She Built It Founder's Second Leap
I grew up in Kimberling City, Missouri. It was a very small town and I loved it: we filled summers with walking and riding bikes with friends anywhere we wanted. I spent the weekends boating and swimming in the lake with my family. I knew everyone in my graduating class. The freedom to roam made it an amazing place to grow up.
My mother was a kindergarten teacher and my father's career required weekly travel to major cities across the country. After traveling all week, on the weekends my dad wanted to relax on our deck, enjoy the view of the lake and the peace and quiet. He also knew it was a good place for his family to be while he was traveling. I was lucky; when he traveled my mom and I occasionally went with him. On these trips, I learned there was more to the world than the beautiful lake and wonderful people in Kimberling City.
Of all the places we visited, California was my favorite. I fell in love with the sun and the beach, but also the culture and opportunities Los Angeles had to offer.
When I reached the end of my sophomore year in college, something inside told me I was ready for a change. Los Angeles was the obvious choice. It was time to take my next Leap: I didn’t want to wait until I graduated from college to make the move. I was 19 years old with a college scholarship, a hard-won position on the school dance team, and wonderful friends and family. I had accomplished everything in Missouri that I wanted. I was ready to do more.
Looking back I cannot believe that I had the courage then to do this. I remember being very scared but determined to go. I quit school and moved to Los Angeles, where I did not know a single person.
The challenges I had to overcome in moving to California shaped who I am and the work I do today. Thankfully I have wonderful parents who supported my decision to make such a drastic change, despite their understandable concerns. My mom said, “But you don’t know anyone there.” I responded, “I will meet people.” My dad said, “If you call home and ask for money once, you are moving home.” This was confusing at the time—my parents could have supported me financially—however, their lesson taught me independence, a lesson for which I am very thankful.
It took six months of living in Los Angeles for me to decide to finish college. I toured UCLA and USC, but both were very overwhelming to someone from such a small town. Then I found Loyola Marymount. When I went on the tour I felt at home. I knew I would get a good education and go from being "just a number" in a large classroom with many students to smaller classes and on a first name basis with professors. Seeing students run across campus with a surfboard instead of snow boots didn’t hurt either. I applied and was accepted. I worked a full-time, 40-hours-a-week job and attended Loyola Marymount as a full-time student for the next two years.
Between classes and work there was not a lot of down time for family and friends. I went from a campus in Missouri where I was very involved in campus life to becoming a college student who focused only on attending class. I liked most of my coworkers, but I didn’t really relate to them since I spent most of my time focused on school. For two years all I did was work and study because I knew after graduating there would be time to spend with friends and enjoying all that Los Angeles had to offer. I was also eager to start on a career path.
I am so happy I decided to go for the hustle, to listen to my intuition and to be scrappy and determined, I could have stayed in my comfort zone when everything inside was telling me to go. The Leap lesson I learned was determination.
The key is to identify what is important to you and stay committed to the tasks that will ultimately accomplish your goals, even if the path looks different than you expected.
When you stay true to what you know you need, your achievements will be all the more satisfying.
Melanie Barr, Founder She Build It