Storyteller-in-chief: Katie Yellig

The co-owner of Portland's Broth Bar narrates her career path: from Coca-Cola to cutting edge local foodie.

In my twenties, I prioritized travel and love. If I wanted to learn about a city, I moved there. If I was in love, it consumed me. I was always on the go, taking contract work in everything from venture capital to being a professional matchmaker.

Because I’ve suffered headaches and migraines since I was young, my health was always a challenge, and my gypsy lifestyle took its toll on my health, landing me in a clinic with a weeklong migraine. What I needed I decided, was to be an adult. But what being an adult meant to me at that time was still hectic; it was just wrapped in another package.Storyteller 2

I went to graduate school and was recruited into a competitive corporate development program with Coca-Cola. The program was two-and-half year rotations that were anything but routine. After over five years of graduate school and the corporate development program, my body was destroyed. I was living on soda and whatever was in the vending machine.

When I graduated from the program, I transferred to San Diego. Right after the move, I decided to go on a Hawaiian vacation with a friend. On Maui for her birthday, I woke up the first morning and paced the beach, stressing about emails that I had sent and wondering if people would finish the tasks I had asked them to complete.

I stressed myself out so badly that I ended up in the ER with the worst migraine I had ever had. Both my friend, who is a doctor, and the ER doctor were concerned I was having a brain aneurism. Many scans and pain pills later, I was finally calm. The doctor gave me a good talking to about my stress levels, and my friend continued the conversation.

I’m grateful that she did. Her biggest concern was that she didn’t even recognize me. I had become overweight and so stressed that it was affecting my quality of life and happiness. I didn’t want that to be my life anymore. I was on the road five days a week or more, eating garbage food, living on caffeine and pain pills, and for what? I could be dead before I turned 32 (a few months away), and my company would have a perfectly executed new performance improvement plan for the West Coast.

When I returned from Hawaii, I talked to my sister, and she told me it was too painful to watch me slowly killing myself, and maybe next time it really would be an aneurism. I had never considered the toll my decisions were having on my friends and family, and it was even harder to wrap my head around the fact that working too hard could be a form of self-abuse.

That’s when I decided to make some major life changes. My sister, Tressa, had been running a traditional foods business for six years, working to help people like me. I told her I was exhausted and didn’t even feel like myself anymore.

I promised that if she found a location to expand her business and take it to the next level, I would leave my corporate job to partner with her, giving her needed support in her business and me a chance to recover. A few months later, she found the location for Broth Bar, and by April I was in Portland full time.

Since last year, I’ve made some enormous strides. My headaches and migraines are fewer and far between. This is a stark contrast to waking up everyday in Orange County and taking painkillers just to function. I drink bone broth every day, prioritize working out, can manage my stress because I now work for myself, take weekends and have free time.

I find my new work rewarding because I get to help people like me every day, which has helped me regain a sense of purpose. I’m happy to get to work, even if it’s cold and raining. I have a sense of humor again. Until I changed my lifestyle, I never noticed how much those past decisions had negatively affected my mental health and happiness.

Now I have a much better idea of what success looks like for me. I don’t have a perfect body, but I love the way I look. I don’t have a fancy corporate title or cozy stock options, but I have enough — and time for the rest of my life. Hard work and sacrifice are not always a guarantee of success, especially if it doesn’t include your health. Success to me now places my health first, followed by living a well-rounded life. I’ve learned that to be successful, success has to be sustainable.

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Sisters Katie and Tressa Yellig are the co-owners of Broth Bar in Portland

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