How I Made Over My Approach to Life
When her husband was laid off from his six-figure job as a computer systems analyst in 2008, Tangela Ekhoff and her family struggled to make ends meet. Tangela, who has a master's degree in education and had once been a teacher, started cleaning houses, the quickest, easiest work she could get.
"Every time I would come home from a cleaning job, I'd have a funny story to tell my husband," says the mother of one grown child, 23, and two children ages 5 and 4. "Like the one about the client whose father owned a bank and was always bouncing checks or the college professor who always cleaned his house before I came. I used to leave him a sticky note on his glass table that said, 'You missed a spot!'" Her husband kept laughing and said, "You've gotta write this all down."
She did, and in 2009 she began to go to open-mike nights near their home in Montgomery, Alabama. She developed a stand-up act called "The Recession Maid Me Do It" and even performed at a fundraiser for the Montgomery-area Food Bank. Performing made her feel great. "I was right at home onstage, making people laugh," she says.
At the end of 2010, with their financial situation growing worse, the Ekhoffs moved to Oklahoma, where the job prospects seemed better and they could be near her husband's family. Her husband got a job managing a restaurant and Tangela kept working on her comedy. "We decided that one of us should go for the big dream," she says. "Once we lost the house, the car, there was nothing else to lose, so there was no fear. The worst had already happened. It got down to 'Who do you want to be?'"
Now Tangela hits open-mike nights around Tulsa and performs at local clubs. She hones her comedic bits on her website (TangelaEkhoff.com) and keeps working toward her big break. She now knows that "failure doesn't mean the end."
"I cleaned houses," she says. "Intellectually, that's the worst thing I could do. I'm descended from slaves and from a grandmother who scrubbed floors for a dollar; cleaning houses seemed to dash the hopes of all those women who came before me. But I did something creative with the fact that I cleaned houses. I took it and turned it around."
Tangela's Makeover Tips
Put your dream out there:Telling others what you want to accomplish helps you push yourself forward and hold yourself accountable.
Discipline yourself:In between taking care of her family and her home, Tangela spends at least two hours a day writing jokes, refining her routine and contacting comedy clubs to try to get gigs.
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