. I was actually enjoying going to work and now I got to come home to the man of my dreams. What could possibly go wrong?!
Well, everything, actually.
It was August 3, 2013, a mere two weeks after we got the keys to our house. Matt was in California seeing his family and gathering a few last minute things to move to our Arizona home. I woke up in the middle of the night and felt extremely ill. I tried calling Matt. I tried calling Matt for 8 hours. Yes, I was up all night. That morning Matt finally called me back and my mom came over to check my vitals while Matt made his way back to AZ. I was in a panic. What was going on with me? These weren’t regular flu-like symptoms or anything.
Come Monday, I was at the doctor. They thought maybe it was a ruptured cyst. I had a ton of testing done over the next week and I was still really sick. Nobody could figure out what was going on with me but I felt like I was going to die every single day.
After being absent from work for a week, my employer decided it’d be easier to fire me than give me medical leave. My world came crashing down. Things were going SO well, then I get sick and it lead to me becoming jobless. On top of that, Matt and I had just gotten our house together, so I felt bad for being unemployed all of a sudden. It really couldn’t have been worse timing.
I was bed ridden for about a month but knew I had to go back to work. After all, I had bills to pay!!! I began searching for work-at-home jobs. The day after I applied for an IT position, I got a call for an interview. Three days later, I was working from home. It was the first week of September. Thank God. I had been working outside of the home for about eight years so this was going to be a big change. But, it was okay with me. I’ve always been a homebody so I wasn’t complaining. Even though I was still sick, at least I got to be at home.
Although I was still battling symptoms everyday, I was really loving working at home. I got to spend a ton of time with Wynston and my cats. I was able to get a lot of rest and take care of myself. As we got closer to the holidays, I was still battling illness and my employer began to cut hours. Initially, I was kind of happy because it meant less work and more play! Or in my case, more time to rest.
When December hit, I had a grand idea. I will never forget looking at Matt when I was sitting in our office and saying to him, “I think I’m going to start a dog mom blog!” Without any research or clue as to what I was doing, Dog Mom Days was born.
Best. Decision. Ever.
I was writing everyday. My pictures were crappy and my blog layout was mediocre but I absolutely loved writing about Wynston. He was my only dog at the time and I literally wrote a post every single day. It didn’t matter what we were doing – I wrote about it.
January 10, 2014. I got an email stating that I was getting laid off, as well as everyone else in my department. A company wide layoff to start off my new year…sweet.
Gosh. I was back to square one. Jobless and sick.
I managed to get another work-at-home job by March and come April, I signed Wynston up for agility. I had always wanted to compete in agility so I took advantage of the fact that I had more free time. Although I still wasn’t feeling well most of the time, doing anything with Wynston made me happy. So we started going to classes at Club Doggie. Turns out this is where I’d meet one of my best friends!
I’ve been feeding my animals Purina Pro Plan for a long time. It’s always been a great food for my dogs and cats so I’m an avid Pro Plan follower on social media. When Wyn started agility, Matt would take photos of us practicing on the courses. I would post the pictures on Twitter using #ProPlanDog. I didn’t think much of it. I just new that Wynston was now an active dog and I fed him Pro Plan, so the hashtag was much appropriate.
A month later, Pro Plan reached out to me. Basically they told me that they love seeing a small dog compete in agility, and they wanted to invite me to the Purina Incredible Dog Challenge because I’m such a loyal supporter of the company. The Pro Plan crew wanted to meet Wynston and treat us to a VIP weekend at the event! OMG! Is this really happening?! A week later, we were in Huntington Beach, CA getting the true Purina VIP treatment.
That was the real start of my blogging career. All of a sudden I realized that there is something to be said for social media and marketing. All I was doing was showcasing my love for dogs, agility and a brand I trusted. Turns out, that can get you a long way.
I took the opportunity and ran with it. When we got back home from California, I hit the ground running. I started taking my blog very seriously by reaching out to brands. I was asking to do product reviews so I could get some experience under my belt. It didn’t take long before brands actually started approaching ME.
I was still working from home during all of this and in August 2014, I got the opportunity to begin marketing for Happy Pets Palace & Playground. I’m still the marketing director for the facility and it’s been absolutely amazing. Now I had a steady income from the pet industry and I was using my writing and marketing skills.
Everything started to snowball after that. I started working really hard and treating my blog like it was a full time gig. Looking back, I know that helped me become the blogger that I am. I thought, “Fake it till you become it!”
And I did.
In January, my depression hit. Unfortunately I live with clinical depression and it likes to come and go when it wants. No matter how well life is going, my depression will just kick in whenever the heck it wants. It didn’t help that my body was having issues staying healthy. But I battled through with the support of Matt and my animals.
The next month, February 2015, I redesigned my blog and in March I was nominated for Best New Pet Blog. I had stopped working my mundane work-at-home job a few months prior and I was now focusing on marketing for the boarding facility and blogging. I was hoping I could use that freed up time to focus on making money with my blog. I started only accepting payment for product reviews and it was all working out in my favor!
By April I was on the news, in two newspapers and in a magazine! Everything was moving so quickly but I was making it happen. I was working 60 hours a week on my blog and although it sounds crazy, I was loving it. I was still feeling crappy most of the time (yes, almost two years later) but I learned to deal with it.
I went to my first BlogPaws conference in Nashville, TN that May and when I came home I had the motivation to continue what I was doing, but at a new level. Despite hitting some walls with the loss of my Sammie and another hospital stay due to my poor health, I continued to blog. Brand opportunities were rolling in and I was feeling so incredibly blessed. I was making my dreams come true.
In September, I had had enough of my health problems. I was always tired, fatigued and weak. I was randomly losing weight and my back was always killing me. Despite SO many doctor and specialist visits, I knew there had to be answers. Well, those answers finally came when I got another bad kidney infection. I had chronic kidney infections ever since that dreaded August of 2013. When I went into the doctor, they decided to test my thyroid. Would you believe that’s all it took? One thyroid test.
The tests came back indicating that my thyroid function was “extremely poor.” I needed an immediate thyroid ultrasound which showed a cyst on the right lobe of my thyroid. OMG. That’s all it took. One test. Now we knew what was going on with me. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease. This changed everything.
I started on vitamin supplements and just two months later, I was feeling fabulous again. I was actually feeling like a normal human being! This came just in time for my invite to New York City to attend the Purina Better With Pets Summit. A chance of a lifetime. Then it hit me – if Purina thinks I’m valuable enough to spend thousands of dollars flying me out to NYC, then I can do anything!
Fast forward to today, February 2016. I’m a 2016 BlogPaws Ambassador and I’m speaking at this year’s conference. I’ve battled chronic illness, depression and unemployment in the past three years. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve had to deal with a ton of real life issues that many other people face. But guess what? All of the blood, sweat and tears paid off. Now I get to sleep in, eat breakfast with my dogs and do what I love every single day. I’m still the marketing director for Happy Pets Palace, my blog is thriving and Wynston models for PetSmart.
How did I do it? Oh Lordy. Sometimes I can’t believe I did. It’s been an extremely difficult journey, but it was truly worth it. My life isn’t always roses and butterflies but I can’t complain. I took a risk to do what I love despite my extremely poor health. With Matt’s encouragement, I was able to make my dreams come true.
Most importantly, instead of feeling sick everyday, I feel great. I still have flare-ups and get tired easily, but I mostly feel wonderful. The cyst on my thyroid is being monitored and I don’t get kidney infections anymore.
Today I encourage others to pursue their dreams. It can be a really crappy, difficult journey but when you’re finally doing what you love, looking back at the adventures is worth it.
This June I will be speaking at the BlogPaws conference in Phoenix, AZ. I’ll be sharing inside tips and tricks on how to go from a beginner blogger to business blogger! I love sharing my experience, strength and hope. I believe that anyone can make their dreams come true, but for that to happen, you have to take that first step. Are you ready? Your dreams are waiting 🙂