As I post this, I am probably sitting in a hotel room having a panic attack. I am sitting here wondering what tomorrow will bring and if I will sound like an idiot in front of tons of people.
Tomorrow, I present in front of a group of professionals in my field about talent retention in our region and how our schools are or are not helping. I keep thinking, will everyone hate the results? Should I have stayed the full trip instead of just my presentation day?
Breathe. It will all be fine. We have worked 6 months on this. Let's rock it and get back to work.
Rarely do I do plugs for myself that are so blatantly obvious, but today is Small Business Saturday, and I am a Small Business. Buy stuff from me.
Most people that know me know that I have two books, okay you caught me, three books that I call my favorite, and I just can't pick which actually takes the prize. One reason I love all of these books is because they are strong female authors, but another reason is because they are so much like me.
The first book is Lean In by Sheryl Sandburg. I have talked about this book so many times that I am not sure if a single person around me doesn't know who this is. As COO of Facebook, she has been a pioneer for women's rights in the workplace. I laugh sometimes when I say that too. I have always been so conservative, but when I ventured into more professional roles, I learned just how bad equality issues really were. I had no idea that I would have to stand up and defend myself and my work ethic against a man. I especially didn't know that there was a difference between pay for a man with a family and a single woman. Sheryl's book gave me the confidence to stand up for myself. She also opened up some very important discussions about roles in the workplace and home.
I hated The Office. I admit it. I really tried to watch it. I sat in my apartment one summer when I was 29 convinced that I was going to watch it and that the only reason I didn't like it before, was just because an ex-boyfriend did like it. I couldn't be more wrong. I want to say I got to episode 3, but I don't even know if I got that far. I got to where Dwight dismantled a CPR mannequin during a safety class.
I wanted to like the show, but not for Steve Carrell. I was a fan of The Mindy Project and I knew of her on-again off-again romance with BJ Novak and I wanted to see it come to life on screen back when she was Kelly. I had to stick with Mindy. I loved TV Mindy, but I was really a fan of real life Mindy. Her book of essays were on point. She was talking like she was any other single woman that was absolutely sick of being alone and judged for going to McDonalds, she hated being a bridesmaid, and she was tired of being considered heavy.
The first time I read her second book, Why Not Me?, I sat and read it in one sitting. I felt like I could hear Mindy's voice in my head. I took that book everywhere. I read excerpts to my friends and family. I bragged on it like it was my own. Mindy Lahiri may be a hot mess, but Mindy Kaling is a hero.
A few days ago, a was speaking to a group of business majors about professional development. Somewhere in the sea of what-ifs and interesting scenarios that we were talking about, we got on the topic of work-life balance. For these students, they called it the class-life balance. I don't care what you call it. It is like coffee with creamer. One part is fairly unpleasant yet necessary, but the other part makes it better. Depending on who you are, you can read that either way.
When we started talking about the work-life balance or the class-life-balance, we were talking about how one student's father would like her to play music more. She is typically busy with work, class and a social life. I asked her if she loves music. She does, but she hate to practice. I can sympathize. I loved performances, but practicing on my own was enough to make me gag. If you have something that is hard work, yet it brings you joy, you should still consider it as part of your balance.
The next question and comment that arose was about me. Have you mastered the work-life balance? Hell no. I am fairly certain that No one has mastered this. At 5:00 pm, I may walk away from my desk, but that doesn't mean my brain is off. That doesn't mean that I stop being an employee of my company for the next 16 hours. That doesn't mean that I don't talk to my co-workers. That doesn't mean that I don't check my email.
I would say that most of the opportunities that I am afforded outside of work are at least 50% because of work. I make enough of a name for myself at work that I can take that and go to different organizations in the community and say, I'm from this company and I accomplish all of these things. I can really help your cause. People tend to remember that and your company favorably.
Every night that I go home and try to relax, I think about what I need to do the next day, what I should wear, what barriers I may face in the day, and how I will overcome my challenges. It is difficult for me to shut my brain off. I think some people have an easier time when they just aren't as passionate about what they are doing. When you love what you do or what you represent, you give it just a little more space in your heart and mind than it probably needs.
I really am trying to improve on my balance. I don't do yoga and I really suck at meditating. I love to read, but I eventually end up putting a book down to go do something that needs to get done. What I am trying to do is step outside of my comfort zone. I am challenging myself to go somewhere that I am afraid to go. I am challenging myself to meet people that I am afraid to meet. I am letting that fear of the new take some of that space away. I am not letting work control me anymore. I am letting me control all parts of my world, even when it is scary.
This world is full of crazy shit. People can be cruel, heartless, and they can and will do anything to succeed. Every day, I am more and more amazed at how far people can go to make themselves look better instead of making the collective whole look better, Every job, every group, and every sport I have been a part of, someone wants to be the best and they will hurt someone to be that person. Many times, they aren't that person at all. Many times, they are faking it, but they have such a positive external image that they can fool anyone.
It amazes me every day. It amazes me every day that we aren't cherishing our co-workers and other colleagues for their unique talents. We aren't seeing what it takes to be a team. Many times if we see a team, we are seeing a small team instead of the larger collective team. One person's actions can impact so much more.
I have been blessed to have certain co-workers that I value and cherish as family. I believe that they are extremely valuable assets to my team. My team is not just a work team. It is a life team. I can go to any of these people and say I need help even if it is 1 AM. They may throw a phone at my head, but they know me and they would recover after a cup of coffee.
My co-workers are my friends. My friends are my family. Don't forget that families stick together.
Last evening, I had a one evening vacation. No, it wasn't really a vacation. I drove 3 hours, had a nice hotel room, and sat and read while knowing that my cats were safe in the hands my favorite neighbor. Most people knew I was going down to Cincinnati and northern Kentucky for a brief stay, but I was dismissing the thought until the moment I crossed into Ohio.
I had been scared and anxious about leaving, as always, but this time was different. I was afraid of what was on the other end of that trip. I arrived in Cincinnati around 8:30 pm and my first choice of food just wouldn't seat me or the guy behind me. We both stormed out, but laughed it off in the parking lot. I ended up going to Wendy's where I ran into my new friend again. We waited for about 20 minutes on food. The hotel was nice, but the elevator hated me. It only opened for the guy eating Skyline Chili. I swear it just wanted food. I could list all kinds of missteps that happened that night and morning, but it isn't really the point.
When I fell asleep last night, I slept better than I have in months. Maybe it was because Amber wasn't smacking me in the face, or maybe it was because I was finally coming to peace with what I was looking for, but I was finally calm for the first time in months.
I came back as soon as I could for meetings in the afternoon and came back to do a few office things. I felt no anxiety going into work. I was excited to go in, even on my day off. I laughed and chatted with my boss, caught up on important emails, and went to my favorite meetings of the month.
I know why I felt peaceful coming back. It was all of the people I encountered today. Whether they were in Kentucky or Indiana, you helped put my reeling mind at ease. I finally know where I am going... for now!
A few months ago, I had the extreme displeasure of firing my first employee. It was horrible because you felt like you failed as a supervisor and trainer. You put all of this time and energy into giving this person the knowledge you know, and it is often not accepted or appreciated.
I know this employee appreciated it, but when you are young, you don't always know how to manage life, work, relationships, and responsibilities. At the end of the day, I had to give up.
The moment I ended this work relationship, I looked at this employee's face and saw something familiar. I saw someone who was overwhelmed and lost. I saw someone who didn't know how to exist independently and someone who was a little scared. I saw me when I was just a little older than her.
I honestly didn't think that this was a hopeless case. I honestly felt like I had a good work foundation because of the places I worked early in my career. I tool a vacation day that week and I told her that we were going job hunting. We went to fast food restaurants and retail places. Eventually we realized that almost everything is online so we sat at the computer and started applying places that way.
Fast forward to a few days ago when I decided to go to Taco Bell. I knew she got the job there because her cousin is one of my best friends. I took a chance and hit the drive through and she was there. We chatted and laughed like we had so much we wanted to talk about. Before I left, I got a thank you. Why? Because I helped her get the job and took a chance to help instead of discounting someone when things didn't work out.
Employees are human and as much as we want to discount it, they are just as much part of our family as our blood family. We spend just as much time with them, we defend their honor, and we teach them like they are our children. I was proud to get that simple thank you after I was criticized for helping her. It made me believe that humanity isn't dead, we just need to give it a charge.
As everyone knows, my summer started off pretty amazing. I'm not saying the last month and a half was bad, but it has test my heart and my patience.
I am finally at a crossroads and I need to choose my direction. I have had the most wonderful past two days. On Friday, I had my first Professional Development book Club at work. One attendee, a coworker of mine, are essentially the same person I think. We knew we would get along. We also had a student come to the group that was extremely refreshing. As we all talked, got off topic, got back on topic, and found more realistic scenarios to the examples in the book, we realized how important it was for 2 young women in their early 30s to be there. This girl was 19 and from a different country. She stepped out of her comfort zone to come. We laughed, talked, and gave real world advise on jobs, school, dating, and even self image.
I think we forget sometimes that we are important in even the smallest ways.
I also had the humbling opportunity to guide a group of alumni from the late 1960s back on campus for the first time. The men I worked with were fantastic, but when we all got together, it was like we were all friends. They all started teasing each other like they were undergrads saying "do you remember when you did that?" and "I bet you can't remember who performed here in 1968..." I think the moment that was real for me was when we all walked into the fieldhouse. I swear I saw a tear in one members eye. Everything they dreamed of in the 1960's and 70's had come to pass. I was just a witness and a guide to show it.
Life throws you unexpected curves. Sometimes you get what you want and sometimes another opportunity opens up when another closes. No matter the circumstances, I appreciate being able to make a difference when I am and how I am.
A few weeks ago, I was given a really fun opportunity. I wasn't sure if it was a good idea or a bad idea, but I went with it. After weeks of waiting, emails, calls, and worrying, it is here.
Earlier in the year sometime, it's quite a blur about when, but a fellow named Robbie contacted me wanting feedback on his new book, "Fire Me, I Beg You." I was obviously sold on doing this because I love adding fun things to my free time that don't involve hanging out with cats. I loved the piece, and I didn't think much else would come from it. Fast forward and I hear from Robbie again! This time he wants to ask me questions about alumni finding jobs. I was super excited to answer his questions, and I felt like a professional for the first time. This person I don't really know is coming to me! How did they get my name? Do I have a reputation for being awesome? None of this could be, but I was still dying to know the outcome.
I found out late last week what questions were being highlighted from me and I was relieved. I was answering the most honest questions to pass a professional. I can't say if I was good, bad, or mediocre, but I can now say that I have helped contribute to an article in the Huffington Post.
Baby steps, my friends, baby steps.
What is the difference between a job and a career? Are you trying to tell me they are not the same? Well a career is a job, but a job isn't necessarily a career. It is a weird twisted story. I'm sure if I thought long and hard enough, I could think of an analogy for this, but no. I'm focusing on the topic at hand.
I have had many jobs. I have worked in retail, restaurants, and salons. I never once thought, wow, I wish I could stay here forever. My bosses were never kind enough to make me want to stay. Except Goody's... that place was like a home. I could tell you horror stories about Pier 1.
When I started working at my current place of employment, I knew it could be a long running job. I have gone through a few different positions, but overall, I love the place. They have little controversies, but I still love them.
I think the real difference between these places are the benefits. No retail establishment gave me any reason to be loyal or stay. Yes they both had amazing discounts, but at the end of the day, did that help my health or retirement prospects?
Benefits make a career job worth it. I have around 20 days consistently banked in vacation time. It is truly amazing thinking I could just take two weeks and travel if I wanted to. Most jobs wouldn't allow that.
My career makes me happy. I am always striving to learn more and do better. I may have tried that in a job, but I had no where to go. Careers have potential for advancement. It doesn't matter if it is position, monetary, or just expanding your knowledge, it is worth it.
I am thankful for the career I have been given and for the jobs I had that got me there. Not everyone is as lucky as me, but I hope you can find your dream job/career as well.