CEDAR RAPIDS — Lauren Beaumont was achieving the dream of a lot Midwestern kids.
Within a few years of completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Iowa, the Iowa City native had already lived on both coasts in destination cities, overcame obstacles and landed a good job in her chosen field. But something didn’t feel right.
“My career was going so well,” said Beaumont, 31. “I loved my apartment. I loved my roommates. I loved the energy of the city. But long term, could I imagine hauling a stroller down subway stairs? Could I expend all my vacation coming home? And, then there was the feeling when I came back that this is great.”
At the time, Beaumont was living in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, N.Y., and working for a digital marketing agency called Huge Inc.
She had bounced between jobs. She’d been laid off. She struggled. She once tried to make ends meet through amateur boxing. She relished being “uncomfortable,” she said. Others had seen in her a problem solver as a mathematician and a gritty attitude that would help her persevere regardless of the setting.
Flash back nine years and the former City High School student was graduating from the UI, where scholarships appealed more than spending $40,000 to $50,000 a year to attend more prestigious schools to which she qualified.
Beaumont then crammed into one year a two-year graduate program pairing topology — a mathematical discipline — with teaching at Columbia University in New York. She moved to Durham, N.C., to teach middle school math but was laid off within a year.
She was passed over for service jobs because her resume revealed her other passions, but she eventually caught on as an administrative assistant at the University of North Carolina. She could start looking to the future, she said.
“I had felt like a failure, but then I felt like I got my footing back, and I started thinking, ‘What’s next?’” she said.
She used all of her savings to relocate to San Francisco to join a startup called Chute, a visual branding company. Due to its pay cycle, Beaumont again found herself broke and unable to make rent. This time she turned to boxing, a hobby of hers.
She entered and won a competition at a biker bar in East Oakland, but the promoters gave her $300 rather than the promised purse of $3,000, Beaumont said. Instead of challenging the “big dude in a Hell’s Angels jacket,” she took the money and decided she’d talk to her employer about an advance if such a situation arose in the future.
After two years, though she thought San Francisco was nice, she realized it wasn’t where she wanted to live, so she volunteered to help Chute start a satellite office in New York and eventually left to join Huge.
Things were going as well as they could, but she felt a calling to move back home to Iowa. She didn’t have a family of her own to raise yet, which is often cited as a reason people return to their hometowns, but she did have family here, and the pace of life clicked for her.
Plus, she wanted to branch out as a freelancer. She could do that from anywhere, and the lower cost of living in Iowa proved enticing, she said.
In Iowa since 2016, she still contracts for Huge, as well as other organizations such as Apple, Chevron and NASA, and works full time as a data analyst at Geonetric in Cedar Rapids, which she said she enjoys because she works with a team and it’s in a focused industry.
“I feel like I’ve been bopping around every two years, and this is the first time I really felt engaged in a community,” she said, noting she serves on the Riverside Theatre board, volunteers with the Iowa Women’s Foundation and has a community of biking friends. “I think people don’t realize, there’s lot of opportunities for someone my age personally and professionally.
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“It’s a good place to raise a family. There’s good public schools here. There’s a lot that’s just easier. Traffic is easier. Parking is easy. At the same time, you get elements of things I loved in Brooklyn — local wine and cheese shop, local dive bar, local restaurant, local theaters, and you can do it for less than the $500 it would cost in New York.”
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