Ctrl+Z

A little over a year ago, I took a break from my increasingly unhappy life and went on a long walk. I didn’t know what I was looking for, exactly, but I had a good idea that I’d know it when I saw it. As I walked across Spain, falling in love with nature again, learning to trust my body, and meeting new friends from all over the world, the depression and anxiety I’d been suffering for years started to lift away.

It wasn’t a gradual change. It was almost immediate. Within a week of being away from the constant stress of my life as a freelance marketer traveling between Chicago and New Orleans, I started to wake up and spend each day feeling happy, relaxed, and renewed. The walks got longer, my body got stronger, and the stories I allowed myself to share with my new friends on the Camino started to get deeper and more painful. But there was a song in my heart, and I knew down at the core of things that everything was going to be OK, if I could just allow the melody to follow me back to my “real” life.

The first few nights off the Camino were especially tough. I had thought it would be nice to get a nice hotel room all to myself. I hated it. It was hard to sleep, knowing that the guys I now considered family weren’t an arm’s reach away, the next bunk over. I took a side trip to Barcelona to see the Sagrada Familia, and though I fell in love with the town, I spent most of my time there sleeping in my room, mourning the loss of my friends, my trekking poles, and the joy of knowing your simple purpose – to walk – and fulfilling that goal every day. A few days later, I flew back to the states, and was hit with a new wave of regret and sadness, and something I’d later realize is called “reverse culture shock.” After weeks of feeling very little fear or unease, the stress of walking down a street in New Orleans, constantly watching my back, was breathtaking. I realized that a generous amount of the general anxiety I’d been dealing with was directly related to living in New Orleans. I didn’t know what to do with that information, and still don’t, but I am on a reduced timeline here. I never intended to live here for the rest of my life, and now I’m coming to terms with the thought of leaving in the next year or two.

Over the past year, I’ve readjusted to living in this city that I’ve called home for the last 17 years, and tried to understand what it is that makes it so difficult to leave. At the same time, I’ve resisted writing about my time on the Camino. I thought that I didn’t have the words for it, but in reality, I didn’t have the strength. The two situations are deeply entwined, whether I want to acknowledge that or not. Because the Camino woke me up (or maybe was a direct result of being awoken, but not consciously able to grasp all that I knew?). I’m not sure when I realized this, but the life that I’ve been living off Camino is not the life I want. It’s not just career stuff, or body stuff, or city stuff. I’ve been expressing bits and pieces of this here and in real life conversation for a long time, but always with this concept that there was something wrong with me for not just being able to suck it up and deal. But that’s not it at all, is it? The real lesson, the thing I’m just now starting to soak in and understand as true, is that I can have any life I want. I am allowed to want more, and I am allowed to ask for more. It is OK to dislike things that other people love, and to confess my frustrations with things that other people enjoy. This is MY walk, and I can shape it however I damn well please.

When I got back to New Orleans from Spain, I was tempted to just sink into myself again. It didn’t get back to pre-Camino levels of self-hatred, but there were plenty of days when I just slept all day since there wasn’t anything worth waking up for. Eventually, my finances became dire, and I needed to find another job to supplement my unpredictable freelance earnings. While sorting through job posts on an online employment site, one ad caught my eye, with the phrase: “Join our crew of misfits.” I read through the requirements, thought it sounded fun, and applied for the job as a front desk person at a local boutique hotel. The manager and I clicked immediately, and the job was mine. It only took a few shifts for me to realize that I was meant for hospitality. I love it. It’s like being back on the Camino again. And a glimmer of hope appeared, because not only did I realize I’d found something that I truly loved doing. I realized that I had already known this about myself YEARS ago, back when I was waiting tables to work my way through college. Back then, I truly adored what I did, but people kept telling me that service wasn’t a “real job.” There was this concept that I needed a 9-to-5 job, with a suit and a desk, to be a successful human being. I wish that someone back then had taken a look at what made me tick and showed me that there were other options to crafting a meaningful career. Oh well. That’s what Ctrl+Z is for. Time to start all over.

I’ve been working as a front desk person/concierge since February, and really enjoy the job. If you’re a service-minded individual, it’s the kind of job that just comes second nature. My main duty is being really nice to people, which can sometimes be difficult if they’ve had a tough day, but I generally win them over. There are other things – logistics, maintenance, reservations, database coordination, and, being me, a ton of free marketing advice. I love my coworkers, and adore the guest house property. Every now and then I meet a guest who’s so awesome, we end up becoming friends (at least on Facebook), and I’ve had some truly lovely experiences. But it doesn’t pay well at all. To be able to “afford” to do a job that makes me happy, I’ve also been doing some freelance marketing, which does pay well and doesn’t make me unhappy, but leaves me feeling like I’m missing something important. I love my coworkers at the agency, and am happy to be able to work on my own schedule, but it’s not my passion, and it’s wearing me thin, especially when I can’t count on a specific amount or timeline for any paycheck. I was reading this article the other day about the high rate of depression and anxiety in millennials, and how it ties in to many of us working 60 to 80-hour weeks just to be able to pay rent and get by, and I was struck with how I’ve just been constantly plugging away for years, with little to show except for a bad back, a nervous eyelid tic, and the magical ability to go into a full-blown panic attack just from hearing my cell phone ring. Which is why, if you’ve ever tried calling me, you know I don’t answer, but will call you back later. I haven’t had the ringer on for years. Too risky.

So why am I writing all of this? Well, I had a Camino moment a couple of weeks ago, and it gave me some new insights that completely changed my course. The owner of my hotel has always confounded me. He’s a lovely man, but I wouldn’t say that we see eye to eye on hotel best practices. A couple of weeks ago, he sent an email to everyone threatening to fire the entire staff if we couldn’t make certain specific property improvements. Improvements that we’d noted long ago, and had been asking for the money to fix for months. The email didn’t mean anything in the whole scheme of things; he didn’t really want to fire anyone, he’s just from the school of thought that you should terrify your employees to get positive results. I knew this, but it had a strong effect on me. The manager and I were sitting together at the time, and I had to excuse myself to go and have a cry in the bathroom. I was so fed up and frustrated with the situation, and felt hobbled by the lack of change, innovation, and structure. A coworker had warned me months ago that there was a high turnover with people who came in and expected anything to change, but I had thought that maybe I could make a difference. This was the first day that I realized I didn’t have what it took to enforce meaningful solutions in an unhealthy environment.

That night, I went home, and started writing down what it was that I liked about my job, what it is that I was searching for in an ideal workplace, and what it is that I’d like my employer and job to do for me. It wasn’t easy, but I started with things that I have consistently disliked, things that always make me anxious and leave me drained. Then I turned those things around and looked for what would fix them. I ended up with what became a mantra in the job search. In the past, I’d always gone into looking for a job with this idea that I needed to prove myself to my employer. But I’m over that. I am a fantastic employee. My bosses have always loved me; I’ve got a full page of folks who will give me glowing referrals. I’m a good person, I’m honest, I’m kind, I see people for who they are (which can be good and bad), I always give my best, and am always looking for ways to improve. I don’t always have to prove my worth. It’s time to start holding employers accountable, asking, “Why should I work for you? How can you help me be a better person?” The things I realized I needed were as follows:

  1. hospitality
  2. an international company that would offer me chances to travel and relocate
  3. structure
  4. accountability between all levels of coworkers/managers
  5. educational opportunities
  6. guaranteed advancement
  7. great workplace culture, with the ability to be radically kind every single day

I realized that it was time to go corporate. Twenty-year-old me was not pleased. Thirty-four-year-old me breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, a plan! Now it was time to make the list mean something.

Two weeks ago, I sat down and applied to about 20 different jobs over the course of two days. This is nothing new; I’ve been sending out resumes to jobs all over the country for so long that it just seemed to be one of those common tasks like washing dishes or sweeping the floor. What was new was that I focused in on making sure that the companies I applied for fit my criteria for what I wanted in a workplace. And of those 20 applications, three called me back. One response was so poorly written that I disregarded it immediately. One response was for a great position with a hotel that I wasn’t sure of. The final response was a phone call from a very friendly-sounding guy from a hotel that I didn’t know much about, but was owned by a company that seemed to fit my criteria: Marriott.

Last Thursday, I went to an interview for a marketing position at a luxury hotel that is technically part of a chain but doesn’t seem to have much of a connection to the rest of the brand. It was a bad interview. I knew right away that it wasn’t for me. The person interviewing me would have been my boss, and she seemed unhappy. As we talked, I checked things off of my mental checklist – will this place allow me the ability to relocate? Doesn’t seem likely. Is there structure? Meh. What about educational opportunities? The interviewer seemed confused about what I was asking. Could I advance within the company from here? There wasn’t anywhere else to go. The interviewer was kind, but at the end of the day, I walked out feeling like I’d dislike working there. It would be one more place without defined needs or goals in place, that would stress me out and make me hate going to work. So no.

On Friday, I suited back up to head to the Marriott interview. The interview the day before had been rather demoralizing, and I had to dig deep to paste on a smile. It didn’t help that this interview was for an entry level position, also not ideal, but sometimes you have to take a step down to get in the door. Once I got into the hotel, I felt right away that this place was different. It was comfy and modern, with a great color scheme. The interviewer was really pleasant, and easy to talk to. The interview was mostly scripted, but the non-scripted parts were entertaining, so I was immediately at ease. One of the first things the interviewer said to me after finding out that I’d walked the Camino was, “We’ve got hotels in Spain, too, if you want to go work there some day.” (Will this place allow me to relocate? Check!) He took his time and answered all of my questions, and every answer reinforced that this was the right choice. Then I headed to my second interview, meeting the woman that I’d be replacing. We had a coffee and a nice, long chat about what we were looking for in life. She explained advancement opportunities (ample), educational opportunities (tons), and the basics of the job (fun). I walked out of there knowing that I REALLY wanted this job…but there were more interviews to go.

On Monday, I met the GM and the sales manager, this time for two very relaxed interviews. I got a little teary-eyed while speaking with the GM; I just dug him as a human being. He was efficient and eagle-eyed, and obviously cares about his employees. That visit ended with a job offer, conditional upon passing a drug test and background check. I’ve spent the last week on pins and needles about the background check, hoping they wouldn’t fault me for my insane student loan debt, or find something in my past that didn’t fit the brand. Of course, this is ridiculous, since I’m a terribly lame human being with minimal adventures or wild stories, and no criminal past. But I do so love to invent things to worry about! My poor boyfriend has spent the last few days reassuring me that I’d probably know if I was a criminal, and I’d definitely be getting the job. Luckily, I was wrong and he was right – this morning I got the call that I passed the final hurdles, and can start next week. I’m going to be working as an Event Specialist, handling the needs of large groups who reserve blocks of hotel rooms in conjunction with an event (weddings, trade shows, reunions, that kind of thing). It’s going to be challenging, but rewarding, and there are multiple route options for advancing to the next rung on the ladder, when the time comes.

So I’m backtracking a little bit, career-wise, but it won’t be for long. I’m still going to have to work some crazy hours, probably at both hotels and the marketing agency, to stay afloat for awhile as I stock up on office apparel, get some medical and dental treatments that I’ve been putting off, and pay off debts that I couldn’t put much of a dent in over the last year. It’s going to be hard for awhile, but much easier in the long run. In a sense, I’m hitting “undo” on a big chunk of my professional life, but I’ve learned a lot of things that will still come in handy. I know what kind of boss I respect, and what I’d never do to a coworker or employee. I know how much I adore being helpful and kind, and that I can enrich my personal life by way of my professional life if I so choose (I do). I know that I am nimble, a problem solver, a fixer, a “can do”-er. I know that I’ve finally started a real career, and that I’m joining a company with which I’ll be able to continue on until I retire, if all works out. And if I play my cards right, at the end of that career I’ll have traveled the world, and be getting ready to start a new adventure with my own B&B somewhere. Who knows? I’ll keep you posted 🙂

What’s Going On?

Hey there, folks! If you’ve been waiting for the next installment of my Camino journal, never fear; I’ll have a new post up tomorrow. Things have been rather hectic as of late. There’s a lot going on in my life, and it’s mostly all very positive. Thought I’d drop by for a second to let you all in on the current goings on, as well as to humbly ask for some good vibes over the next week or so as I embark on some small changes that are going to lead to big rewards eventually. So what am I up to, you ask? Here you go:

a-school-letter-grade

You might not know this (and you’d probably never expect it, since I’m super sloppy here on the blog), but I’m currently enrolled in the University of California San Diego’s Extension program, and studying to obtain a Certificate in Copyediting. Just finished my second of four required courses, and found out yesterday that I got an A! It was a difficult class, so I’m pretty proud of myself. I’ve always loved copyediting, though, and as boring as it might seem to some people, I’ve been having a great time familiarizing myself with the minutiae of copyediting via The Chicago Manual of Style and The Copyeditor’s Handbook.

editor

My studies at UCSD aren’t my first foray into copyediting; I’ve actually been proofing and editing documents of all kinds for most of my 15-year career. When I decided to study copyediting to make my skill set a bit more “official,” I also had it in the back of my mind that one day I’d like to become a freelance copyeditor. Over the last few months, I’ve been thinking it over, and it feels like the right time to get going. I’m going to be putting together a new site in the coming weeks that highlights my skills as a copyeditor and marketing strategist. I’ve been working a lot on coming up with a name, budgeting for various fees, and creating a plan to get the business underway without costing an arm and a leg. You’ll see more on this soon.

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Via Wildland Trekking. Check out their amazing array of hiking and backpacking tours! There’s something for everyone, in amazing locations all over the world.

The reason I want to be a little economical with the business plan is because I’ve got another exciting adventure coming up. I’m turning 35 in November, and it’s a big deal for me. It’s time to move fully into my power, and make my intentions known to the Universe. The Camino kicked off this inner journey, and I want to make my 35th birthday very special, a physical manifestation of this great spiritual leap. That being said, I’ve decided to hike the Grand Canyon rim to rim during my birthday week. I won’t be going alone, so don’t worry about my sanity. I’ve been talking with a tour group that does small group tours with an experienced guide. They provide all necessary equipment and safety measures, so my only responsibilities between then and now will be to get into fighting shape (those packs are heavy, and the days are long), buy clothing, and save up for the cost of the tour. It’s a bit more than I should be spending right now, but I’ve weighed the financial expenditure of going against the emotional cost of not going, and have realized that I’d rather fight my damnedest to get there than give up on a dream. I can’t imagine a better way to see the Grand Canyon OR a better way to spend my 35th birthday, so I’m just going to make it happen. Also, this will be a great excuse to make sure I’m stocked up on all of the clothing I’ll need for my next Camino (aiming for 2017).

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Via the Jazz Half Marathon site.

Talking about getting into fighting shape, I’m also training to run a half marathon in late October. I’d been talking about my pre-35 goals, and one of them was to get back into running, which I used to love. I even ran a marathon a few years back, but health issues and life have set me back a bit. I was so surprised and excited when my friends signed me up to run the Jazz Half Marathon in October, and even paid the entry fee! I’m going to run the race for charity, to raise money for oncology and hematology patients at the Children’s Hospital of New Orleans. Expect a fundraising link here on the blog pretty soon – you’re definitely going to want to help those adorable smiling faces!

On top of this, I started working as a hotel front desk agent in February, and I average 40 hours a week at the job. It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever had the opportunity to do, and I genuinely love being here and helping people. That being said, there are a lot of other ways that I could be helping the hotel to achieve its goals and make guests even happier, so I’ve been talking with my manager about expanding my role here at the hotel to make use of my marketing skills. We have a meeting on Friday to talk things over a little more officially, and I’m hoping that it will lead to a raise. Your good thoughts appreciated as I move forward with all of these big new projects!

These Choices

Today’s Daily Post prompt asks us to consider what we would do if we knew we couldn’t fail. It’s an appropriate question for this day, and is closely aligned with something my therapist asked me a couple of days ago and that I’ve been mulling over ever since. After listening to several days of stress-filled rants regarding my career (aspirations vs. actuality), the therapist remarked that I didn’t sound like I liked what I did very much. Would I consider changing careers?

I have this little nagging suspicion that after I return from Spain in November, I might be forced into this choice. Of course, I can hope that both of my jobs decide not to can me for leaving them high and dry for 45 days, but let’s face it – America does not believe in taking a break. Vacation days are for wusses. If we’re lucky, we get two weeks of paid vacation, but even then, we’re subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) made to feel guilty for desiring to use all of them. And that’s why people like me are slowly losing their minds. We need a break, and what’s more, we need a long one.

Working in America vs. Working in Other Countries. Click the image to read more.

Working in America vs. Working in Other Countries. Click the image to read more.

So I made this decision to love myself enough to give myself the break I so desire and deserve, even if it means that my employers can’t get along without me. I’d rather have to find new jobs than continue to put off this pilgrimage for another year. When I’m old and gray and too old to travel outside of my retirement home, I don’t want to have any regrets about missed opportunities to explore the world. I’ve told my New Orleans job that I plan to leave, and to be quite fair, my officemates are really supportive of my choice, even if they’re apprehensive at where this will leave them when I’m gone. I haven’t told the Chicago job yet, because I think it will lodge in my boss’s mind like a piece of grit in an oyster, slowly turning and growing into a giant pearl of contention. It’s not worth it right now to upset her. Maybe in a few months.

The other part of the equation is this sneaking suspicion that nothing I do really matters. I look around me, at my job, at my friends’, and it seems that we waste our lives sitting in cubicles, performing mundane tasks that ultimately don’t matter. I really enjoy marketing, but I can’t shake the feeling that I’m not helping the world in any way. And it’s no question that the continued exposure to technology is destroying my brain. I’m frequently too sad to leave the house, and have the attention span of an ADHD goldfish. My memory is measurably worse. It’s no real stretch to imagine dementia setting in sooner rather than later, and that’s terrifying to me.

Is this who I want to be? From a physical and spiritual standpoint, how can I afford to continue this trajectory? But from a financial standpoint, how can I not? It’s a conundrum. I wish that I could tell my 18-year-old self not to lose that full scholarship, or my 23-year-old self not to go to school for historic preservation. But killing those butterflies would destroy this world as I know it, and I’ll take the crushing student loan debt in exchange for the handsome writer who makes me coffee and laughs at my stupid jokes, thanks. I still have hope that some small changes will help me keep my sanity and figure out how to live a fulfilling life within the boundaries I’ve created for myself.

Still, what would I do if I knew I couldn’t lose? If I knew I could keep him AND achieve success in a fulfilling career? I don’t even know how to turn the hopeful part of my brain back on to contemplate that question at full capacity. Maybe when my feet meet the Camino, those gears will start to turn. Maybe I’ll be able to figure it out. I guess I’d cast my net wide. I’d look to new cities for opportunities. I’d look to new countries, even. I’d try to get into the film industry. I’d take this idea of writing a book and make it central to the way I live my life. I’d fold so many origami flowers that my apartment would be the envy of gardeners everywhere. I’d find a museum that wanted a ragtag history like mine, and would take a chance on me as a curator. I’d sing, sing, sing every day.

Sometimes I hate being both a dreamer and a realist. I hate how I crush my own spirit so much more efficiently than anyone else could. These choices seem so simple when I see them in writing. Why are they monumental in my imagination? Please, Santiago, help me walk back to my life, the real one, the one without fear.

Dear Santa (A Grownup’s Christmas List)

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Dear Santa,

I stopped believing in you at age 4, when I saw Mum & Daddy arranging my presents under the tree on Christmas Eve. However, for the sake of this letter, I’m trying to picture you not just as a jolly old man in a red velvet suit, but maybe as the representative of a positive universe that really does want us to achieve all that our hearts desire. In other words, I’m putting out good energy in hopes that some will bounce back in my general direction.

Santa, I’m struggling here. I’m drowning in student loan debt and living in a city where rent prices keep rising but salaries are lower than I’ve ever seen for someone with my experience. I’m working as a freelance marketer, but the stress of living paycheck to paycheck has taken its toll. On top of all of this, I’m unsatisfied with the trajectory of my personal life, and I’m financially dependent on my significant other. I’m trapped. It would be great to get a break.

I’m not asking for much – just a chance at a job that lets me use my skills and education to the best advantage, where I can bolster a team of efficient and competent coworkers who strive for the absolute best every day. I’m an online marketer with strong experience in event management, and would love to work for a company that would let me shine. Bonus points if the job is in Austin, TX or Portland, OR, and infinite bonus points if it includes a relocation bonus. (But that’s like asking for a magic wand (or a hoverboard) so don’t feel too pressured!)

Here’s my LinkedIn page, my About.me page, and my visual resume, just in case any of your elves happen to moonlight as a recruiter. And thanks again, Santa. I appreciate your help!

Love,

Anna

P.S. I went gluten-free recently, so hope you don’t mind Paleo cookies on the mantelpiece this year 🙂

One Random Annoyance (a.k.a. 1 Question Not To Ask)

You know what bites? When you tell people what you studied in college, and instead of saying “Cool!” and moving on, or asking “Wow, that must have been interesting, right?” and opening themselves up for conversation, they instead say something rude like, “Why on earth would you have studied THAT?” It’s a question that happens so often in my life that I typically just gloss over it and keep moving, but it happened the other day in a way that just lingered and started to fester, so I decided it would be best to talk it out right here.

News flash – yes, those of us who studied niche subjects like Medieval Art & Architecture know that most of the people we meet on a daily basis won’t have similar interests. However, as someone with a great many interests covering some very broad areas of life, I’m here to tell you that no matter what I’ve been interested in at any given time, very few people I’ve met have found whatever I’m studying to be of great interest. This includes so-called “mainstream” topics like marketing, social media, writing, jazz music, historical fiction, running, movies, eating (even discussions about bacon can have surprisingly few takers…what a shame) and the list goes on and on and on.

Yet, for some reason, if you’re at a dinner party and you meet an accountant, you don’t say “Why on earth did you study accounting? That’s, like, the most boring shit I could ever imagine wasting my life on!” No, you take a second, realize that this person is great with numbers, and maybe that equates to something else that might spark a conversation that fits your own personality more, like playing Sudoku, going to Vegas, or being really into WWII Enigma machines. In fact, I’ve known several extremely interesting accountants, one of whom taught me a great attack plan for making sure to have enough shoe shopping money for the year…but that’s beside the point.

I have to venture a thought that perhaps people don’t openly insult people who studied business topics because they’re mistakenly attracted to the concepts of safety and banality as a life plan. That they assume that studying business in any of its guises is bound to lead to steady employment, whereas focusing on a more academic field will lead to starvation and death. Or something of that nature, I don’t know. I’ve been steadily employed since college, despite (or maybe because of) my intense interest in religious architecture and how medieval religion affected women’s lives and livelihoods, as evidenced in art of the period.

And the bottom line is that people have to choose their college majors at 18 in this country, with no apprenticeship programs and very little else to guide them in most cases. Why should it be that 14 years after making that fateful decision to study something I loved, that sincerely interested me in ways that not much else has or will, I am still being brought up on charges of supposed idiocy for choosing a non-lucrative college major? It’s not fun, or funny, or cool to pick on me for having an imagination and some hope that I wouldn’t have to get stuck in the 9 to 5 (or should I say 9 to 10) grind when I was a kid. In a perfect world, I’d probably be a professor right now, instead of a slightly peeved, moderately inebriated online marketer.

I’m sure that there is more than one person out there right now that studied something supposedly “safe” in college and is currently working in an entirely different industry. I know a kid who went to school to become a banker and found out he could make more money as a fisherman. Just because you take the route everyone’s trying to force you into doesn’t mean you’re going to prosper under their guidance. You’ve got to make your own choices, or you’ll never be yourself.

What do you think? Do people ever ask you insulting questions about your history, as though you were the only person to take a year off of work to dogsit, or to move to another city without a job “just because”? I’d love to hear about it. Life is short, and definitely hard enough without giving other people the power to crash our parties!

Dredging Up The Courage To Lean In

I have a confession to make: I’m tired of hearing the term “lean in” in relation to women and careers. However, I think that might be because I keep seeing conversations where “lean in” is being used to say “go balls to the wall, no more relaxing, don’t stop until you’re on top!” In actuality, the idea of leaning in isn’t just about becoming a CEO of a Fortune 500 (although if that’s your dream, by all means, go and do it). Leaning in is bigger than achieving success in the corporate realm – it’s about following your dreams with tenacity and grace.

There’s also another part to leaning in that isn’t being discussed quite as much in the media, and that’s leaning back. Think about it – sometimes you have to lean into the waves to keep standing, but sometimes the force is just too much – it will break you, and it’s much better to lean back and go with the flow. You might be back a step or two, but you’ll be in one piece, and the stress of getting there will have been negligible in comparison to what it would have felt like to get pounded into submission. Too much leaning in or leaning back is bad for you. That’s the nature of life, yin vs yang, light vs. dark, good vs. evil. The trick is to know when to change direction.

Over the past few years, through hating to make a scene (aka. “cowardice”) and my basic nature to be a “team player,” I’ve refrained from making quite a few decisions that would be good for me, in order to not upset anyone too much. I’ve leaned back time and time again, in both my personal and professional lives, and it’s been chipping me apart, piece by piece, until I barely recognize myself some days. Many days, C&Q is one of the only places I feel entirely like me, because it’s the only thing I control.

The thing is, as much as I love this blog, my virtual life shouldn’t be richer than my life in the physical world. So, starting today, I’m going to make a major effort. I’m going to start leaning in, even though it terrifies me. I want to be truthful about who I am, what I want, and where I hope to be going in life. I made my first step towards that goal this morning when I quit a job that has made me miserable for years, and over the past year had actually started to make me physically ill. I was so scared to quit that I ended up writing a resignation letter instead of calling the boss, but as I wrote, I was able to capture the gratitude I felt for my years on the job, as well as the relief I felt for being released from its burden. I think it’s going to be OK. And if it’s not, that’s OK, too. I deserve to be free.

My second major act of the day might seem silly, but for me it’s really scary. I’m going to post a photograph here that was taken on Saturday by my photographer friend Dave Rodrigue. It’s the best portrait that I’ve EVER had. It looks just like me, like how I look when I look at myself in the mirror and think beautiful thoughts. You can almost see my dreams, floating right there in my pupils. It’s also a great photo because it shows me just how I am – a little irreverent, a little snarky, wearing this armor that says I’m fearless even though I’m often cowering just behind it.

You see, I have a feeling that if my grandmother saw this photo, she’d be disappointed in me. I think that if she sees it, she’ll spend some time telling me how I’ll never get a job with a respectable company, because I’ve ruined my “professional image.” I think that maybe I’m scared that my professional image might actually be ruined by posting this photo. But then I think about it again and I realize that I don’t care. It’s a photo of me, being myself, wearing a funny t-shirt that makes me happy.

Bottom line is that I’m not a harmless little bunny. But neither do I want to be. I am Anna. I am my own compass. I know which way is best for me. And if an organization that I’m not even familiar with just yet sees this photograph and decides that I’m not the fit for their team, then they’re quite right. Because I don’t want to work with people who judge books by their covers, who can’t have a laugh, who’ve never aspired to be an adventurer, just for a little stretch of the road. That’s just life, and when I stop to think it over a bit more, it’s sad that more people don’t have the guts to be themselves in the face of this abyss that is time and age and death and someone else’s profit.

I’m done pretending that I’m someone I’m not, and most of all, I’m tired of the world telling me that I’m not allowed to be multi-faceted. If you want to know how professional I am, invite me to a business meeting. We’ll talk marketing strategy. You’ll be impressed. Otherwise, grow up and find something else to be offended by – like people who don’t recycle, or animal abuse, or unwarranted military action, or systematic destruction of creative impulse in our younger generation in favor of teaching better test-taking. Take your pick – the world’s falling apart around our ears. Which, by the way, is the next part of leaning in. But we’ll get to that soon enough.

For now, here’s me leaning in to being me. It’s a start.

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Blank Pages

Blank Pages

It’s almost time for me to start a new chapter. Time to say goodbye to my coworkers, clean out my virtual desk, pass on my passwords and reroute my emails. Sure, I’ll be doing a little bit of work when I get back from Europe, as long as my boss hasn’t hired someone new by then. Today, she gave me the option of continuing on with part-time “administrative” (by which she meant “actual marketing”) duties at the same pay rate I’m at now. I gladly turned her down. Considering that I haven’t received a raise since 2008, while doing the job of three people and DEFINITELY not as a mere administrative assistant, I’m feeling so lucky to get this chance to finally move on with my life and my career. I’m so proud of myself for getting the guts to quit. I’m finally in a position where I have skill and knowledge in an in-depth field, and having someone call brand messaging, SEO and web analysis “administrative” just burns me to no end. I’ve worked so very hard to get here for the last nine years, and I deserve to work in an environment that helps me build a better life, rather than continually cutting me down. There’s more to it than that, really, so much more, but today this is where I’m at in considering my future.

Sure, I will probably be taking a step back. I might be really screwed in the finances department. But I’m 30, deeply unhappy with my career situation, and ready to get my shit together and move into a different plane of existence. This vacation is physical break with my current reality, and when I return, I don’t intend to live the same way anymore. I’ve reached out to a friend who has a lot of contacts in the non-profit community, and I’m sending over my resume today. I’m also going to get together with a dynamic artist friend who knows all about what’s going on in the arts community, to see if she has any ideas for me. I’m continually scouring job boards and looking at freelance writing opportunities; maybe this is just the kick in the ass that I need to give myself to put together a plan to market ME.

I’m going to think about it while I’m away, but not today or tomorrow or all weekend. I’ve got some homework to finish, some last-minute tasks to take care of at my job, some yoga to do, and tons and tons of packing duties. But first I’m going to do a little recreational reading. I deserve it. And hell, it’s not like I’m losing any money by taking a break to do what I want to do, for once.

Bon Voyage, old shitty life! Hello blank pages!