Hear more of Q. Johnson’s story, told by Q., on an upcoming episode of the What’s Next ATL podcast. Subscribe now.

Close your eyes and think, “tractor-trailer driver.”

Who do you picture? If you said, “a tough older guy,” you wouldn’t be off the mark. Truckers have a hard job which requires some resiliency. Moreover, 94 percent of truck drivers are men, with an average age of 55. As another point of trivia, most truck drivers are white.

None of these describe Q. Johnson. Except maybe the tough part.

As a commercial truck driver, the 32-year-old hauls clothing, flat-screen TVs, and building materials all over the country, and she loves it. She especially likes the financial freedom. After a life of working in retail and desk-jobs, she made this career change early in 2018, and it’s tripled her income.

Normally, driving training can be expensive and take months to complete—but Johnson found an intensive three-week training course. Even better, she discovered a federally-funded program operated by WorkSource Atlanta Regional that pays the cost of training for in-demand fields like truck driving. (Healthcare and IT are two other fields in incredibly high demand these days.)

Here’s what Q. Johnson had to say during a recent conversation about life on the road, and how she balances that life with her designated family title: “Supermom.”

It’s a big sacrifice—but it’s worth it. Now I can say, “You can have some of your wants, and all of your needs met.”

On making it work financially

[Before this job,] I can honestly say that I have no clue how I sustained a household that cost $1,500 every month when I was only making, like, $950. I was always robbing Peter to pay Paul.

On organizing her life as a mother who’s on the road for most of the week

I have a village! The kids’ father, my sisters, my nieces, neighbors, everybody pitches in. That definitely helps. And Sundays are family days. That’s when the kids (six of her own, plus two nieces and a nephew who also live with Johnson) and I spend the whole day together, watching movies, whatever. Me and my daughters, we’re foodies, and we’ll Google recipes to try.

These days, my kids don’t get to see me as much, so that’s a big sacrifice—but it’s worth it. Take when we went to get [the kids’] school stuff for this year. We were able to do it in a single shopping trip. Just to see their faces, it’s the best feeling. They ask for it, and I don’t have to say, “Mm, I’ve gotta pay the bill first.” Now I can say, “You can have some of your wants, and all of your needs met.”

On the Call of the Open Road

Why do I love it? Wide open spaces! [Driving] gives you that liberating feeling, and you have a sense of purpose. Besides, it’s fun. I haven’t slept in the same city twice yet, and a lot of the time, I get to watch the sunrise over the mountains. There’s something new every day.

Why else?

Meditation time. Nobody’s bothering me, because they know I’m not gonna answer the phone. ‘Cause I’m driving this big truck! I’ve gotta focus! So, I get mental time that I haven’t had in about 16 years. When I get home, [my family’s] like, “You’re glowing!” I’m peace! I’m at peace.

There is a lot more to Q. Johnson’s story. Hear her tell it, on an upcoming episode of the What’s Next ATL podcast. Subscribe now, at What’sNextATL.org/podcast, or on your favorite podcast app.

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.