I just couldn't keep myself away. Did you really think I would?
The world has changed – not only in a quarantine / COVID sense, but also in an entirely-new-job-and-life sense.
Which means my stance on the blog has also changed.
Here's the cliff's notes version of my story:
1. I quit my old job.
2. I started a new (fully remote) job.
Well, I guess it doesn't seem all that life-changing when I put it like that...
But it is!
You see, I have now restored balance in my life. And that, my friends, is life-changing indeed.
I used to commute to work, spending 15 hours in my dumpy old Honda every week. I joyfully dumped all those commuting hours when I quit my old job, which soon translated into more free time to paint (meditate), write (meditate), and shop online (whatever, don't judge).
Let's talk about writing, first.
Have you heard of morning mind dumps? It's as simple as it sounds: you dump all your thoughts onto paper. You fill at least one page in your notebook with exactly what comes to your mind. The first lines are random thoughts – I had a weird dream, I'm feeling stressed at work because I have a big project, etc. But after a few minutes, your mind dump gets more... meta. Deeper.
You have to empty the superfluous trash that fills your waking mind to uncover and expose the deeper truths inside you, those that have shaped your adulthood and have, quite literally, made you into who you are. Suddenly, past transgressions are flowing out of you and your paper becomes your therapist, quietly listening, without judgement. And then, once you've written down everything you can think of, you're done! You're lighter and less stressed out. You've meditated without even knowing it.
Mind dumping is a great exercise, and I highly recommend trying it. Turn it into a habit, if you can.
I have a hard time staying committed to that daily journaling practice. I don't know if it's because it feels too much like wasted time or if I just can't stick to healthy habits like that on a regular basis.
With so many priorities in life, I think we all tend to put ourselves last. Each and every morning, my 3-year-old begins his day by yelling Mommmy! at the top of his lungs. Who can just sit there, calmly writing in a notebook, when you're literally getting screamed at?
Maybe blogging replaces the mind dumps for me. If I'm going to be writing, why not write for the people?
Sooo... long story short, I'm back. I need to write (for myself) and I want to write (for you). This should be fun!
Besides, my last blog post was a little dark, and I can't leave you on that note. I was in a bad place, and although I started my new job two months ago, it's taken me until recently to fully climb out and realize what state of mind I had been in.
That last post was in January, pre-COVID. Do you remember what that was like? Yeah, me neither.
I'm not about to harp on coronavirus, here. You get enough of that everywhere else. More importantly, I'm not an expert in anything, much less infectious diseases. So I'll leave all the posturing and bullshitting to the actual experts and the wannabes.
Instead, I'll focus on what's brought me out of my hole. And of course, I'll share it with you.
I'll start by telling you this: aside from the guilt I feel about being happy when the whole world is quarantined and people are dying and/or fighting about people dying from coronavirus... aside from that, I feel worlds lighter than I did four months ago.
Yes, I hear how that sounds. Yes, I do feel like a douche being all everything-is-great right now, but that is also my truth. I think a lot of us are struggling with similar emotions, if we're being honest. Many of us have realized a dream of working from home, being closer to their families and cutting out a strenuous commute. The introverts in us are squealing with joy.
You know what, though? I'm still going to celebrate my happiness. I don't fail to realize hundreds of thousands of people have died from this virus. I do choose to look at that stat with perspective. Millions of people die every year from hunger. I'm not trying to squash depressing stats with even more depressing stats - I'm just saying, there is ALWAYS shit going on in the world. Really terrible, painful, awful shit. And if all of us just focus on how terrible all of that is, then what are we even doing here?
You can only control what you can control. That has been a life mantra of mine since I started getting really stressed out at work. I can't remember who first said the words to me, unfortunately, but I'll never forget them. You can always do something, be it small or big, to help. And if you can't do something, then you can focus on making the most out of your own life.
Am I harping? Okay, sorry. I digress.
Back to my journey. If you want to ride, come along with me to a place and time before COVID was household name. I'll tell you how I got to this oh-so-enlightened place.
I decided to quit my job a long time ago. Right after I started working there, actually. I knew from the beginning that I wasn't going to last.
Carter's was an interesting place.
Most of my colleagues were amazing, smart, funny people. Carter's knew how to hire strong employees, they just didn't know what to do with them when they got there.
I worked with people from all around the country who were relocated to Atlanta, so it was a little melting pot of professionals, right in the heart of Buckhead. Though located in good ol' Georgia, southern hospitality was not ingrained in the Carter's culture.
The environment was intense. We moved fast, worked a lot, and were expected to be available around the clock. Not to mention, there were a few bad seeds in other departments that were pretty back-stabby. And since most of my job relied on other departments, I had to spend SO. MUCH. TIME. sucking up to people instead of working on strategy.
The pressure took a serious toll on me. I started to feel as if I was becoming someone I didn't like.
I survived, though. And who was I to complain? I had a good job. My area of responsibility was the coolest and the work itself was interesting. How badly could a cutthroat culture hurt?
A lot, as I soon found out.
I applied to job after job, but not one person called me in for an interview. I became so discouraged. Looking back now, I wish I had granted myself more grace, more patience.
Alas, in the midst of it all, I didn't feel patient. I felt angry. I was afraid of staying stuck in my job. I was afraid I'd have to take a lower paying job at a company I didn't love, just to get away from Carter's. And I would have, had anyone had called me back for an interview.
Here's the thing. I am so glad I didn't get a call back. I feel as though the universe itself intervened and said "No! That's not the job for you. Be patient, woman." Plus, adversity really does make you stronger. The smart people I worked with challenged me constantly, making me smarter. The mean people made me afraid to fail, and therefore taught me how to stay on top of my game. I don't regret my time at Carter's at all, even as much as I hated it.
So now it was Mid-January, 2020, and that stuck feeling had become a mainstay. A project I had been working on for months was going off the rails, partly because I was beginning to falter under the workload, and partly because of the back-stabby people I mentioned earlier were being bad partners. I will spare you the specifics so as to not reveal their identity.
Bad partners aside, I suppose I was considered "successful" among my peers, I just didn't feel it. All I felt was hopelessness. I had to listen to motivational talks on the way to work to psych myself up. I bitched to my friends constantly. I was no longer the optimistic ray of sunshine I'd once prided myself on being.
I take full responsibility for life at Carter's sucking. I should have listened to my initial instincts when I interviewed there – I knew it wasn't the place for me then, but I ignored the pings. I so wish I had the guts to speak up against the mean people. I alluded to some of the ill will in my exit interview, but for the sake of "not burning any bridges," I held back most of the truth.
The lesson here? Always listen to your instincts.
One Friday night, that January, I did just that. That was the night my fate changed.
It was after 7pm on a Friday night, and I was tired. I shuffled toward the exit but stopped when a teammate of mine waved goodbye. I felt I should go talk with her and swung by her desk, mostly for a sanity check to make sure she wasn't working herself to death (she was).
We sat together for a good 20 minutes, lamenting over one another's work tales, swapping horror stories of epic meetings-gone-wrong and how mean some of our colleagues were. I told stories of being scolded in front of other people, she reminded me of the time she got yelled at in front of me.
Oh, the joys of corporate life.
I was frustrated that I wasn't getting the resources I needed to do my job, I told her. I was just one person, managing Carter's loyalty program, credit card program, and the person who managed the text message and push notification programs. And I was also on the new mobile app project. Carter's was on track to do about $4B in sales at the time, so I was frustrated that I was being stretched so thin. She too, was feeling overwhelmed and taken advantage of.
Then my friend tells me her previous employer happened to be hiring for not one but THREE director-level loyalty positions. If I could get hired there, that'd be a promotion, plus an actual team to help get the work done. It sounded great, I told her, and she promised she'd make a connection.
We ended our chat with expressions of gratitude for the good people Carter's brought into our lives, one another included, and we parted ways. A friendship had been formed.
Fast forward, the contacts she connected me with never got back to me. Gee, Universe, thanks a lot. Was this another timing thing? I was growing impatient.
But. This is a H-U-G-E but....
My friend kept me in mind. She had jumped head first into the job market, looking regularly on the job boards for a way out of Carter's.
Then she came across a LinkedIn post...
"GOT AN INTERESTING ONE IN THE MID-ATLANTIC: A LOYALTY MANAGER FOR A SMALL RESTAURANT CHAIN, AND IT IS TOTALLY REMOTE," he said, in all caps.
"GREAT gig for an early career loyalty/retention specialist."
Interesting, a remote job. "Early career" was definitely not me... but whatever, I could make this could work. No commute plus less responsibility meant more time with the kids. Sure, we might have to sell our house and downsize, but time is money. That's a trade I'm willing to make.
The signs started flowing in, telling me I should follow this lead. Telling me my patience was about to pay off.
Brian and I took a long weekend trip up to D.C. and listened to The Alchemist on the way back. If you haven't read it, do it now, especially if you're at a crossroads in your life and need a reminder to follow your instincts. Such a good read, and a super quick listen if you're into audiobooks. The book is about following the signs in your personal journey, ironically. Signs upon signs upon signs were all around me.
Long story short, I scored an interview. Finally! Things were looking up.
The interview itself was unlike any I'd ever been on. I stayed and chatted with the CFO for almost two hours the night I flew into Charlottesville. The next day, my now "boss" (a term I use lightly because he's actually a pretty chill, not-at-all-bossy type who's super cool to work for) took me to coffee, then breakfast, then brought me to the office and gave me lunch. That many free meals... I'm sold. Just kidding! Kind of.
I flew out of Richmond that night, and the city sparkled under a pink sky. It was an unbelievably picture-perfect end to an unbelievably fun interview. Another sign.
And guess what? I got the job!
I was a little afraid... should I really leave a $4B company where my job felt pretty secure for a young restaurant chain as marketing employee #1? All signs pointed to yes.
"Fear is what can't be trusted.” — Elsa of Arendelle
The funny thing is, this was all before lockdown. I had asked for my interview to be moved up one week because I had a big presentation to work around. If I hadn't done that... if I had interviewed one week later, my world would look completely different. I may not have even been offered the job, because the uncertainty of Coronavirus was just gaining momentum. I scooted in JUST in time.
It felt good to give Carter's my notice. Some people were excited for me, others were mad. But I was ecstatic.
My last day was supposed to be on March 18, but the world started to fall apart just before that, so our offices shut down and I didn't get to say goodbye to anyone. That was a really weird way to end a job.
Even weirder was starting a new one... I was going into the restaurant business, which was one of the hardest hit industries once the pandemic began to take its toll.
I was wrong about less responsibility, I suddenly had to figure out how to drive demand in a flailing economy.
Those first few weeks were a bit rough, but, like people do, the Roots team rose to the occasion and figured it out. We partnered with Uber Eats and DoorDash to get food to people where they were quarantined. We did some digital advertising. And we worked on enhancements to our mobile app.
Ultimately, Roots – all of us – will be stronger after all of this is over.
As for me, I've found my new groove. I've learned how to balance my work-from-home job with my family, my art, and my online shopping. Plus, I keep meeting these amazingly nice, not-at-all-back-stabby people.... is this real life?! Good things keep happening around me, and I couldn't be more grateful.
We've booked two vacations to look forward to. They might get cancelled, because of the virus and all, but at least I can look forward to them before that happens.
We didn't have to downsize and move, so that's cool.
Being home more is magical. I've been around for the big moments. The girls seeing their school friends on Zoom for the first time. Alexa losing her two front teeth. Shane learning how to talk properly.
Brian and I stay up later now and have more time for us. I don't have to commute anymore. I have more time for art.
Speaking of art, I won an art competition! Maybe one of the proudest moments in my life.
I'm so grateful. For me, quarantine works. Then again, I was supposed to have this remote life before the virus struck, so this was already in the stars for me. Destiny, it seems, has a way of working itself out.
I hope you, too, have found the peace you didn't know you needed in this time. If you haven't, be patient. Have faith. It's coming for you, too.
- Mama Kate