It’s my last RealJobs blog :( I have to say that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing my week with you. Unfortunately it was pretty uneventful, no major breaking news. Still, thank you for reading! For my last entry I just wanted to share a little more about what the last seven and a half years since graduation has taught me. (I literally just had to do the math!)
Can we pause for one second as I breathe into a brown paper bag. It’s been almost eight years since I graduated!?! Where the hell did the time go? Maybe that’s a good starting point. By 25 I had ruined my timeline. You know the one I made by looking at how other people had progressed in their careers. By 30 I was supposed to be working in DC, engaged or married with my first kid on the way. My 30th birthday is in a few months and none of that is going to happen, at least right now.
For a while it caused me full blown anxiety. After all on Facebook (which is an accurate reflection of everyone else’s perfect life by the way) my peers posted pictures of wonderful vacations, getting married and living in fun cities. Meanwhile, I was struggling working multiple jobs at times while going to grad school. Or better yet, me and my “advanced degree” were in Macon, GA sweating as I lugged heavy equipment around making less than $1,100 a month. One check didn’t cover my rent and I had to constantly cut my grocery list at Walmart and that’s with help from my parents! Their slogan is “Low Prices Everyday” for God’s sake.
Needless to say, I looked like a bobblehead. I thought I was stuck. When my bosses expressed their interest in renewing my contract and offered me what amounted to an extra tank of gas as an incentive to sign my life away for another year, I had to draw the line. I had already been there for a little over two years; 365 days, 8 hours, 2 minutes and 10 seconds longer than I wanted to be. I had nothing else lined up. There were talks about a looming recession. Companies were folding and thousands were losing their jobs.The people in Macon were lovely, however my work environment became more regressive than progressive. So I declined and packed my stuff into a moving truck, gassed up my Corolla and headed North, back to Maryland again to figure things out. My most prized possession in that move was my confidence in my own abilities. Even more than that, I was willing to bet on my potential. I knew I needed a lot of work, but I believed that given the right environment and opportunities I could grow.
Can we pause for another minute to give my parents a shout out! They are from West Africa and thought by sacrificing to give us a great education everything would be smooth sailing. Then they have this daughter, going to cities they have never heard of, only to get a tearful call one day saying I’ve decided to come home for a short while. They were confused but extremely supportive.
Others told me I was crazy. Maybe they didn’t actually say it instead giving me a look that read “you did what?” A short stay at home turned into about 8 months. After dozens of rejections I got a job in Charlotte. If I had signed the contract extension in Macon, I wouldn’t have been able to take that position.
I’ve explained this long drawn out story to share that I’ve learned to bet on myself! I’ve worked harder that I’ve ever worked before. I was seeking mentors, getting critiques, just contacting anyone who would listen. I studied the news. I knew that I didn’t have all the answers, but I knew my hard work to find the answers was valuable. I’m not the most beautiful, most articulate or most energetic on air. However, I’ve learned at each stage whatever I am is enough. Maybe they were right, I was crazy. I was crazy enough to envision better for myself even when that wasn’t reflected in my present circumstances. Since that time after Macon I’ve also learned the only person (other than God) who has to understand my decisions is me.
Don’t get me wrong, when I see the rich people who were in CSOM, sometimes I ask myself what was I thinking? I remind myself that sitting in an office all day usually makes me want to jump out of a window. The thought doesn’t console my bank account by any stretch of the imagination, but a few memories do. The tearful hug of a mother who thanked me for the story I did about her son who died in the war. Now they have a copy to show their grandchild so he can learn what a hero his father was. Or seeing the devastation of a tornado up close as people searched through the debris. They were so hopeful in the midst of utter devastation. Getting to sit down with a local civil rights icon who was brave enough to integrate her high school. It’s a sacrifice I now benefit from. Or getting a thank you note from an inmate who says I helped change her life as she tries to redeem past wrongs.
It’s a roller coaster ride that can take you through a gamut of emotions both personally and professionally. This is my journey. Whatever you choose to do will come with its own. While sometimes I wish it would go faster, deep down I know it’s moving at the perfect pace.
Wishing you courage and boldness in whatever you do!
Here are some of my favorite stories: