"Choosing to live life a certain way means that all of your decisions are based around that. So whenever I'm presented with a new opportunity or I come up with a new idea, I ask myself if it aligns with my principles and what I want for my life.....This is my life, so it's my job to make it fun and enjoyable for me."
GENNIFER CARRAGHER, 32
College major: Visual communications (a combination of photography, graphic and web design)
Ruth: How long have you loved what you do?
Gennifer: Since 2012, when I quit my corporate-climbing, cubicle-dwelling job to work as an artist full-time.
R: How did you feel and what did you do before now?
G: My most recent j-o-b was as a data analyst, but I've also worked as an office manager, sales associate, hostess, maid and sandwich artist (among other things). No matter which job I had, I always felt kinda squished - like my true self was being pushed down so that I could act like a "normal" receptionist or hostess or whatever. It was especially bad when I was a data analyst because I had to sit in a cubicle and stare at a computer screen all day. I'm the type of person you'd call outdoorsy, and I didn't even have a window to look out of! I seriously felt like my soul was being crushed.
R: When was the first time you realized that you love what you do?
G: When I began working for myself, I realized that my work actually made a difference in people's lives. As a data analyst, my job was to find ways for rich corporations to get richer. Not very worthwhile, if you ask me. Now, my job is to create beautiful, meaningful things for people I consider my friends and to inspire people to make their lives just as beautiful and meaningful.
R: Describe what you do now and what a typical day looks like.
G: I'm a painter, photographer and all-around creative human now. I infuse creativity into all aspects of my life, from the art I make to the unconventional adventures I go on as a gypsy explorer.
My typical day depends on whether or not I'm traveling. If I am traveling, it means waking up in my van and stepping out into whatever beautiful landscape I've parked in. I go for lots of walks and take lots of pictures. I usually follow my intuition when exploring, so I may stay in the same place for awhile, or I might drive to a new location every day. I try to make time for some yoga and painting while on the road, but I'm not always so good about it.
When I'm not traveling, I usually spend my days painting, editing photos, working on my website, exploring the interwebs and snuggling with my family. I exercise and meditate almost every morning, and take at least one walk in the afternoon. Taking care of myself is vital to creating my best work, so I make it a priority.
R: What were the steps you took that got you to loving what you do?
G: The first step was figuring out what I enjoy doing. For a long time I tried to like what my boyfriends or friends liked, or what magazines and tv shows told me I should like. But that made me really unhappy because I wasn't being true to myself. So I spent a lot of time getting to know myself by being alone, reading, journaling and trying new things.
Once I got to know myself and what I liked to do, I was able to figure out where that intersected with things I was actually good at doing and things that would make a difference to people. You can do fun stuff and make pretty things all day long, but if you're not making a difference in other people's lives, no one but your mom is really going to care. (Which is fine, but not a good way to pay your bills.) When you find a way to help, inspire, educate or entertain people (a little list I picked up from Alexandra Franzen), that's when you'll be successful. By that I mean making money while making the world a better place.
R: Is there something about your work that makes you feel like you're contributing to a greater good?
G: Hellz yeah. People tell me all the time that I inspire them. At first I waved it off like, "Oh, they're just being nice." But that was doing myself and my work a disservice. So now I just think, "Holy shit! I inspire people!" It reminds me to keep being my best self and to keep putting myself out there. I can't inspire people if I keep all my fabulousness to myself. ;)
R: Do you have any advice for others on their way to loving what they do?
G: Find that place where what you love to do intersects with what other people need. Know that all of your experiences are adding up to make you a bigger and better and more compassionate human. Take really good care of yourself so that you can be your best self. And be patient. (Says the chick who shares a new painting and wonders why no one has bought it an hour later.)
R: If you could whittle it down, what was the ONE most important thing you did to begin loving what you do?
G: Oh, man. What a great question! I would say that choosing to live my life based on the principles that were most important to me was the key.
Choosing to live life a certain way means that all of your decisions are based around that. So whenever I'm presented with a new opportunity or I come up with a new idea, I ask myself if it aligns with my principles and what I want for my life. I also seek out ways to move my life into closer alignment with those principles, even if it means doing things that scare me or that people might make fun of. This is my life, so it's my job to make it fun and enjoyable for me.