Stressful deadlines, weekly and sometimes daily meetings, squishing our toes into high heels and our waistlines into dull office apparel…all to become reliant on task management software just to stay afloat. Our immediate female predecessors fought for our egalitarian right to work alongside men, but not all women enjoy the grueling work-life balance.
Meet Jake Keiser. Her fast-paced lifestyle as a PR-maven was the envy of any young media professional. After all, who could argue with mulling over a closet full of luxury items like Prada, Chanel, and Fendi before rolling out to the Tampa social scene, drinking top-shelf cocktails, and attending glamorous black-tie events?
On the outside, Jake played her part flawlessly. On the inside, though, Jake’s emotions were an entirely different story. The inner turmoil she dealt with on the daily was mentally and physically overwhelming. Demanding clients caused her anxiety, and deep-rooted trauma from molestation, rape, and miscarriages left her feeling hopelessly lost.
To cope with the emotional toll this lifestyle was having on her, Jake would secretly open up her laptop and browse MyPetChicken.com to escape to her dream of slow living on a farm. With her memoir out soon titled Daffodil Hill: Uprooting My Life, Buying a Farm, and Learning to Bloom, named after her Mississippi farm, we chatted with Jake about her authentic, vulnerable testimony of going from city to country with zero farm experience. Spoiler alert: it might just leave you inspired to break free from your comfort zone too.
Hard at Work Yet Hardly Thriving
Cost of living is rising, and at the same time, more young couples are delaying marriage and parenthood. Whether their careers are the sole reason for pushing back what was once a common, almost expected, rite of passage into adulthood, our culture has become innately obsessed with the paycheck rather than the partnership and parenthood payoff.
For Jake, the paycheck came with strings attached. As a publicist, her clients expected exposure, adoration, admiration, and massaged egos. She began to feel inauthentic, as though her raison d’être was to spread socially acceptable propaganda. Jake fell deeper down the rabbit hole, reading all about the manipulative tactics championed by the PR industry and the teachings of the “father of public relations” Edward Bernays, famously known to say things like “Whatever of social importance is done today, whether in politics, finance, manufacture, agriculture, charity, education, or other fields, must be done with the help of propaganda. Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible government.”
She couldn’t take it any longer and started questioning all areas of her life. Jake felt inspired to reclaim herself from any propaganda that comes with modern living.
“I reevaluated my own preferences, beliefs, behaviors, and relationships...even small things like what I ate and drank. It became a very liberating exercise that allowed me to be more authentic and enjoy time spent by myself. I highly recommend it,” she said. “The process of reviewing these things and taking action to change them helped me trust my own counsel and there's a tremendous amount of power in that.”
“I reevaluated my own preferences, beliefs, behaviors, and relationships. It became a very liberating exercise that allowed me to be more authentic.”
With the help of her step-mother, Jake took a leap of faith, and upon finding a small Mississippi farm, she bought the property and said goodbye to her glamorous life. But as a lifelong urbanite, Jake admitted that adjusting to a rural lifestyle was no simple task.
The Culture Shock of Moving from Tampa Pageantry to Pastoral Mississippi
Her new farmhouse was nothing like her tidy, modern Tampa apartment of the past. It had moth-eaten carpeting, low and stained popcorn ceilings, an outdated paint job, and sparse landscaping on the outside, but according to Jake, it commanded her attention, grabbed her soul, and set her mind free.
Every day brought forth a new learning curve. Friendly faces questioned her about which church she was a part of, making her confront the trauma surrounding her miscarriage that led to her loss of faith.
Jake experienced her first miscarriage at age 29 on Christmas Eve, but her body held on to the dead baby for a whole week. The mental exhaustion of dealing with an unsupportive, abusive partner coupled with the physical experience of miscarrying on New Year’s Eve left her with paralyzing grief. The deep, internal self-criticism Jake felt as a result made her doubt whether or not she could sustain life on the farm.
“Now with my farm animals rapidly accumulating…I started to question myself,” Jake admits in her book. “If I couldn’t keep my own children alive, what made me think I could care for others? I was biologically programmed to bring life into the world and yet had failed at the simplest of tasks.”
Crying Over Spilled Milk
Like with her PR job, where at times she might have felt underqualified to take on certain client’s projects, accomplishing her dream of raising goats also required a push to pull something off she had no experience in doing – yet that provided all the right motivation.
Jake’s biggest hurdle came with milking Maybelle, her goat who had just had kids. Her hands weren’t used to the challenge and Maybelle’s attitude was anything but compliant.
“Throughout the process, I completely understood why someone would cry over spilled milk,” Jake writes. “In fact, I had cried several times out of frustration after having milk thrown onto my crotch. I felt I was failing both of us. This was not how I envisioned my farm life.”
Yet with pluck and perseverance, Jake was able to hone her goat milking skills to the extent that she could quite literally take baths in the amount of milk she worked for.
“So, following Cleopatra’s rumored milk bath rituals, I actually did take a bath in it,” Jake shared. “Eating freshly made caramel sauce straight from the jar while bathing in warm goat milk…It was the epitome of farm indulgence, and in that moment, I truly felt like I was living the dream.”
So what’s the daily routine? First things first: no more alarm clocks. Those of us who have a visceral reaction to the factory-setting iPhone alarm – which some folks bafflingly choose to use as their ringtone – are forever envious. Jake shared that her day begins with roosters crowing, turkeys gobbling, and her goats yelling for her to come feed them.
Goat feeding and garden watering out of the way, she flows freely through whatever other tasks she needs to accomplish. And yes, a self-proclaimed type-A girl through and through, she still uses daily to-do lists but is just less rigid about her schedule than before.
“I haven’t stepped foot in a gym since I moved and yet my body hasn’t changed much,” shared Jake about how her health has improved drastically since her move. “My water doesn't have fluoride, my air doesn't smell of rubber and exhaust, and there's no noise pollution. I started using products with fewer ingredients and am fairly mindful of what I eat.”
Though many of the goals checked off of Jake’s mental list were related to the farm itself and the number of animals in her care, Jake expressed that the most unexpected, yet rewarding part about her move was that she could finally live without debilitating anxiety.
“It was my constant companion before the move and, to this day, I’m still amazed that it’s gone,” she confessed.
Saying Good Riddance to Girlboss
Looking back over her life, Jake admitted that the hustle culture – which is trendy among young professionals now – both personally and professionally failed to consistently lift her up. Instead, hustling made her feel the need to compete, and as a result, her nerves were often shot. While working in the time-sensitive field of publicity, Jake didn’t allow herself to have much in the way of boundaries and checked emails throughout vacations instead of enjoying herself. To her, at the time, not being available wasn’t an option.
“It actually meant I lost much of my enjoyment in life,” Jake said. “And I can’t get that time back.”
We’re programmed by the media to embrace the bossbabe grind with the promise that we’ll feel most fulfilled if we’re at the top of our career game. As time has shown us, however, setting up the girlboss as the expectation actually leaves women burnt out, overworked, and for some, suicidal.
She “lost her mind” in her own, paradoxically positive way, and found her heart and “a powerful new person emerging.”
“People can do what they want but, as a woman who made executive level by the age of 27, it was a great ego boost but ultimately it wasn’t very fulfilling,” shared Jake, admitting that this opinion might not necessarily be popular in today’s culture.
The beauty of life at Daffodil Hill was a result of Jake’s life experiences causing her a severe case of fight-or-flight. Jake stayed quiet about her move to farm life for years in an effort to guard her current self from her past, but once she opened up on social media, she received an outpouring of support. Her public reentrance wasn’t immune to criticism from past connections who thought she “lost her mind,” but Jake embraced the critique, realizing that perhaps she lost her mind in her own, paradoxically positive way, but on the journey she found her heart and discovered “a powerful new person emerging.”
Though farm life is certainly not the right match for each and every one of us – even Jake admits she didn’t feel as though she was initially cut out for it – her story of thriving in her vibrant farm life after leaving the corporate grind is an inspiration to reject the pervasive notion that all women are cut out for being a bossbabe. Perhaps we are needlessly suffering to squeeze into a size of shoe we don’t necessarily fit into.
This might not mean relocating to a farm, since we all have unique situations that might keep us tied to one particular geographic location or vocation, but for young ladies who are on the fence about continuing their desk jobs, Jake gave the following words of encouragement.
“It’s important to ask questions and listen to your own responses,” she said. “Why am I doing this? What makes me happy? What parts of my job/career are fulfilling? What isn't and can I change it? Nothing in life is perfect so make sure to be honest but realistic. If your job or career is ruining your entire life – like it did mine, thanks to constant anxiety – then it's time for a change.”
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