Chosing fulfillment from the start

While most of us spend our days the stuck in the office, Nicole is busy wearing flip flops, getting covered in whip cream or running a cookie business.

No, she’s not your typical NYU grad.

When Nicole graduated college one year early, summa cum laude, with a pocket full of job offers from prestigious New York corporate companies, she headed west to take her place as camp director.

Faced with the crushing pressure to be awesome (and to pay off student loans), Nicole listened to the advice of her favorite professor–always make room for fun. She chose fulfillment from the start.

“I couldn’t do the same thing for 365 days of the year,” she said. “I couldn’t do it. I would be bored out of my mind. I think I’m lucky in that I recognized that pretty early about myself. I graduated a year early because I paid for it myself and because I was bored.”

Well there’s nothing quite like running a day camp and managing a brand new cookie shop to keep things from being boring! Whether it’s making a presentation to the city counsel, fixing the cash register, or helping a 5 year-old who misses her mom, being in charge means that Nicole is problem-solving all day long.

“I want my career to entail not just being successful but being fulfilled. I think that often times those things are confused,” said Nicole. “I want to know that when I go home from work everyday that I have done something that makes some kind of difference to someone, that it’s not just me earning my paycheck.”

As Nicole crafts her place in the world, she knows one thing for certain: it’s not just about where she is going, it’s about how she is getting there.

Nicole’s 3 tips for finding balance:

1. Admit your limitations

2. Find a job that fits within them

3. If you’re not having fun, something has to change!

What are your tips for staying sane and preserving your quality of life? Share it in the comments.

Learning to shine despite my disability

Growing up is hard enough without taking away the camaraderie of shared experiences. Kathryn has muscular dystrophy (MD) and has struggled with how to deal with being alone in her differences throughout her life. “I always felt different, especially as a teenager. There was just a difference when I’d be around kids my age. I couldn’t do things that they could do. I might be able to do certain things, but usually with limitations.”

When she was younger, Kathryn would hide it from people. In college, she can remember parking in a handicap spot but intentionally not using her handicap hanger, because she didn’t want people to know that she had a disability. But now Kathryn is able to admit, “deep down, I thought that people would not like me or accept me if they knew I was different.”

Turns out that it was her that needed to do the accepting. As she learned it began to shape her character. “My MD helped me to be the person that I am right now, which is someone who is able to love people where they’re at and help people get beyond a problem that they might have.”

When it came to choosing a career, Kathryn wanted to choose a career that would match her physical abilities. But she also wanted to be able to use her life experiences for the greater good. As a counselor Kathryn is able to help her clients accept the cards that life has dealt them, recognizing that sometimes you can’t control what happens to you, but it is adversity that actually makes you who you are.

Kathryn confesses that self acceptance does not change the situation; she still has many things that she is unable to do on her own. “It’s always on my mind, because when I do things, I just can’t go and do things like other people. I have to plan. I have to think about whether the car is too high to get into myself or if I can step up onto that porch. I can’t do a lot of those things on my own, and I have to ask for help. It can be very frustrating, because you want to be like everyone else… But then I remind myself that everyone feels different in some way, and this is my difference.”

Like Kathryn, it is our choice to reflect on what we can do and to bring out that positive spirit in our community. After all, we can only do one thing at a time… better to choose something that works toward the good!

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Make a Wish
To enter the contest that inspired Kathryn’s wish, check out Pantene’s Beautiful Wishes. And since $1 is donated to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, which makes wigs for women who’ve lost their hair to cancer, we’ll all come out winners in the end.

An Expert Opinion
Get hair care solutions from the industry’s best courtesy of Pantene, which is hosting the Beautiful Wishes contest that Kathryn entered.

A Little Experiment
Want to know the science behind beautiful hair? Take a look at Pantene’s Under the Microscope to see how heat and brushing can terrorize your tresses.

A Source of Strength
At the Muscular Dystrophy Association, researchers are working to finding cures for more than 40 neuromuscular diseases affecting Americans of all ages.

On Her Own
Glenda Watson Hyatt shares her experiences living with cerebral palsy to motivate and inspire others to think about their own situation and the world around them. She does all this by typing with only her left thumb!

Secrets for Building an Eco-Friendly Business

Even as a child, Summer was interested in saving the earth.

“Growing up, it was just my mom and me, and she instilled environmental awareness in me,” she said. “Even when I was really young, I’d knock on my neighbors’ doors and tell them to not use so many plastic bags.”

Summer carried her passion for the environment with her through college at UC Berkeley, where she majored in sociology and conservation and resource studies.

After graduation, Summer took a job as a 6th grade teacher. She loved teaching and the lifestyle that it afforded, but soon she found herself going through the motions a little too comfortably.

“I was busy all the time, grading papers constantly at coffee shops, and just living my life,” she said. “But at some point, I realized I had gotten away from those things that had been really important to me.”

As she concentrated her efforts more on reconnecting with her passion, she found she was spending a lot of her free time researching what she bought and what products were good for the earth. Especially when it came to buying clothes, it was difficult to shop responsibly.

“There was nothing I could wear to work. There was nothing I could wear out, going out to clubs or going out to dinner. Frankly, I couldn’t find anything I liked,” she said. “I decided to stop complaining about the fact that nobody had changed this and be the change, create my own resource.”

Summer is passionate about the environment because she cares about what happens in the future.

“Everything that I sell is certified organic, which means a third party comes in and certifies how it’s grown,” she said. “It’s also either domestically made by artisans who create their own wage, under U.S. labor laws, or it’s sourced through the fair trade federations. Every single product has a sort of certification that makes it definitely earth-friendly.”

Being able to help others make better decisions more easily is far more rewarding for Summer than she ever imagined it would be. She feels like she is living a life of purpose, that she is following the admonition on her favorite refrigerator magnet: Be the change you wish to see in the world.

“I feel really happy for what I’ve done,” she said. “I am proud of myself that I’ve really been true to what I believe in but have also made a livelihood in doing that, in doing something small to benefit the bigger picture.”

Check out Summer’s online store BTC Elements, it’s got everything from organic cotton tablecloths to recycled fleece winter coats.

MORE TIPS & TOOLS

Elements of Style
Summer’s online store BTC Elements includes everything from organic cotton tablecloths to recycled fleece winter coats.

Fair Trade, Woman-Made
An online boutique of handmade clothing, home goods and accessories created by women all over the world who are working toward economic security.

Green? Great!
Check out this comprehensive shopping blog that highlights eco-friendly apparel and goods from all over the web.

Mind Your Biz
At GreenBiz, the eco-enthusiast can learn how to succeed in business while being environmentally responsible.

Wife, Mother, Career Woman… HELP!

Antonella had it all-a successful career, two beautiful children, a loving husband-and it was wearing her out.

One of the biggest concerns for Antonella and her family was, of course, if they could financially afford for her to stay at home. She had been the main source of income for the family, and even though her husband was working, he had just started his job and lacked the same security she had.

Antonella and her husband decided to enlist the help of a financial planner in their decision making process. They decided how much money they wanted to save every month and talked to a lot of people to figure out how to make the transition as smoothly as possible.

“Now we are watchful,” she said. “We don’t stay in the best room in the hotel, and we don’t just go out and buy a new car because we feel like it. We look at our goals and stay on track. You can really save money this way.”

Antonella’s a full time mother and wife; still, that doesn’t mean she abandoned her career. Even after she left her job Antonella would call coworkers and visit the office, where she found that many people were surprised but supportive.

Until she re-enters the workforce, Antonella is enjoying doing the things that were impossible before.

“I’m there to clap for my kids. I’m there for the Christmas show. I taught my son how to ride his bike,” she said. “Some days, it is so beautiful I can no longer even imagine being in an office working.”

If you’re finding it tough to be all things to all people, find solace and support through these resources:

Dishing it Out
Taking parenting too seriously is not something Heather Armstrong does. Experience the adventures of a Stay-at-Home-Mom whose honesty and human error is as hilarious as motherhood ought to be.

Mission Impossible
Give up on being mother of the year (they think you already are) and relish in your perfect flaws at Imperfect Parent.

Organized Chaos
Working moms can make it work. Visit Mommytrack’d for multitasking tools, comic relief and relevant news tips.

File It Under Toys
Carving a home office out of the playroom? Consider Home Based Working Moms.

Have It All
BlueSuitMom and Career Journal help you have your kid’s cake and pay for it too.