Reinventing for the Soul

Do you ever wish your career were more, well, meaningful? These women found new jobs that pay the bills—and also enrich their lives.

by Andrea Atkins
“In my previous career, I wasn’t nurturing the best in myself,” says Brenner, owner of Women of the Vine. “Now I feel connected to the land and the seasons.”
Photograph: Dustin Aksland

In October 2009, Jacobs negotiated a part-time arrangement with her boss so she’d have a steady income while expanding her painting and glass-art career. She also began living more frugally. “I used to buy a lot of things to plug my anxiety and insecurity,” she says. In 2010, together with another artist, she rented a studio in Sacramento and started selling her paintings and glass art directly to the public. “I felt alive and directed,” she says. By 2011 she’d sold about half of the 150 abstract paintings she’d created, mostly acrylic on canvas and heavy watercolor paper, pulling in about $14,000. At the end of the year she quit her job, and now manages a few properties on a freelance basis.

For 2012, Jacobs has set a target income from her art of $50,000. Six stores and galleries in the Sacramento area now carry her art. She has set up a website, Coming​Abstractions​.com, and has just signed a licensing deal with, an art retailer. “I wake up at 6:30 in the morning with a smile and jump out of bed,” she says. “In the past, I would drag myself
out at 8 o’clock. Making art and creating beautiful things is the most soul-satisfying thing I have ever done. When someone purchases my work, I feel so happy. To think it can make money is a bonus.”



From |  Sales Executive

To |  Nonprofit Fund Raiser

As far back as 1972, when she was a freshman at Howard University, Debi Harris had the heart of a philanthropist. She joined Delta Sigma Theta, the largest African-American sorority in the country. “I committed to a lifetime of community service,” she says. “And I took that pledge to heart.” After graduating, she began what would become a successful career as a sales and marketing executive, and in her free time, she volunteered for her sorority, helping to raise money for its scholarship programs. Eventually, she became a sales manager at Sprint Wireless, in San Francisco. “I worked to earn money so that I could do the things I enjoyed, and part of my enjoyment was giving back,” she says.

From the outside, Harris’s life looked perfect: $125,000 in annual income in 1999, plus bonuses and benefits, a house in the Bay Area and a new wardrobe every season. But inside, “I was tired,” she says. “My mother had passed away, and there was nobody to be proud of me anymore. I was working just to keep up. I said to myself, You need to feel better about what you’re doing.”

She quit her job in 2000 and moved to Paris to start a company providing Afrocentric tours of the city. A year later, Harris returned to San Francisco, only to discover that an economic downturn had eliminated even those jobs she’d begun to dislike before leaving for France. She became a freelance marketing consultant to pay the bills.

Originally published in the April 2012 issue

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