“You can’t confuse what you do for a living and what you do for money. You have to figure out how to sustain yourself. I realized that my PhD was no longer directly tied to my purpose and that I no longer had to find a job of that magnitude to feel okay.”
For many, there comes a point in your life where you have to make the important decision of defining your passion and following it. Regardless of how much training, education or background you have to support whatever this may be, for some, it’s simply creative freedom to do whatever it is you want to do when you want to do it. A recent survey from Deloitte discovered that two-thirds of millennials express a desire to leave their organization by 2020. Enter 29-year old Dr. Rhea Perkins. In September 2014, her life would change for the better, or so she thought. Just months away from completing her dissertation, she decided to quit her job with no back-up plan. She was forced with a decision to choose happiness over complacency. It’s a very common predicament that post-graduation leaves many millennials feeling while in the pursuit of happiness. But Rhea Perkins wasn’t your typical student. She was just shy of completing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Research from LSU. “I completed the degree because initially I wanted to have a high ranking position at a university. At one point, I wanted to be president…so I knew I needed the degree.”
Just two chapters shy of completing her dissertation, she accepted a job in Atlanta. The job provided free housing, unknowingly in exchange for her sanity. “The position felt like a 24-hour position and I didn’t like that. It didn’t fit my lifestyle.” Once she realized that this position wasn’t a good for her spirit, she quit. “I quit. I went in on a Friday, it was about 7:30pm and we were still working. Thankfully, my father taught me to save at a young age. I am a penny pincher, so I felt comfortable quitting.” But people usually quit jobs with the expectation that something better will come along eventually. After all, she was barely two months into this new position. For Perkins, this eventually didn’t happen until months and months of difficult times. Even with a PhD, she found herself working a couple of odd-end jobs well below her pay grade. One, in particular as a waitress only lasted a few days. “I didn’t find a job as quickly as I thought I would. February, March, April went by. Time was passing. I was running out of savings and getting very, very discouraged. By this time I had graduated, with a degree, and only a few years professional experience, but still good experience. Applying to jobs became a full-time job in itself. It became extremely depressing and I stopped for a while. Maybe I’m not supposed to be working right now. I wasn’t sure what that was, but I prayed for direction.” Perkins, very in tune with her spirituality, knew that something would come eventually, but she didn’t know when, and that it would happen when she least expected it.
She tells the story of how she discovered her passion. “One Sunday I ran with a running group in Atlanta. While I was running, I was listening to my pastor in Louisiana. I had not yet found a church home, so I would still listen to Bethany’s messages. While I was running, “and I don’t remember exactly what he was saying” but I thought it was very applicable to my relationship with my boyfriend at the time. I was talking to him about what I was listening to, and he asked, “Why were you listening to that and not music?” I like how my soul feels when I listen to a spiritual message. But I also liked how I feel when I did more physically than I thought I could. I liked to listen to good messages while I’m working out, because I liked how it made me feel.” This would lead to the launch of Fitual Lifestyle. She would develop a concept that incorporated both her faith and something she was passionate about. FITUAL is a growing movement that promotes spiritual growth, strengthens physical ability, and cultivates relationships. Its approach uses faith as a platform to ensure that you leave feeling physically energized and spiritually reinvigorated..“I started to dread the idea of going into work, asking someone if I could take the day off and go on vacation. Why should I have to ask somebody for my time? So, seeing other people living like that inspired me. That’s when I really started to question purpose. Since that day I came home from running, Fitual has always been a concept that I’ve constantly been thinking about. That’s really how Fitual started.” The name has a concept that aligns directly with how Perkins describes her purpose. “I was in the grocery store, rambling off random names and “Fitual Lifestyle” came out. I liked the play on fitness and spirituality. Lifestyle, because I really would like for this type of fitness to become someone’s lifestyle.”
Before launching however, Perkins had no business experience and has really learned everything from doing without fear of failure. She described her journey of entrepreneurship. “Trying to figure everything out. Thinking I had everything together, and finding out I forgot something. Having an LLC, and even considering having an employee identification process. Not people that I have to supervise, but people that “I” would have to pay. What am I going to do about providing benefits?” Despite describing marketing as one of her biggest challenges, Perkins says that the city of Atlanta has been extremely supportive thus far in her entrepreneurial pursuit. “Even though I didn’t do things on my end in terms of marketing, Atlanta has been extremely supportive. Because the city has many young entrepreneurs, a lot of people try to support each other. Here, the idea of entrepreneurship is very realistic.” While the journey has certainly been a roller coaster for Perkins, she offers very sound advice for those considering starting their own business, or considering a major career change. “You can’t confuse what you do for a living and what you do for money. You have to figure out how to sustain yourself. I realized that my PhD was no longer directly tied to my purpose and that I no longer had to find a job of that magnitude to feel okay.” For now, Fitual has two types of classes, Fitual Yoga and Fitual Bootcamps. You can find more information at Fitual Lifestyle on all social media. Fitual Lifestyle’s classes start as low as $10. If you are in the Atlanta area, or know of someone who might be interested in joining Fitual, you can find more information here.
Mike “Orie” Mosley is a freelance writer/photographer and cultural advocate from St. Louis. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Arts, Entertainment & Media Management from Columbia College Chicago and a Masters in Higher Education Administration from LSU. He is also the co-founder of music and culture website www.theconscioustip.com. In his spare time, he’s probably listening to hip hop & neo soul music, hitting up brunch or caught up in deep conversations about Black music. You can follow him on Twitter @mike_orie or on Instagram @mikeorie