Abra Said | She Said Celebrate
Abra walked into my life many years ago as my (drumroll, please) babysitter. Since those days, she has continued to serve as a major role in my life; however, Abra and I have very different memories of the last 15 years. Looking back, Abra remembers living an unfulfilled life for far too long, while I remember watching her blossom into the energizing, creative leader that she is today through idolizing eyes.
Through our conversations, this is Abra’s story.
[Lindy]: Tell me about your career aspirations when you were growing up. Who did you think you would grow up to be?
[Abra]: (sigh) I never felt like I had a clear vision of my future, or a career that I thought was defined for me. Nothing ever resonated with me. I never remember being like “when I grow up I want to be a teacher; when I grow up I want to be a nurse” like all my friends did. I always felt like what I would grow up to do would always be pretty outside of the box.
[L]: Well, interesting! That actually goes along with the exact career path that you’re on now. So, what happened when you graduated high school?
[A]: By the time that I got out of high school and into college, an out of the box career seemed pretty difficult to define so I just kind of thought “okay, what does an out of the box career actually mean? How do I go to college and figure out what that looks like?” So, I ended up just going into college thinking that I would be a social worker.
Abra admits that when she was 18 she thought that picking a major and going with it was the most logical next step. So, when she got to college, she picked a degree that went along with the things that she knew she was good at. Abra went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Family/Childhood Development from Akron University.
[L]: After graduation, what did you do with your degree?
[A]: After college, I couldn’t find a job because I graduated in the Great Recession of 2009. I ended up moving back home and decided to just start grad school right away; I thought that that made sense for my situation. In that moment, I had decided to become at teacher. So, I spent a semester in grad school for education and hated it.
[L]: What did you hate about it?
[A]: I realized really early on that I couldn’t imagine being in a classroom every day. I think it was part being physically in a classroom every day and then also part knowing that I would be really frustrated with the education system and curriculum, being in current state that they are in. Once I realized that education just wouldn’t work, I took a break from pursuing my master’s and was nannying just to have a job. At this time, I was considering a lot of career paths like counseling and other social work paths, but I ultimately landed in the field of non-profit fundraising.
Ultimately, I ended up getting a masters in non-profit management. I thought for sure that I would go right into fundraising and grant writing. I studied hard, learned a lot, and really liked the choice that I had made. I really thought that that is what I would spend my career in fundraising and grant writing, and I did for a little while. After grad school, I spent 5 years working in non-profits, specifically within the inner-city schools but it was really hard to break into fundraising!
But, working in the field of fundraising was not what Abra thought it was going to be. What she started to learn from working for non-profits is that she did not want to work hard for someone else’s dreams because she had dreams of her own that she wanted to accomplish. Abra quickly realized that if you want to be successful in non-profit work, you need to eat, sleep and breathe the organization that you are working for. Abra knew that she would never pick someone else’s dreams over her own.
[L]: What made you decide to branch out of the non-profit sector?
[A]: I was working hands on in an after-school program because I just knew I needed to have a job and figure out my life. They were doing good work, which is what kept me there for so long; I was doing something that matters. But, I became so burnt out that It became critical for my physical health to do something else. So, at that point, I just kind of jumped ship to anything I could get next. And, with that jump I landed in the for-profit sector and worked there for two years.
[L]: What job did you hold in the for-profit sector?
[A]: Customer relations. The company was really laid back, fun, and low key which was completely the opposite of the non-profits I worked for. And that was good because it was the kind of work that I could go to work and do, and then leave and go home. Which is very, very different from non-profit work where you just take everything home with you. It was a nice break and it allowed me to finally gather my thoughts and decide what I actually wanted to be doing with my life.
[L]: What was the biggest thing you took away from working in the three different areas? What did you learn about yourself?
[A]: Oh boy, um… Probably that the job was not the problem all along, the problem was that I was not focusing on myself. None of those jobs actually fulfilled me and my needs in a career. I just kept having the consistent feeling of unhappiness at all of the jobs because really, I am not cut out for 9-5 Monday-Friday work. That is what I took away from all of it.
About a year and a half ago, when her mom passed away unexpectedly, Abra decided that she was not going to waste any more time and began doing things for herself. She says that losing her mother, her best friend, really shifted her mindset and so she began training to become an internationally certified life coach and started a blog.
[L]: Are life coaching and blogging things that you’ve always wanted to do?
[A]: Yeah, they were always in the back of my mind but things I had just never gotten around to doing. Finally, after my mom died, I got to the point where done was better than perfect, so I just decided to try things out. That was about a year and a half ago, and then my blog evolved into moving forward with She Said Celebrate as a business.
[L]: What gave you the idea for She Said Celebrate? Why the focus on celebrations?
[A]: It really has evolved into what it is now. When I started my blog, I thought that I would just blog about lifestyle things, and that it would be a little more life coach focused. Then, I decided to just go after what brought me the most joy which is helping people have fun together. I realized that when I was the saddest, when I lost my mom, having a room full of people made me feel better. That brought me so much comfort and joy that it is what I decided that I wanted to be doing for others.
[L]: Did you dive head first into this endeavor or did it take some time for you to develop?
[A]: No, it was just a side gig for a year. And then I decided that it would never be more than a side gig if I did not start giving it my full attention. Finally, I decided that it was time to quit my full-time job and figure out how to monetize this business and dive head first into it. And that is literally happening right now. I just left my job two weeks ago!
[L]: You’re finally decided to curate that path for yourself! How did that feel?
[A]: It felt oddly calm. Like, it was definitely scary, but it felt good. I knew in my gut that it was what I had to do; I was definitely ready. Honestly, it was a little sadder than I thought to leave people that I just felt I was starting to get attached to, but at no point did I feel torn. The entire time it felt like the right thing to do.
[L]: Had you thought about resigning before or was this something that you decided to do out of the blue?
I am just a day dreamer. I am always thinking about other opportunities, other options, and what my next steps are; I am always making sure that there is not something else out there. So, it wasn’t like I just woke up one day and decided to quit. I always knew I would end up here, it was just about being confident in making the decision, and confident that I would make it in life after I quit.
[L]: What do you think the next step is for She Said Celebrate? What kinds of events and celebrations do you plan on holding for people?
[A]: The next couple of months will be a lot of initial coffee dates with people. You know, meeting with clients, and making a good first impression with them. Hopefully that will snowball into spending less time trying to find clients and more focused on delivering the clients a great experience. And, I am really open to whatever people want to do. I want to hone in on the ideas that people already have in their head and help them curate them. People have these ideas that they love but they don’t think that they can make happen, but I can take it off their plate and make it happen for them. There are different levels of packages, so there are different levels of support that I give my clients. Whether it’s a birthday party, or a project, or a dinner someone wants to throw for their friends, I want to take the stress of throwing an event off of people and just make it happen for them.
Abra grew up in a large family where celebrations were never-ending and there was always an abundance of food on the table. She often reminisces about how good her mom was at projects, event planning, and design and knows that these are things that are innate in her, as well.
[L]: What is your favorite memory of a celebration from growing up?
[A]: Oh man, it’s really like a 5-way tie! My mom would throw me the best, best, best slumber party birthday parties every year. People would look forward to getting invited to my birthday parties. I had a great birthday party when I was 9—my mom went to the thrift store and got all of these amazing dresses and everyone got to come over and get all glammed up in fancy ball gowns from the thrift store. She had a really fancy dinner with plastic “wine” glasses; it was really just spectacular. Then, one year, I was a dancer in the Nutcracker and my Mom brought some of my friends to Playhouse Square to see me perform. Gosh, one year, we went to the mall and she took all of my friends shopping. She made all of the invitations out of shopping bags; it was always just really over the top. There was always so much attention to detail.
[L]: Do you feel like there was a pivotal moment when you decided that you needed to be blogging about celebrations rather than lifestyle?
[A]: When I was blogging about other things, it kind of felt forced and exhausting. I had to do a lot of soul searching and decide what really makes me the happiest and brings me joy. I had to stop thinking about what other people would think, or if the market was too saturated; I had to leave all of that shit behind and just go for it.
[L]: I feel like that is such a trend with millennials who are getting into their mid-young adult-career. I think people are beginning to say “Screw the man!” and do things for themselves.
[A]: Exactly. It’s just not worth sticking around for something that doesn’t fulfill you in every way. You have to stick around for things that are a “Hell yes!” and realize that if something is not a “Hell yes!” it is a “Hell no!” And that’s it.
[L]: Wow. Yes. That is a part of being brave too. You have to be brave enough to wake up one day and say “Hell no!” to things that don’t fulfill you. What advice would you give someone who wants to make a change and begin to live a life that fulfills them?
[A]: You have to pep-talk yourself every day to remind yourself that you are brave enough to say “Hell no!” You have to flex that brave muscle. It is not something that is automatically strong—you have to work it out.
So, be scared and do it anyway! You are always going to be scared, but so often we look at fear as a negative thing. When really, we should be looking at fear as a guide. Fear can lead us to what is aligned within our souls. Follow your gut and realize that things are going to work out just fine.