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What's It's Like to Quit Your Job, Move Across the Country, and Start a Business (Part 1)

For those of you new to my little corner of the interwebs, hello! I’m Krystina, I’m a zero waste wannabe, and I recently packed up my life and moved from Ohio to Tacoma, Washington to launch this zero waste shop you’ve found yourself in.

It blows my mind, but that move was nearly four months ago now. I’ve been here a full season! I’ve watched winter come and go, and now I’m seeing the first signs of spring sprout up around me.

These four months have flown by, but not without moments of elation, anxiety, overwhelm, gratitude, exhaustion, and everything in between.

This week and next, I’m taking time to reflect on this journey, how I got here, and what it’s really been like. Because honestly, it hasn’t been easy, but when I look at my life now, this is the life I want to live. This is where I want to be. Anything worth having is worth working for.

A Drop in the Ocean Tacoma Zero Waste Store

Some Background

To fully understand this uprooting of my life, we need to travel back in time, just a little, to the summer of 2017. I was a few months into my Masters’ program through Miami University’s Project Dragonfly, and was off on my first study abroad trip in Baja California, Mexico.

Before this trip, I had only had one snorkeling experience, and it was not great, to say the least. I came into Baja with a panic-attack-inducing fear of snorkeling, yet knew that I would have to do it anyway.

To make a long story short, by the time our five days on the Sea of Cortez were over, I had explored underwater worlds I had only ever imagined, I fell in love with fishes and invertebrates, I watched dolphins jump and swim all around me as I laid on the front of our boat, and I even swam with whale sharks and sea lions.

Suddenly, I was at home in the water.

A Drop in the Ocean Tacoma Zero Waste Store

I wanted to learn more. My background was in wildlife science and yet somewhere along the way I had lost my passion for being present in nature and observing the world around me.

As the days progressed, I became more and more fearful of my return to the States. Yes, fearful. I was afraid to go back. How was I going to go back to my desk job in the middle of Ohio, managing spreadsheets and doing data entry, with no real upward career potential? I had just been exposed to an entirely new world. How was I going to go back to the way things were?

A few months later, a few classmates from Baja and I reconvened for a girls’ weekend in Chicago. Over brunch one morning, I casually said, “I don’t know, I kind of just want to run away to Tacoma and open a zero waste store.” The idea had been a tiny seed in my brain for a couple weeks, but that was the first I had said it out loud. One of the girls lived in Tacoma, and immediately she was on board with the idea, and we were amazed that nothing like that already existed.

As the trip went on, I became more and more sold on the idea. By the time the weekend was over, I had made my decision. I would move to Tacoma and open my own zero waste store.

Months passed as I developed my business plan and website, and my apartment lease term was about to come to an end. The time was finally coming to make my move. Then, a mere couple weeks before I planned to put in my notice at work, I was offered an exciting promotion. This was the promotion I’d be working towards for the last two and a half years. I said yes immediately, and the shop plans took a hiatus.

Fast forward a few months, and due to circumstances outside of anyone’s control, I realized that this new gig wasn’t going to play out the way I (or anyone else) had hoped. I headed back to Washington in July to visit friends for a few days and fell in love with Tacoma all over again. When I got home to Ohio, I looked at my bank account, my apartment lease terms, and my calendar, and penciled in the date that I would put in my notice.

I figured if I’m going to quit my stable job, break my lease, drive across the country with no job lined up, start my own business from the ground up, and risk falling on my face every step of the way, utterly failing, and going broke, I might as well do it now while I’m young.

A Drop in the Ocean Tacoma Zero Waste Store

Making the Leap

On November 2, I submitted a four-weeks notice at work. To my surprise, my managers and coworkers were so supportive of my decision and excited for me with this new adventure. It was so strange for a while to be asked, “I hear you’re leaving us...where are you going?” and respond, “I’m moving to Seattle, going on an adventure and starting a zero waste store,” like it was the most casual thing for someone to do.

And when the obvious follow-up question of “Do you have a job and a place to live lined up?” came about, and my response was, “Nope, that’s why it’s an adventure!”, I recall only a couple judgy/concerned faces. It was like this was what I was meant to do, and the people around me knew it and believed in me, even in the moments when I wasn’t so sure of myself. Because, let’s be honest, those moments happened a lot during that time.

I had been searching for an apartment online for weeks, but soon realized it was impossible to find an apartment without a job - both because I didn’t know what my income would be and because no property in their right mind would lease to someone without proof of income. If I had been moving anywhere else, I’m not sure I could have done it. My friend from Baja that lived in Tacoma sent me a message one day offering the spare room in her and her husband’s house, that I had stayed in that summer. They were already renting it out to interns for a couple months at a time, and were considering listing it online anyway, so they were happy to offer it up to someone they knew and trusted instead.

If it weren’t for amazing friends like these, I’d never have been able to make the move. I simply would not have had a place to live. (Of course if I’d had more patience I could have saved up some more money before making the move, but patience has never been one of my strong suits.)

A Drop in the Ocean Tacoma Zero Waste Store

The Logistics of it All

The original plan was to get a U-haul trailer and drive all of my stuff across the country. I don’t have a lot of stuff, and pared down quite a bit in preparation for the move, but then my mom pointed out that I was driving across mountains in December, and maybe I shouldn’t have a trailer to deal with. Moms know best.

Instead, I ordered myself a U-haul U-Box. The beautiful part of it was that it was delivered to my apartment when I needed it, I loaded it up on my own time, with the help of some much stronger friends, and when I was all packed up and in my car to head out, all I had to do was send a text to U-haul and they came and picked it up and shipped it across the country for me.

In my car, I had my kitty and all of her supplies, one suitcase for traveling and hotel stays, one small box of clothes, my TV, my laptop and monitor, some plants, my nightstand, my sewing machine, and two under-bed storage boxes full of sewing supplies (they just didn’t fit in the U-Box).

Four months later, the U-Box is still in storage, and I’m still living off of the things that were in my car.

The road trip across the country was actually an amazing journey. Although it was winter and I didn’t get to stop in as many places as I would have liked had it been spring or summer, I took a full week to make the drive. When was I ever again going to have the opportunity to go on a cross-country road trip with no job or responsibilities waiting for me on the other end?

With each state border I crossed came immense volumes of gratitude and disbelief. I was finally doing it. I was making the change I wanted to see in my life happen. It was freeing. Liberating. I was in control of my life, and I wasn’t waiting for someone else to tell me what I could and couldn’t do with my passions and skills.

And damn that’s powerful.

Continue reading Part 2 here...



2 comments

  • Krystina Jarvis

    Hi Sonya! Thanks so much for reading my blog! I’m excited that I remind you of yourself – that gives me so much hope for my future :)

  • Sonya

    Dear Krystina,
    I read your article with excitement! You are my 20-something self.

    Thank you so much for sharing your thought process and journey details (the sewing machine cracked me up — your mama has to be proud of that!) Cannot wait to read more of your story as it unfolds.

    Enjoy!
    Sonya

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