My Not-So-Official, Official Story

After a recent thread in the ProBlogger Community about a member who was having trouble working his “About Me” page, I decided I need to do some restructuring with my own sections of this site. In doing that, I’m writing this post because where I came from to be where I am today is sort of a long story, and I feel it deserves it’s own separate post.

[easyazon-image-link asin=”0783233523″ alt=”Gorillas in the Mist” src=”http://www.larakulpa.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/gorilla.png” align=”right” width=”300″] Those of you who know me well, know that I didn’t grow up imagining I’d be doing what I’m doing today. In fact, I firmly believed from the time I could speak that I was the reincarnation of Dian Fossey. You might remember her name from the movie Gorillas in the Mist? Yeah, that Dian Fossey.

After graduating high school in the mid-90s, I went to college to become a certified zookeeper. My plan was to work for years as a zookeeper, working my way “up the ranks” while I continued on to get a PhD in Animal Behavior. Of course, what I didn’t realize at the time was that as a single (unmarried) zookeeper who grew up an only child and never did well with having a roommate, I’d need a second job. No time for more school, bills needed to be paid.

My First Experience Working Online

So I went to work for Neopets.com – it’s a cute community site, mainly geared toward kids nowadays, but started out for college kids. (In fact, I’d been working for them while I was still in college, but continued on afterward out of necessity and admiration.) I was senior community manager there, so my main job was to keep the baddies out. No pervs stalking little kids, no “adult language”, that kind of stuff. I got to do other cool stuff like design items in the game, beta testing, all that. It was great. And got me into web design. I had a blog before they ever called them blogs back then, and I loved it!

After September 11, 2001 my world as I knew it really crumbled. Tourism shot down so the zoo thing was on thin ice, and Neopets wanted some security for their company (because no one in the country knew just what was going to happen next) so they had asked me to move to California (I was in Florida at the time). I just wasn’t able to do it on the pay they offered me, so I had to decline. So without a good second job, and with the risk of walking in to work one day and not having a main job anymore, I moved home to New York. I was terribly sad, confused, and really had no clue what the heck I was going to do with my life. Go back to school? Take some time off and go back once the economy settled?

The Changing of Tides or, Riding The Rough Waves

I held several jobs for a few years, ranging from 911 dispatcher to lab tech in a biotechnology company. (I was also a fitness trainer at Curves for Women, a retail store assistant manager for Bombay Company, and a few other short lived things I can’t remember.) In my spare time, I took what I’d learned by working with Neopets, my own blog, and tinkering with web design, and started building actual, professional websites for myself, family and friends. It was kind of cool, because as much as I was into animals, I’d also always been a creative geek, and loved computers and programming.

Soon, I found a guy who had an internet marketing and SEO company whose job ad said he was looking for “someone with web design experience, but could be trained on SEO”. It was a neat gig, but after 6 months he “restructured” and laid off all but two of his employees.

I then found another SEO company who took pity on me and created a special position just for me, also doing SEO, but working from home. After about a year, she came to me and told me she felt I’d be better suited to go into business for myself, and with her blessing, off I went.

On My Own

I had my first paying client only two weeks into it, and they remained such for nearly 6 years. For a while, I had been blogging with b5media, a company co-founded by Darren Rowse. Darren and I quickly became friends and he’s by far one of my most favorite people on earth. Over the past 5 years, we’ve grown our friendship and working relationship to the point where I’m now involved in several of his projects. I know I’m gushing here, but I love working with Darren, and being a part of what he’s doing in helping people learn how to create an income online. Doing so has truly opened up doors for me. I’ve spoken at several blogging and social media conferences, am currently in talks with some colleagues about doing a series of ebooks, and planning to continue working as a consultant and speaker.

Going out on my own was the best thing that ever happened to me, both as a career and on an emotional level. As much as I miss working with my animals, and yes, even get sad sometimes because my childhood dream was “so close and yet so far”, I absolutely love what I do today. I’m in a place where I’ve got amazing clients, great friends in business and my personal life, and am eager to see what the next decade of my life will amount to. It’s not Gorillas in the Mist, but it’s my life, and I love it.

Have you ever been forced to take a major detour in your life plan? I’d love to hear about it!

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