When you were 17, what did you want to be?
I thought I wanted to be an ambassador or a diplomat. I thought I wanted to work in the foreign services. I don't know that I really knew what that was. It was probably just an idea that I had, sort of James Bond inspired, with all the ambassadors and diplomats you saw in those movies. I was in student government all through high school and I knew that I really wanted to travel internationally. It seemed like that was the most direct way to do that. And I liked the idea of contributing to some greater good through diplomatic action.
How did you decide to attend University of Colorado, Boulder?
My parents were not that involved; they just wanted me to do whatever made me happy. But I had a mentor who was very invested in helping me figure out what school I wanted to go to.
I was the student representative to the school board, so I would go to all the school board meetings and they were sometimes boring, and sometimes very cool. I got to influence votes and influence policy and help make major decisions, and I got to be friends with all the school board members. One of the school board members was kind of a renegade; I sat next to him and we would pass notes and stuff. He gave me this big book of colleges, and made some recommendations. And two of his recommendations were William & Mary and Georgetown
My parents and I went out to William & Mary and Georgetown, and toured them. Coming from a small town in Colorado, Georgetown being in Washington D.C. was very exciting, but also kind of scary. Then we went to William & Mary, and it was kind of sleepy and we stayed at this funky motel. It was really pretty and I really liked the teachers. They did a great tour and they were good at wooing students there. Those were the only two out-of-state schools I applied to.
I also applied to Colorado College, CU Boulder, and Denver University. I got waitlisted at Georgetown and then I got into William & Mary. I got into this cool volunteer program at William & Mary that had its own curriculum and its own little community. I also got selected to be a part of this student leadership foundation at William & Mary, which was really cool. There were some really interesting students that wanted to make a difference who were really involved in various causes on campus.
So I had some really good experiences at William & Mary, but overall it was not a great fit for me. There was a little bit of a clique atmosphere among the in-state students and I was a fish out of water. I had a hard time finding my niche and finding my people at William & Mary. And I was always a straight-A student and I loved school, but the emphasis on academics was almost too much. There wasn't enough of a balance of social activities and school activities.
So I ended up transferring back to CU Boulder, and at the time it seemed like this huge decision, like it was going to change my life and it could be really bad. But once I transferred to CU Boulder, it was really positive, it was really fun; I didn't have any regrets. It made me realize that we spend so much time spinning our wheels and stressing out about what school to go to, and in the end, it's an important choice but you can always change your mind and you can make the most of wherever you are.
How did you choose your major?
As soon I got to CU Boulder, I realized that the foreign affairs classes that I would need to take were really boring to me. And if the classes were that boring, then the career was probably not right for me.
I always knew that I wanted to major in English because I loved reading books. And then I had an extra spot in my schedule that I could fill with anything, and there was a costume technologies class where they taught you all about sewing and you got to be in the costume shop stitching the costumes for the productions. I took that class and loved it.
I had inherited both of my grandma's sewing machines, and I had been sewing things for a really long time. My mom and both my grandmas were amazing seamstresses, and I sewed my own wedding dress. But at that point, I just knew how to sew, but I didn't understand it on a technical level.
They taught us how to make beautiful headdresses and make a pattern off of a dress form and dye fabric and mold a felt cap to someone's head. It was so fun and I wanted to take all of those classes, and the only way to do that was to be a theater major so I did it. I got to hang out in the fashion shop, and I got this balance of analytical English people and then really creative, fun theater people.
We got to design an entire show, so I chose to do an Arabian Nights version of Romeo and Juliet in which the Capulets were the Moors and the Montagues were Spanish. For my final project, I did a 1912, Titanic-era evening gown; I got to build the corset and all the undergarments and then the dress from scratch, which was really cool. And then for one of our other classes I got to build a Vegas showgirl headdress with all these sequins and rhinestones and ostrich feathers. It was really cool.
How did you get from college to where you are now?
At the end of my senior year, I was applying for the Peace Corps. I really wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, but I got into this disagreement with them about whether I was fluent in Spanish or not. Which I am, because I had lived in Spain when I was 16. They told me, "We would love to place you in Eastern Europe like Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan, or Africa, but you can't go to a Spanish-speaking country unless you can prove that you speak Spanish." So basically I said, "Alright, well then I'm not doing the Peace Corps."
So I found this other program through the Ministry of Education in Chile called English Opens Doors, Inglés Abre Puertas. I got certified to teach English as a second language and then I went and lived in Pichilemu, Chile. I taught there for six months, and then came home and got my first job in the travel industry.
I still wanted to go international, so I got a job as an account manager for very, very wealthy people that were part of this vacation club. My region was the Northeast, so New York, New Jersey, Boston; for the first few months, I remember thinking that people were calling and just yelling at me, but that's just how they talk. And then the economy skydived, and the industry I was in was built on real estate, so they laid off half the company.
I really didn't know what I was going to do, but something logical in my brain said, "This recession's going to be for a couple years and a safe harbor might be getting another degree." So I applied to grad school to get my master's in English. The plan was to go to whatever school was the cheapest, which I assumed would be CU Boulder, but Boston University came through with a really generous scholarship and stipend package, and I went and got my master's at Boston University.
I loved it. We had this amazing cohort of like-minded English nerds that were really cool and it changed my life. I guess for me, it provided me with a lot of confidence. I learned that I'm really good at reading texts and seeing patterns and pulling them out and then putting together a compelling argument from those things. It gave me this sense of accomplishment and purpose. And it made me realize how important and valuable it is for me to have this really strong, vibrant, stimulating, social community. It was very empowering.
I had worked at Outward Bound right before I went to BU, and then I went and worked for them for a while again. It was very low stress and I got to go for really long runs every lunch break. And then I did a half marathon burro race with a donkey, which had always been a life dream.
And then I went and taught community college. I worked at three different schools, which was really rewarding but also very challenging. I think the adjunct professor arrangement is inherently flawed in that they have a huge load and they’re not well compensated and they're not well supported, so it makes it difficult to succeed.
I had always told Outward Bound that I wanted to write for them, and I'd done blog posts for them. They approached me and said, "Hey, would you be interested in helping us with our main collateral?" And I said, "Yeah, I'd love that." I got to work directly with the executive director. He was really smart and creative, and they gave me a lot of creative license to put together their beautiful main collateral piece. I realized writing was lucrative and fun and I thought, "If I can get enough work as a freelance writer, I could make that my career." And then I got more freelance clients, and one of my clients, Inspirato, ultimately hired me full-time as their marketing manager.
I also had a business reselling vintage clothing. I'd always loved vintage stuff and my mom is an old hippie. I loved going to thrift stores even in high school; I felt this sense of achievement when I could get something really cool that nobody else had. And then I saw people out in the marketplace really succeeding, and I saw this explosion of small shops and little artisan companies in Denver. And Etsy was already pretty well developed, so that made it so easy to sell things online.
I started taking pictures of vintage cowboy boots and dresses from the 50’s in my backyard and putting them on Etsy. I got a ton of sales and then I got a logo and branded everything and had a social media presence and started going to these markets. It was really fun and I learned so much about what it takes to run a business. I couldn't keep doing it once I was working at Inspirato because I didn't have time, but it was a great learning experience.
I worked at Inspirato until this past June. I have an 18-month-old little boy, and my husband and I realized that we were on this hamster wheel that we couldn't get off of: dropping my son off at school, going to work, leaving work, rushing to pick him up, getting home at 6:30, feeding him, putting him to bed, and then doing the same thing five days a week. I definitely could have kept doing it, but it wasn't the life that I really wanted for myself. And then I got pregnant with our second, and I knew something was going to have to change.
I've always been really interested in real estate, especially in the Denver area. There are a lot of interesting neighborhoods, and I'm a hunter-gatherer; I love to research things, I love to find things, I love to share things with other people. So I got my real estate license and signed on with a broker and I've been dipping my toe in the water of trying to be a realtor. We moved out to the mountains from a small, historic neighborhood just outside of Denver. We have deer and mountain lions and bears and beautiful trees; it was a big change for us and I would love to specialize in helping other people make that change, especially with a growing family.
Looking back, what seems clear to you now?
I have to say that one of the most positive things in my life has been working. When I was 14 or 15, I got a job at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. I didn't have my license, so I rode my bike. I worked there all through high school and I had to show up and be somewhere and be responsible and I loved helping the customers. I got to be a manager and I had keys and I got to order stuff and I got to help with choosing who they hired and I loved it. It gave me so much self-worth and confidence. The time I spent working, making money, developing my people skills was excellent.
I feel like it's easy to get really worried about the impact that your decisions are going to have in the long term. But the truth is, you have a really long life and you can make decisions, you can change your mind, and you can change your mind again.
I've been lucky to have someone who supports me both financially and emotionally so that I can take risks like changing my career and pivoting. But even when I was in college and my parents weren't paying for any of my stuff after I graduated, it still wasn’t that big of a deal. I've changed my mind about 10 times. I've done a lot of different things in terms of my career, and it has all been okay. You don't have to make the perfect, exact right decision all the time. As long as you are taking good care of yourself and the people that you love, it's all going to be fine.