I got my Equity card in 2013 from Olney Theatre Center in Maryland, just outside Washington, D.C., after almost giving up on ever making the shift.
I started looking into joining the union back in 2009. At the time, I was the resident PSM at Honolulu Theatre for Youth, a great TYA house. However, Hawaii is pretty isolated, so it's not financially sensible for theaters there to be part of the union. I started researching my options. I'd come up as a non-Equity PSM and had lots of luck, but as I explored the union, I found that I didn't have the card to qualify me for those jobs, but also that I couldn't get the production assistant or assistant stage manager gigs to allow me to earn my EMC points either. After moving to D.C., I got lucky and booked some PSM slots on national tours... but still no card. After several years on the road, I was ready to come home.
I set up a meeting with Dennis Blackledge, the production manager at Olney and we had a great talk. He was a former road guy himself and knew where I was emotionally. He was generous enough to trust me to PSM Awake and Sing the next fall and give me my card outright.
Since then, I've been able to work regularly in the D.C. area and even do some projects in New York City. Maybe I'll even go back on the road at some point. The union has given me career stability and has been there on multiple occasions when I've needed backup. As I write this, I'm in tech for my third Equity production this year. May it all continue!