Editor’s note: This is one in a series of profiles in the Humans of Wausau series, which is funded in part through a grant from the B. A. & Esther Greenheck Foundation. Follow the Humans of Wausau Facebook page here.

By Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot & Review

Kayla Hopp. Photo by Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot & Review

Kayla Hopp, 25

Q: Where are you originally from?

A: I’m from Wisconsin Rapids, but have also lived in Stevens Point. I was attending school at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) for Psychology and Social Work. I didn’t graduate at the time because I didn’t want to go to school there anymore. I currently live in Weston.

What do you currently do for a living?

I’m an Underground Utility Locator; if someone wants to dig in their yard, they call 811 to have us come in.

811? That’s awfully close to 911.

I have a story about that; one day, I was going to restart my phone and for iPhone users, there is a power off slide and a separate call 911 slide -I accidentally called 911, panicked, and hung up. They called me back asking my name and if I was in trouble. I told them that it was an accident for calling them.

Is this your dream career or do you have something else you’re working towards?

It’s not a bad job, but it’s not my dream career. My dream career is working with juvenile delinquents. Whether that is a juvenile detention officer or a probation parole officer for juveniles; anyone that needs help.

What made you choose this profession?

I’ve always wanted to help people. The movies “Dangerous Minds” or “Freedom Writers” also influenced me. Michelle Pfeiffer in “Dangerous Minds” intrigued me in the way she went in the classroom and helped kids in bad situations and assisted them in overcoming difficulties. My ideal job would be a Correctional Officer at a juvenile detention center.

If you had to give advice to anyone, what would it be?

If it is something fun to you; if you like being goofy in public or private, but worried that someone will judge you, no one actually cares. People often wish they could be more like you in that sense and be more outgoing and comfortable with themselves to be able to do those things. Be yourself no matter where you are because in the long run, people aren’t judging you and would rather be more goofy like you.

What made you come upon this realization?

It’s not that I was ever shy, but there’s a lot of things I missed out on in high school. I wish I would have participated in Drama or other things that I thought people would judge me for. I look back and think, “Why didn’t I do that?” I make up for it now and am goofy all the time and don’t care where I am; I’m loud and it’s okay. It’s okay because most of the time I’m making people laugh and that’s what matters.

What was one of the hardest moments of your life and why?

This is something I’ve recently started coming out about, but before the relationship I am in now with my girlfriend, I had a boyfriend who wasn’t particularly nice to me. He was very abusive and I think getting out of that through some of the physical things such as being choked or given a broken jaw made me realize that’s not how a relationship should be and was hard to break the ties. Once I broke the ties, everything was good. I was happier with myself because I never thought that situation was one I would ever allow myself to be in, but the saying, “love is blind” is real because when you’re in love with someone, you don’t want to give up on them. You think you might be able to help them through those situations, but they take advantage of you because of it.

How were you able to get out of that relationship?

He ended up breaking up with me and it felt like the end of the world. I thought no one would want to be with me because that’s how it makes you feel and makes you feel unworthy. At the moment, you don’t think you want anything different or better; you just want what you had because it’s what you’re used to no matter the repercussions of it.

What did you learn about yourself from that situation?

I am a lot stronger than I thought I was. I never thought I would be able to financially live by myself and support myself in my own apartment or home. I worked the jobs needed to keep afloat and get the things I wanted and successfully proved myself wrong.

How did that relationship change you?

I don’t put up with anything from anybody anymore. I don’t let others take advantage of me or let someone think they can treat me badly because I did it once and never want to do it again.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

I’ve been racing BMX since I was 10 or 11 years old and is my most physical hobby. My job keeps me pretty busy, but I also love to play bar league volleyball and would like to get into softball. I love being active, but also love doing my make-up and learning different techniques to do. It’s something that has evolved in me and some may not see it as a hobby, but there are times I’ve done make-up for others for their wedding and gotten compensated for it. I love hanging out at home with mine and my girlfriend’s crazy zoo we have.

What was one good and one bad moment of BMX racing?

A good one wouldn’t necessarily have to do with a race, but I’ve been to a lot of states and been as far south as Tennessee and far west as California including everything in between. Traveling and meeting a lot of professionals was fun. I have a lot of flyers signed from pros; it was great to meet them all. We had a pro spectacular in Oshkosh and if you were in it, you were able to autograph things for little kids while sitting next to the pros. Being able to race with the pros is awesome; being up at the gate with them is a whole different kind of racing. The worst memory I have from racing is when I broke my arm; I was about 14 years old and was down in Missouri. I was on the last go-around to be able to qualify and I came unclipped out of the gate and had to catch back up. I caught back up and went from last place to first coming out of the first corner, but when another girl and I came out of the obstacle from the first corner, we locked elbows and I was far enough in front of her that when I went over my handlebars, she landed on my back. I stuck my arms out straight and broke my right arm badly enough to where I had a compound fracture where my bone was poking out of my arm. I lost 3 ½ pints of blood laying on the track and lost another pint on the way to the hospital because it was a half hour drive from where we were to Kansas City. They were struggling to keep me conscious so I wasn’t passing out on them. The surgery took 7 ½ hours because they had to put two plates and 14 screws in my arm. They ended up taking one of the screws out that went down my elbow and the screw itself was 7 inches long.

What are your favorite memories from living here?

Going from Rapids to Wausau, there’s so much more to do here. My girlfriend and I always have a good time going axe throwing or going to Wausau on the Water (WOW) because it’s something different to do; the variety in Wausau is nice. Before I lived here, I would go to Rib Mountain to snowboard and now will walk to the top because it’s so pretty to overlook the city. Being at the top is so quiet, peaceful, and having the ability to overlook the highways is relaxing.

What’s your favorite quote?

It’s by Socrates and I remember hearing it when I was at UWSP in my Philosophy class. I’m not sure how I felt about the class because it made me question my own existence and it freaked me out, but the quote stuck with me because it opened my eyes to the fact that I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. I keep the quote with me because you can always afford to learn no matter your age or degree because there’s always something more to learn. You can learn something from the CEO of a company or a janitor because they both have their own set of knowledge that can potentially help you. The quote is, “I know that I’m intelligent because I know that I know nothing.” Out of all the things I think I know, there’s one million other things I can learn. Someone who is wise is someone who is willing to keep their brain open to what the world can show them rather than being closed off to new ideas. People in the world are always changing and if you’re wise enough to take that in and actually appreciate it for what it is, then you are an intelligent and wise person.

Do you have a hidden talent?

I can eat super fast. I could eat a full plate of food in less than five minutes. I could eat four pieces of French toast with hash browns in about three minutes and take really big bites.

Have you ever considered being in the hot dog eating contest?

Absolutely not because I can’t eat a whole lot, but can eat fast. What motivates you each day?I’m motivated by being a better person than I was the day before. I want to be kinder and help others more each day. My girlfriend has been a big inspiration because I know we have the same dreams and knowing that I have someone who has the same dreams, makes me want to work towards them.

Kayla Hopp. Photo by Kelli Oligney for Wausau Pilot & Review

What was one of the hardest time-frames in your life and why?

When I was in my abusive relationship because there were a lot of moments of “Why do I put myself through this?” Between the ages of 22 to 24 were difficult because I realized I should not have dealt with my relationship for that long and he did things to me emotionally. At the age of 23, I realized I was gay and making the adjustment after the realization was hard. There were so many things growing up that I look back on and make me think, “Oh, that’s why I wasn’t quite like the other girls in my class.” Being from Rapids isn’t super small, but small enough to where being gay wasn’t the most accepted thing and was hard because there aren’t many gay people there. There were some people after I came out that told me I wasn’t gay and was just hurt after my breakup and that wasn’t true. It was learning to accept myself because all that time I thought I was straight, but actually liked girls and it’s a whole new population to date and get to know how to date them. Being a girl doesn’t mean you know how to date a girl.