I vividly remember this one day in middle school when our class went to the computer lab, and we had to research a career path. I immediately chose graphic designer (designing Myspace layouts was MY THING, ok). Before long, I was reading that the average graphic designer doesn’t make more than $40k a year. And somewhere along the way during my 12 years of life on this planet, I was told that $40k is not enough money to live on. That I wouldn’t have a good life if that’s all I made each year. I don’t know where this notion came from, but my pre-teen self believed the numbers that Payscale.com was showing me. Disappointed by this finding, I ruled graphic designer out as a potential career path. And that was that: my first experience believing the lie that I can’t create a career I love.
Well I am here to tell you that the career path you were interested in as a middle schooler…. probably means something.
After crossing graphic designer off my list, I quickly moved on to health + wellness magazine editor. Which was (and still is) basically all of my interests combined into one— design, writing, and health. My seventh grade self wasn’t ready to give up on her passions just yet! (And magazine editors made more money than graphic designers according to Payscale.com…)
Later that same year, we were given a Language Arts assignment to create a magazine. I named mine Healthy ‘n’ Fit. Lol, it was all about food and fitness as you can imagine.
But I’ll never forget the moment when a girl in my class laughed at me during my presentation and the feeling when I realized that other people thought my idea was stupid.
I carried that feeling with me. And that was the second pivotal moment when I thought to myself, maybe I can’t turn what I love into a career, a business, or anything for that matter.
I never completely abandoned my interests, but I adjusted my dreams based on societal norms and the opinions of others.
I tried to make them more acceptable and palatable by looking into careers and college majors that had a more defined career path, that had higher average salaries, and that more people would “understand”.
But you know what? The work you thought would be SO AWESOME before the world told you how much money you’d make doing it or before someone told you that your idea is silly— that work matters. The things that you enjoy doing and are naturally good at, even as a kid, are worth pursuing no matter what anyone tells you.
So don’t ignore the thing that lights you up.
One of my mantras that I try to live by is do more of what lights you up.
There is a lot of mixed advice out there on following your passion and why you shouldn’t try to turn your passion or what you love into a career or business. And I think the reason for that is the word “passion” comes with a lot of pressure. But we don’t need to complicate it or pick apart what “passion” is and what it isn’t.
If you ENJOY doing something, if you tend to lose track of time while doing it, if a part of you lights up inside when you do that thing…. it’s worth doing that thing more often.
I suppressed my creative, intuitive side for many years. But I never completely gave up on it.
While I told everyone that I was going to college for my Bachelor of Science in Dietetics, I was simultaneously getting my Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences Communication with a concentration in Communication Strategy + a Minor in Entrepreneurship. I just never highlighted that degree or minor in conversation or seriously considered either as a career path because I didn’t have a clear answer as to why I was putting myself through an additional 40 credits, other than I just LIKED it. I took classes on design, social media, marketing, journalism + entrepreneurial thinking.
Then, I went back to school for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. But I was doing graphic design and strategic communications work on the side throughout nursing school and even when I had a full-time job as a registered nurse.
No matter how hard I tried to fit myself into this box of a healthcare professional, I couldn’t stay inside the box. Finally, I decided to open myself up to the possibility of doing what *truly* lights me up.
At the time though, I didn’t even know what that was. I didn’t know how to turn what I love doing into a career or business because it didn’t fit in with all the noise surrounding work and success. I had been so conditioned by society to believe that I need to follow a defined path and have a “stable” career that I closed myself off to so many possibilities.
There is no one, defined way to “discover your passion”.
You just have to open yourself back up to possibilities, in the same way that you were open as a kid. I opened myself back up in a very specific way. Call me woo-woo, but I seriously attribute starting my business to doing this one thing:
Every day, I put in my headphones and listened to the Don’t Keep Your Day Job podcast on my walk outside. I listened to inspiring stories of others who left their jobs to pursue a career doing what they love while I moved my body and inhaled fresh air (no matter how freezing cold it was outside). Moving, breathing, nature, positivity, and inspiration was magic for me. My mind expanded, my confidence grew.
The simple act of opening myself up to new possibilities each day helped me tap into the parts of me I had been suppressing all those years.
I began the process of unravelling the lies + toxic thoughts + limiting beliefs that were wound so tightly around me. And I felt like I could breathe again. I felt like I could see the creative, intuitive part of myself that never lost hope that I’d one day bring her out into the light.
And I’ve been on a journey of pulling that part of myself out from the shadows ever since. It’s an ongoing process, and it’s why six months after starting Niki Press Designs I decided to start Nourish with Nik. And it’s why six months after starting Nourish with Nik I decided to leave my day job and make my middle school self with unashamed hopes and dreams proud by turning something that I love into a career.
There is no roadmap for this kind of thing. It comes down to putting one foot in front of the other in the direction you want your life to go. It comes down to doing more of what lights you up each day. It comes down to living each day in alignment with your intuition as best you know how.
The reason I started Niki Press Designs wasn’t because I felt like it was my one burning passion in this lifetime. I started Niki Press Designs because I really enjoy design, I’m good at it, and I had confidence that I could actually turn it into a business. I did one thing that felt good and felt in alignment, and it has snowballed from there.
Our wedding was the catalyst for turning something that I love into a career.
If I hadn’t planned a wedding and fallen in love with designing every last detail, I truly don’t know that Niki Press Designs would exist right now.
Discovering that you enjoy doing something is one thing, but figuring out how to turn what you love into a career or business is an entirely different thing. Lucky for me, my wedding helped me figure that out.
After looking into numerous venues and feeling overwhelmed by my Pinterest wedding board, my husband and I made an unconventional decision. We decided we wanted a wedding that authentically represents the love we have for one another, rather than a wedding defined by society’s standards. (Aka hundreds of guests, an exhausting wedding day schedule, spending money on aspects of the day you’ll never remember, etc. etc. etc.)
Soooo instead of all that, we got married in Northern Wisconsin surrounded by endless stretches of forest and sparkling blue lakes. We had less than 20 guests. And we danced under the stars in the middle of the woods at our cabin that has been in the family for over 50 years.
It was intimate, and so us. I planned every detail and did as much DIY as I could. In the process, I found so much joy in creating and designing an alternative wedding centered around the reason for the wedding in the first place: the love two people have for one another.
I realized that there must be other couples out there who don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on wedding stationery and decor, but still want their wedding to be one-of-a-kind, true to their values, and representative of their love.
So the idea for Niki Press Designs was born. Since day one, my hope has always been for my designs to evoke a sense of alignment, simplicity, and originality – something that is rare and difficult to put into words – because that’s what I believe love should feel like.
And I believe that any life event or milestone (+ the way you brand your business and decorate your home!) should be filled with love and evoke that same sense of alignment.
So I decided to start creating editable templates for weddings, events, businesses, and homes that are affordable, customizable, and beautiful.
An idea like that doesn’t come from a college major or a clearly laid out career plan.
It comes from tapping into what lights us up. From getting quiet, inspired, and aligned to really figure out what it is that we want to spend our time doing. From discarding the beliefs and expectations that are no longer serving us or maybe never were.
I’m so glad I started believing that you *CAN* turn what you love — or your interests, that thing that you really enjoy doing….. whatever you want to call it — into a business. I’m glad I decided to put one foot in front of the other and simply let my intuition guide me. By doing one scary thing and figuring it out as I went, I developed the courage to do another scary thing. And in my experience, doing the big, scary, heartfelt things that no one else seems to understand, tend to lead to the most beautiful things.