The Story of Joy

I never imagined that a movie stub would change the direction of my life.

I was nine months pregnant with Thatcher.  Tate was a year old. Mom and Dad were visiting us for Christmas that year because I wanted to stay close to our local hospital.  They suggested that while they were here, we should try and sneak out to see a movie together. We hadn’t been out, just the two of us, in over a year.  So we had dinner in a small pub near the theatre and decided to go and see Joy.  It had the earliest start time and we thought we might be able to stay awake for it.  

The movie, Joy, is based on the true story of Joy Mangano, a very successful entrepreneur who owns over 100 patents for her inventions and is known for her work on the Home Shopping Network. She is a millionaire now, but her life wasn’t always easy.  Joy was a single mom who had a lot to deal with.

She was struggling financially, taking care of her daughter, and managing her high needs family on top of it all.  But she was creative. As a little girl, she would come up with ideas for new inventions. Sitting at a little white table in her bedroom, she would use crayons to sketch out her latest designs.  Little paper prototypes were scattered around her bedroom. Her grandma was usually at her side, smiling and encouraging her work. She was the one who lovingly held Joy’s face in her hands and told her that she was destined for great things.  

Part way through the movie, I was doing everything not to sob in the middle of the theatre.  I thought this movie would be a safe one. It wasn’t.

Joy decided to take a risk and pursue an idea she had.  She designed a new mop that could self-wring. She fought her way to the stage of the Home Shopping Channel and was getting to a point where she could expand.  And then her grandma died. Devastated, she was ready to walk away from it all.  

Sitting in the dark theatre with Eric, my big round belly in front of me, my eyes started to well.  I was blinking back tears, my eyes were burning. I tried to distract myself by thinking of other things and by looking around the room without him noticing.  From the screen’s glow on his face, he didn’t seem to notice that I was struggling. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold it together if he asked if I was okay.  I wasn’t. I missed my gram.

It had been just over a year since she passed away, and I still couldn’t talk about her without crying.  She died suddenly 3 months before my first baby. She was so excited that I was pregnant and then never got to meet him. 

Gram was that steady presence in my life who made me feel like I could do anything.  She wasn’t your stereotypical grandma baking cookies and staying at home. She lived in the wilderness and proudly did work that other men did, because she loved it.  She was quietly opinionated, strong, and believed that women could do anything they wanted to; it wasn’t up to men to decide for us. She lived life as she wished and encouraged others to do the same.  She was like Joy’s grandma, she gave me strength. And I felt lost without her.

So I made it through the Mimi scene without becoming a mess, and felt incredibly inspired as I watched Joy overcome everything that came her way.  Even though she felt defeated and scared at times, she kept going. She created a new life meant for her.

Why am I in a job that I don’t enjoy anymore?  Why do I keep pushing myself to live a life that doesn’t feel like me?  Gram would want me to pursue something different…

At work, I had been feeling like something was off for awhile.  I just couldn’t find a role that felt like the perfect fit for me.  And with each role change, I just found myself getting further and further away from the stuff I loved – creating and being with people.  For me, maternity leave felt like a welcomed escape from a place where I felt that I didn’t belong anymore.  

I walked (more waddled) out of the theatre that night holding Eric’s hand.  As we stepped out of the front doors, I looked up at the night sky, past the lights and movie posters, and said that I was done.  I would do my own thing, even if I didn’t know what that was. I would figure it out. She would want me to.

That was in 2015.  Four years later I submitted my resignation.  It took three consecutive maternity leaves and an extension to finally feel brave enough to end it.  And when I did, it was uneventful. I clicked submit on an eform sitting at a desk in our bedroom. Instead of feeling excited, I felt sick and terrified.  But it was the greatest decision of my life.

It sparked five years of soul searching.  Who am I? (outside of my work, outside of how Gram saw me) What do I actually want? Am I enjoying my life? Is this the life I’m supposed to live… It was an exploration of getting to know myself again and unpacking my baggage through the process of writing my life stories, which felt scary at the time but now I can see was one of the greatest gifts.  I found myself again.  

It has led to beautiful things. Learning to slow down. Gaining new perspectives of past experiences and letting go of big things. Learning to trust and listen to my heart. Mending relationships and feeling more grounded than ever.  And I want this for other women. I want them to feel in control of their lives instead of at the mercy of it. I never thought it was possible. 

If something feels off for you, there’s a feeling of discontentment that you can’t quite pinpoint, I’ve created a place where you can explore what it is.  It doesn’t mean that you need to do anything big or drastic, it just means that you are open to creating some space so you can listen to what your heart is trying to tell you.  It could change your life too. 

Here’s to adventure, new beginnings, and a life filled with joy,

Gram wrote us a letter and left it in her safety deposit box, to be found after she passed away. These were her final words.

Ready to start your Search for Self? Let’s get you started…