Stride Stories: She jokes about being a self-employed, single mother of four
Stride: Twyla, you’re a 9-5 worker turned creative, tell us your story.
Twyla: I’m a 44-year-old divorcee and a mother of four, originally from Chester, Pennsylvania. I got my masters in organization management then worked a 9-5 most of my life, with mediocre results. After my last company restructured, I decided it was time to give my creative side a go – I moved to Los Angeles about five years ago, and am a young comedian and aspiring writer.
Stride: What was mediocre about your 9-5 career? And how did you take the leap to pursuing your creative passions?
Twyla: I was the first person in my family to go to a 4-year institution, inspired by my grandmother who was a nurse. Unfortunately, I burnt out on the health care track and picked a degree I could finish the fastest – political science. I became a mom right after college, and after a 20-year uphill corporate battle, I hit a wall in 2013. I stopped caring about achieving some level of success, and started caring about achieving peace of mind – finding a way to wear all the hats that I have to wear as a mom. Freelancing seemed like the natural way to do that.
Stride: Coming into this interview, I assumed life as a freelance-mom would be harder than that of a structured corporate-mom. But it sounds like that hasn’t been the case for you?
Twyla: Right. I have way more flexibility than when I was working 9-5. Also, the 9-5 drained me of my creativity, so now I choose part-time gigs allow me to be present for my kids. As a single mom, flexibility is key… I don’t have someone I can call on to help with the kids.
Stride: When you transitioned from the corporate world into the freelance world, how did you get by?
Twyla: I had no idea what I was going to do when I left my job. When my severance money began to dwindle, I found several non-corporate ways to stay in LA. I drove Uber for awhile. Currently, I work in quality assurance for a startup, and I grade the writing portion of a standardized test for the California Dept. of Education. I work 7 days a week, but I enjoy these jobs and they afford me the flexibility to pursue comedy and writing. That’s the tradeoff, you have to make a sacrifice to pursue things that aren’t traditional.
Stride: Wow, that’s quiet a hustle. How’s the comedy gig going?
Twyla: The comedy is actually going well. When I first moved here, I traveled the comedy circuit very heavily and got to know some national-known comedians and no-name comedians. It’s been fun to see how we’ve all progressed. I’m not aspiring to be the next female Kevin Hart, but I can grasp an audience as a parent and a single mom. That’s my branding, what I’m working towards growing [sigh]. It’s a journey! [laughs].
Stride: How do you get funnier?
Twyla: [laughs] Through my struggles! My struggles, for sure [laughs]. Comedians are funny because of the very painful moments in life they’ve endured. I somehow find a sarcastic way to say “why am I not surprised this is happening to me?”
Stride: Do you feel like you seek struggle?
Twyla: Do I seek it?! No! [laughs]. I could never struggle again and that’d be great. But some of the most successful people have a major struggle before they make it big. It’s about being committed to your passion, that’s what will carry me to the next level.
Stride: What’s your go-to joke or genre you focus on?
Twyla: That would be my kids [laughs]. Comedy isn’t so much about how to be funny, it’s learning how to construct your material. Find your lane, and stay in that lane. Talking about family and kids, that’s universal, something everyone can relate to. My four children have reached the age where we can communicate, which really makes things interesting.
Stride: You’ve talked about writing. What are you working on?
Twyla: I’m working on a memoir, which will be my first time writing anything of length. I feel I have an inspirational story for other single women, or people who want to break free from whatever has been holding them back from their true purpose.
Stride: Are there specific obstacles you’ve overcome that you would like to talk about?
Twyla: Back in 2009, before I moved to LA, my 2nd husband and I separated. I was in between jobs, and I found myself without a vehicle (in a rural place) for the first time in my adult life. I sank into a really deep depression. It was like I laid down one day and didn’t wake up for 9 months. A deep fog. Nine months later, I looked in the mirror and I was 100 pounds lighter. I had literally lost 100 pounds in less than a year just from being depressed. At that moment, I realized I was dying and had to do something drastic. That is what prompted me to reinvent myself and come to LA.
Stride: That’s really intense, most people never go through anything like that.
Twyla: Yeah. And when we moved to LA, we didn’t have a car… I was riding the train and staying with a friend. We progressed from that to a one bedroom, then a two bedroom with a pool. Then I got a car. And it’s just been a steady progression of doing better. It’s been exciting, and I’m hopeful we’ll have a rags to riches story.
Stride: What’s the hardest part about being a freelancer and a mom?
Twyla: With the memoir, it’s finding the time and space to allow my mind to freely reflect on the events I’m writing about. I may have planned to spend a couple of hours writing and then dinner has to be cooked, or something happened at school that I have to attend to.
Stride: Will you encourage your children to become freelancers like yourself?
Twyla: That’s a hard question, it’s not for everyone. I would encourage them to pursue a career doing whatever makes them happy. I believe a college education is good to have as a fallback, but my goal is to build our family business to a point where it can be self-sustaining for us all.
Stride: So how did you find Stride?
Twyla: Through Uber. I was down to the deadline for the Obamacare enrollment when the email came through from Uber. Within a matter of minutes I was enrolled – it was really great and easy.
Stride: What’s the biggest health problem in America?
Twyla: Being able to afford quality foods. That and food education… there’s so much information about the safety of food – where it’s coming from and what it’s being injected with. A lot of people fall into chronic health issues because they simply can’t afford to purchase quality foods. Income is a factor, but also time – it’s so easy to stop at McDonald’s because you’re exhausted after working all day.
Stride: Any advice for people who are thinking about going out on their own, or are already out there?
Twyla: Responsible people often want to create a perfect environment when taking a new risk or exploring something. But you can’t wait until all the conditions align to take action. If you want to achieve any level of greatness, or self-fulfillment, you have to condition your mind that you’ll face a struggle. You have to be willing to take the risk because you believe in yourself. You’re going to find your way.