My theme for this posting has become very apparent over the past week; write the truth. Fo sho. I agree 100% and that’s why I want to make sure that the people out there reading this know that while leaving my job felt good at the time (and still does feel right), I want to be very clear that it has not been not all roses. As Outcast once sang; “Roses really smell like boo, boo, boo, boo”.
After the resignation papers were signed, I immediately jumped right into the job search. I engaged my network, uploaded a new photo on LinkedIn, signed up for job alerts, updated my resume and so on and so forth. With each new connection made, I felt a sense of accomplishment. One step closer to the next thing…
EEEHHHHHHH *Buzzer* Wrong answer. Oh my gosh, what was I thinking? I needed to BREATHE and get away from it all. I was just not ready yet.
I needed to put distance between myself and just about everything related to my job. But I had, and I probably still do have a mental block when it comes to really removing myself from all things work related. Part of it was guilt that I wanted to remain a financial contributor to the household (that’s a whole different story I won’t get into now). Another part of it was my own stupid perceptions of the challenges a “gap” on my resume would create. There was even some jealousy in seeing how much fun my former colleagues were having while on their work-related travels (thank you social media). Whatever it was that was driving me to do it, diving right into pursuing the next thing was not doing me any favors. I think maybe reading the book “Never Eat Alone”, (which is all about networking every single chance you can) was clouding my judgment. I mean it was an interesting read, with some good points, but was overkill for me at the time. I was filling my days and weeks with coffee meetings, networking events and emails. On top of this I was focused on unpacking boxes and making my house a home with the recent move to Brooklyn. This all added up to ZERO time for myself.
When was the last time I actually put a significant amount of distance between any of my major life changes? Maybe never. From High School I went directly to college. From college I immediately worked full time at the same place I worked part time for the previous seven years. Then, right before I moved half way across the country to get my MBA, I tried to get as much overtime as possible in order to pay off my car loan before diving into student loan land. After my MBA program, I went to a new city in Wisconsin a mere four weeks later. Let’s just pause on that for a second. Yes, I moved to Wisconsin. After less then two years there, I moved across country for my next job (shocker right?). With my cat, Bianca in the back seat I drove 16 hours straight to New York City and proceeded to cry uncontrollably upon arrival after being alone with my thoughts for far too long. After unpacking my green Honda Civic at 1am, I literally had one free day before my job started. Half of that day was spent figuring out how to navigate my hour plus commute, which inspired another small meltdown. This story pattern just kept on continuing. The act of writing (ok typing) all of this makes me wonder what the hell I was even thinking during all of these major transitions. Oh right *hand to forehead* – this is America – we aren’t supposed to take breaks. We don’t take a year after high school to travel like they do in Australia. Companies don’t even think about the concept that they should encourage people to take time in-between jobs to actually decompress and start a new journey with a fresh perspective. I mean, let’s be real the concept of a taking a real lunch like they do in France is not the least bit fathomable here. Anyway, I digress. I sum up this train of thought to say that our culture is not very in-tuned to mental health needs and personally it’s something I need to pay more attention to.
My mentor definitely got me thinking about the need for distance and I really had to think about why was that so necessary. Just plowing on to the next thing seemed to work reasonably well in the past. But I realized that the distance is and was completely critical to get back to me, to re-discover who I am. When I think about the last ten years of my life, I have had no less than 10 different managers. Every single one of them focused on a different aspect of either my personality or skill set. I think about how many times my weaknesses were pointed out. For one boss, I was not fast enough with running number exercises. For another, I had to work on being more concise with my language. Yet another manager said I needed to work on my people skills. And on and on!! For the most part, a spotlight was put on my weaknesses and at best my strengths were ignored, and definitely not fully leveraged. It’s almost as if I’ve been training to be a boxer: dodging blows and focusing on protecting my weak side and overcompensating in everything else I did. I question if I used to be a nice, bold, refreshing beverage that turned into a diluted, lukewarm drink that lost its complex character completely. Looking back, I probably should have had a therapist all those years. Quite honestly, part of the reason I even started this blog was an attempt to cultivate my creative side that has somehow ended up on a very low simmer, on the back burner. So yes, I needed some damn space from the institutions and people that asked me to bend and twist into a mold that left some of the best parts of me on the cutting board. I encourage anyone who is making a major change in their life to go slower, take as much time as you can and set yourself up for a successful START at whatever the next thing is.
So yes, distance. I am a firm believer now that distance is absolutely critical. Given that I had more free time on my hands, was looking for a little “zen”, was an official Brooklynite and have back issues, I actually *gasp* signed up for Yoga. As in I signed up for a three month unlimited yoga pass. I figured it would force me to really give it a solid try. Uuummmmm, ya. Not for me. I simply cannot sit on a mat and breathe and bend for more than 10 minutes. I’m just not that kind of person. I was listening to the instructors in their whispery voices and music that sounded like hospice melodies floating in the air. At the same time I was witnessing tiny Gumby-like ladies close their eyes, breathe knowingly through their noses and proceed to put their leg over their head and oh my god…I….just…can’t. I can’t. Part of me wanted to laugh out loud and the other part of me wanted to run out of the room and accomplish something in those 60 minutes. At the very least I’d rather be burning off the cookie I ate the night before, doing some kind of cardio while blasting Rihanna in my headphones. But to be fair, I think I really did give it a solid try and completely realize that for some people they are just in love with yoga and it works for them. I took three, maybe four yoga classes and I just had to admit to myself, I am not a yogi! The whole point of this rant is that I knew that relaxing was probably a good idea, but I just didn’t know how.
What I did learn is that getting back to me meant that I had to just be still. For me that meant watching some bad movies, getting addicted to a few select Netflix and Showtime series (hello Homeland!), going for walks in my new neighborhood, and yes, going to see my family and friends.
In an interesting and incredibly heart-breaking twist of fate, very early on in this journey to rediscover who I was, the world lost a beautiful man; my Papa. All I will say about that right now is that nothing brings you closer to understanding who you are, than opening your heart to the memories of your childhood and the values that were created before you knew what values even were.
I tell you this story to share my reality, my truth. The truth being that despite the strength of my conviction, and my belief that it will all work out in the end, I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster ride. Doubt enters my mind along with jealousy, fear and impatience, just to name a few nemeses. There are days I am lonely and times when I need an external voice (or two) of encouragement.
But I rest my head on my pillow at night with some solace because I know that despite this crazy ride I’m on, I’ve started to sing in the shower again, I’ve danced when no one was looking, I’ve tried and learned some new things, and I’ve met and reconnected with some amazing people. And this is how I know I’m getting back to a happy place, where my heart is most comfortable, and my mind slowly regaining confidence.