My 3 Year Long (& Counting) Weight Loss Journey

Over the last few years, when it comes up in conversation, many people have asked me about my health & fitness habits, which eventually leads me down the path of explaining that I never used to be as fit as I am now. In fact, I regularly lived a routine that involved almost never exercising, and eating an entire box of mac & cheese or a package of Oreos in one sitting on a more regular basis than is ever socially acceptable. Unfortunately most people don’t know or perhaps wouldn’t guess that full back story, so I decided it might be worth my time to write it down in case it might help anyone out there struggling with some of the same things that I did/am.

So, here’s my story. A few years ago, I was working a job that I didn’t really like, with a long commute and not so great work environment. I often worked long hours in addition to the commute, so by the time I would make it home at night I would find myself with little energy to make dinner at all, nevermind something healthy. I often would stop and pick up fast food on the way home, or just buy unhealthy “quick” foods from the grocery store. Because I was unhappy, I gained weight, and because I gained weight, I was depressed, and I became stuck in this spiral. Back in 2015, a member of my family was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which we later learned was more prevalent in our family history than we had initially realized, because nobody ever talked about it. It was after this realization that I started to wake up to the reality that would be my life years from now if I didn’t get my act in gear–I was at risk of being diagnosed myself, and I wasn’t doing any favors treating my body so poorly. I may as well have been racing to that inevitability living my current lifestyle.

So I decided to get my life together. In October of 2015, I looked at photos of myself with my dad on our trip to the Texas State Fair, and I had a moment of clarity where I realized how much weight I had really gained–I could see it in my face, my clothes–everything. I had pretty much stopped getting on the scale because it was creeping up around 200 and I couldn’t mentally handle that I was responsible for this number. It had crept up on me–how did this happen? And how long and painful would the journey be to get back down to where I was comfortable with myself and healthy again?

A selfie of my dad and I one the ferris wheel at the Texas State Fair back in fall of 2015.
A photo of my dad and I at the Texas State Fair back in fall of 2015.

So I started small (which by the way, is the only way TO start). I found allies–other people around me trying to practice healthy habits as well, and I used them as my inspiration and support system. I spoke the words aloud to the people in my life–I was going to work really hard on losing weight, that this was important to me, that I needed their support to stay accountable. I saved up a little bit of money so I could go get some workout gear, and I started looking around to figure out what exercise I could do that wasn’t ridiculously intimidating and that I would be able to commit to at least 3 days a week. I started small with baby steps, because everything I had read told me not to set lofty goals, and it was right. When you set a small goal (drink enough water every day) and you accomplish that goal, you build your confidence to take on bigger and bigger goals until you’re at, and even past, the finish line you originally set for yourself. Below I’ve compiled a list of the things that were helpful to me in successfully accomplishing my goals. Overall, I lost over 50 pounds in my journey and three years later I’m still working on staying healthy in body and mind.

1. Find your exercise. 

This one is HUGE, or at least it was for me. This is the first step towards making any meaningful changes in your life, because just changing your diet, even if it’s a healthy one, will not make you a healthy person–you have to exercise to stay in good health. ANd it doesn’t have to be awful or unenjoyable, it can be fun and rewarding. This one took a while for me. I tried doing routines at my apartment gym, I tried videos at home, I tried a bootcamp, yoga, zumba, softball, everything. Finally, a coworker invited me to a class at OrangeTheory Fitness, and I was hooked and have been ever since. I enjoyed the variety of every workout, and the mixture of cardio, weight lifting, body weight movements, and more. I also like that it tailors to lazy people like me who don’t have the time/energy to create all of my own workout routines. Once I figured out that all I had to do was show up in gear and someone else would walk me through a different workout step by step every day,  I knew this would be the right fit for me. It didn’t happen overnight–I had to find a lot of things that I didn’t like first. This is okay, and it’s important. If you don’t love running, don’t force yourself to go run a 5k every day because that’s what you think is good for you. You’ll end up have a negative relationship with exercise, which isn’t necessary. Try some different things, and figure out what works best for you in ability, timing, etc. Exercise should be an enjoyable time where you can challenge your body and mind and improve yourself every day. For me, it’s even meditative–it’s where I tackle my hardest challenge at the beginning of the day to remind myself that I’m capable of anything.

My friend Mike and I after completing a dry triathlon at OrangeTheory Fitness Preston Hollow.
My friend Mike and I after completing a dry triathlon at OrangeTheory Fitness Preston Hollow.

2. Use a Food Tracker (At Least in the Beginning) 

This step was important for me at the beginning, and I think it is for most people. I don’t have a ton of patience for tracking things like this, so it was definitely a challenge for me at the start, but it served a specific purpose–to be abundantly aware of what I was putting into my mouth on a regular basis. I used it when I first started my journey to commit to being better for about two months. This helped me figure out what I was eating that I thought was “healthy” that really wasn’t, and to get a good baseline and some encouragement on what effects my changes would have on my weight/shape overall. MyFitnessPal, often referred to as MFP, is a great one because it can allow you to track macros and other things as well (these are helpful if you’re working with a nutritionist, which I currently am). You can share meals, so if you eat at a friend’s or want to share a recipe with your spouse/significant other to log to stay accountable, that’s totally possible. It also allows some visibility so your friends can cheer you on. This tool was really helpful for me starting out, and I still default back to it during times of stress/struggle so I don’t let myself get away with sneaking in too many “bad” foods.

3. Choose your tool set.

This can also be an important one, although not necessary at the outset. If you’re interested in something like a Fitbit or an Apple Watch (I personally currently am using a Fitbit Alta and have been using Fitbit for years now), and you can fit this in your budget, it can be a great tool to assist you in your goals and help you have more insight into your daily habits (such as how much you’re walking daily, sleeping, exercising, water consumption, etc.). That being said, this can be helpful, but it is not necessary for you to get started on your journey. There are plenty of free mobile apps and tools out there, you don’t need fancy gadgets at all to get started. These tools can help motivate you, and provide data points, but don’t let a $100+ purchase keep you from getting started. (Maybe use a goal to help you reach the purchase of one as a goal! For example, if you hit your goal of losing 10 pounds, you’ll reward yourself with a new Fitbit or something along those lines). Other tools, such as smart scales, can also greatly help in this endeavor, but again are not necessary. They’re just one more thing that can help along the way.

4. You Are Not A Number (But Numbers Can Be Your Friend)

The saddest, scariest thing for me when I got started on this path was having my moment of truth and stepping on the scale and taking my body size measurements to create my baseline. When I weighed myself (around 200lbs), I was avoiding the scale because I felt so much shame and disappointment with myself and how I had ended up there. But I knew that in order to make any progress, that I had to be honest with myself and get the data so I could know if I was moving forward. It was tough, but I created a basic chart in Excel, printed it off and taped it to my wall. Once a month, I would step on the scale for my official weigh in, followed by body weight measurements. Why is this important? Well, for starters, it’s very encouraging when you do know that you’ve got actual pounds to lose. It’s helpful to have some sort of way to measure your progress, which is the first reason why it’s important. Secondly, on months where you’ve been working hard, your number on the scale might stay the same, or even go up, which can be frustrating. But, when you’re also taking your measurements (arms, legs, waist, chest, etc.) you’ll have a more accurate/real way to see if you’re losing inches and progress. Not sure where to start? The internet is a magical place with tons of resources, or you can grab a friend once a month to assist.

5. KISS (Keep Is Simple, Stupid)

This one is always hard at first. When you’re goal setting, it’s easy to go overboard with things and try to go nuts and do “all the things.” You go buy the gear, you fill your fridge with healthy food, download new workout videos, buy yourself a fancy new water bottle, and by Friday of your first week your on the couch eating a bag of Doritos and feeling bad about your newfound failure. It’s really easy to fall into this trap–trust me, I’ve done it myself multiple times. We all have the best of intentions, but when the bar is set too high, it’s just not attainable. And rightfully so; we usually make it so hard on ourself right out of the gate. Instead of making this mistake, I propose the complete opposite approach. Start incredibly small, and build on that success. Try just packing your own lunch and snacks for a week. Or to eat a healthy breakfast every day. Or to go a week without having soda, or maybe limiting your booze. Set one goal to start, and keep track of it. Once you hit it, you can continue to build on that success.

One of the biggest mistakes I see all the time is people going overboard with food. One hack I realized was a big part of my success was to simplify one meal every day. I chose a healthy breakfast (some greek yogurt with Kind granola, some fresh fruit, and a hard boiled egg or two) every morning and ate that every single day. I liked it, and it was easy/low cost for me to maintain. This took the effort/thought out of one meal a day for me, and it made sure I got my protein in after my morning workout. That meant if I could find a few simple recipes to keep in rotation for lunches/dinners, I’d be set–and that’s what I did. I didn’t do any crazy diets (sorry for anyone here hoping I have the tell-all secret, I don’t–there are no secrets except hard work and dedication and persisting through your own failures). I made small changes, like drinking less alcohol (and being more mindful when I did drink), not eating lots of starches/carbs in the evenings, eating less processed foods and sugars, and trying to eat for my workouts. Nothing revolutionary, but it worked for me when I kept it simple versus trying weird diet plans or trying to cook a different recipe every single night.

6. Don’t Put Yourself in Compromising Situations

This one is hard in practice, but really one of the easiest hacks. If you know you’re susceptible to peer pressure or cave in certain environments, try to avoid them. Maybe skip out on happy hour every now and then if you simply can’t resist the urge to have a few brews and you know it’ll set you back. Don’t buy ice cream or cookies if you know that you don’t have the ability to only consume it sparingly in small reasonable portions (this is me–I am NOT allowed to have ice cream or Oreos or anything in my apartment…I simply do not have the self control for them. I can have them in moderation outside of my apartment, but I won’t buy them myself). Communicate with the people you’re around so they won’t hassle you about eating healthy or not having a slice of cake on your coworker’s birthday. As they say, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, and that’s never more true than on the journey to better your health.

7. Drink Lots of Water

Again–this one seems common sense and easy, but it bears pointing out/repeating. Feel free to Google for all of the research, but this will prove to help your sleep, your skin, your digestive system, your workouts–everything. You will be more full and your body will work better if you give it what it needs. A basic rule of thumb is to divide your weight in two, and that number in ounces is at least how much you should be drinking every day. Crushing it at the gym? Hot weather? You’ll probably need a bit more.

8. Get Plenty of Sleep

Again, the importance of this cannot be understated. Without enough sleep, we’re more likely to make other poor decisions about our health. Your workouts will suffer, and so will your focus and the motivation to put in the work and effort needed to succeed in doing tasks like food prep on the weekends, working out, and more.

9. Listen to Your Body

Another easy trap to fall into when you begin is to go nuts with your efforts–to be perfect at everything, and work out all the time. I do work out a lot myself, but it took me at least a year of doing it to learn how to listen to my body. There’s a difference between committing to going to the gym a certain number of days a week, and knowing when to give yourself a break. If you normally go 6 days a week, but your 5th that week was incredibly hard and you’re feeling worn down, it’s okay to listen to your body and take a rest day–that doesn’t mean you failed or didn’t hit your goal. You have to stay in tune with what you’re going through during this process, and pay attention to your body. If you overdo it, in either diet or exercise, you can hurt yourself and even possibly cause irreparable damage.

10. Be Kind To Yourself

This, above all else. You HAVE to be kind to yourself and willing to accept failure. The sooner you can do that, the sooner you can actually succeed (I know, it’s counter-intuitive). You will have bad days, and your best laid plans and intentions will fall apart some weeks. You might have a stressful day/week at work and get less sleep and eat crappy. You might injure yourself and not be able to work out. That’s okay. The sooner you can learn to forgive yourself and zoom out to look at the bigger picture and not lose sight of your goals, the sooner you’ll be back on track. This one is really, really hard but I can’t stress how important it is. If you lose 10 pounds, and then have a bad weekend and gain a few back because you’re full and bloated on fried food and beer, you can’t throw in the towel and tell yourself “What’s the point? I’ll just eat lousy now because I lost all my progress anyways.” Instead, you must remind yourself of the progress that you made and that the current state is just temporary. Once you get back on track, you can re-make that progress, because you already have proof it’s possible having done it before.

 

As I mentioned, literally none of these tips/conclusion are revolutionary. But they are some of the things that helped me in my journey to be a healthier person. My lowest weight to date saw me 55 pounds lighter than I was when I started–less than I weighed in college! I had a rough goal of what I had wanted to hit, and I accomplished it. It doesn’t end there though–I still work out and am always looking for new resources and suggestions on how to stay healthy, as evidenced by my recent partnering up with a nutritionist to review and assess some new goals. It’s a life-long journey, I just want to help anyone I know in any way I can, even if it’s just a small start like this.

Community over everything

The last thing anyone probably thought I’d be doing this weekend is working, having just wrapped up Dallas Startup Week, but I find these days in the wake of it to be the most inspiring. It’s a week spent not only connecting with folks and helping them realize and achieve their dreams and passions, but a week spent catching up with people in the community and witnessing their continued success from small seeds planted many years ago.

This year, I had the honor of being nominated by the local startup community as a Top 5 nominee for the yearly Startup Evangelist of the Year award, hosted by the Dallas Entrepreneur Center and awarded at their State of Entrepreneurship event. I was nominated alongside some very outstanding individuals who I am proud to call colleagues and friends in the community. It was awarded to Leah Frazier, deservingly so, who I’ve had the pleasure of working with as one of our track captains for Startup Week the last couple of years. Leah is a local icon in the Dallas fashion community, and her hard work deserves to be recognized.

Although many offered me consolations for not winning myself, I chuckled at this because everyone knows that if I was doing this for the awards that I would’ve quit many years ago. And I don’t say this to lessen the worth of the award she won–we need to recognize the hard people put into this community, especially since most, if not all, of it is often unpaid and we struggle to balance helping the community with continuing our own personal and professional success and managing our own daily lives. But I don’t volunteer and give my time and expertise to people in the hopes of one day winning an award. It was certainly wonderful to receive a nod from the community in recognition from the people I work alongside every day–I’m very grateful for that. But I do this work because I love this community and the people that make it up. I love meeting someone and seeing the at the earliest stages of their idea, to helping them hire talent to make it a reality, to seeing them gain funding and traction to putting it out there in the world and actually successfully running a company. This is only one scenario of success, but I’ve seen many, many more within the metroplex and beyond. This is the stuff that gets me excited, that gets me up early every Tuesday morning to grab coffee and host #BigDOCC and introduce strangers who become co-founders or friends or colleagues.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m grateful to have been in the Top 5, but I’m just glad to be here. I’m grateful that I have space to do the work I love and learn from and work with the people around me. I celebrated with a big plate of pasta and some delicious tiramisu at Americano, surrounded by people who love, support, and inspire me–I couldn’t ever ask for more than that.

Blogging is Hard

But committing to things is harder. Since I’m doing more writing, it seems counter-intuitive that I would also want to keep this blog going since I have more than enough on my plate right now. But surprisingly it is the opposite–the forward momentum has inspired me to continue practicing my craft so I can make sure I’m getting better at it. In my career(s) since college, I’ve had some opportunities, but not enough, to keep up my writing skills. I gave the blog thing a try a few years ago, but I think I was lacking in enough professional experience to feel like I had much to say. Now that I’m working on writing for Launch DFW, I’m back to doing in-person interviews and stretching my brain a bit to write pieces on local business and interest stories around DFW.

I feel very lucky to have this opportunity, so I’m going to honor my fellow staff members, and our readership, by making sure I stay fresh. I may not always have a ton to say, but I’ll keep flexing these muscles until they’re as sore as the rest of mine after doing burpees all morning at the gym. So for anyone who’s still reading, thanks, and I promise there’s more to come.

To Write or Not To Write

Hello friends, it’s been a minute.

Since I last posted, many things in career/life have changed, thankfully all for seems like the better. I’ve left The Iron Yard behind, traveled a bit, and started a new position or two, now working for both Lifeblue and Launch DFW.

My travels gave me the time off I needed to clear my head, reflect, and set some new goals moving forward, one of which is to sincerely commit to flexing my writing muscles. So if you’re following, I promise to get back to it and share some of my adventures and life lessons here soon.

Thanks for reading.

The Importance of Not Burning Bridges

One of my favorite bands from back home in Rhode Island, Zox, has a great song called “Bridge Burning” that I’ve listened to countless times in the last decade. One of the best lyrics from that song, in my humble opinion, goes as follows:

Our hands are stained the color of the sky above our heads,
With things we haven’t done
And words we haven’t said.
Still the pain will come as some surprise
When you burn a bridge, the smoke gets in your eyes.

The last line always resonated with me in many areas of my life, but most certainly when it comes to professionalism. Lately I’ve been witness to many incidents professionally surrounding this, and I’ll admit that I’ve been floored by how easily people are willing to burn bridges.

As a young professional, I started my career in an industry and a role that turned out not to be for me (see: “Why It’s Okay to Hate Your Day Job”). While I had my moments of difficulty and frustration, I always tried to maintain my professionalism while standing up for myself and the things I believe in (fairness, integrity, professionalism, etc.). I left on my own terms, and my coworkers were kind enough to throw me a farewell happy hour on my way out. This was important to me, because as miserable as I was, I didn’t want to worry about having negative interactions with these people after I left in case I ran into them later in my career.

In the course of my career since then, I have worked with people across industries and companies who have acted without thought or consideration for what the future holds for them. I’ve met people who have been unhappy with their companies, bosses, or teams, so they’ve thought nothing of quitting without notice or dropping a project without consideration for how that immediately affects those around them (hint: it affects more than just your boss or the coworkers you don’t like). This is only one example, but probably the best example to point to when trying to learning about any individual. When taking this approach, it’s assumed that they’re hurting the people directly who wronged them, when the reality is that they’re really just hurting themselves in the long run. If you choose to make this choice, not only will you have immediately ended those relationships, leaving everyone with a bad taste in their mouths, but you’ll leave a ripple of negativity in the wake of your destruction. The people you’ve worked for will not be motivated to say kind things about you, refer you business, or anything. Worse yet, down the line you may run into one of those people in your future and realize they have decision-making power that affects you. To me, these things just don’t seem worth it.

This all may seem to be very common sense advice, but in my experience, as Shawn Achor says, “common sense is not common action.” I watch people consistently burning bridges without thought to the effects it will have on their lives and careers. And don’t get me wrong–there are certainly situations which call for honest confrontations to address legitimate issues, which do have the potential to burn bridges whether that’s your intention or not. I have experienced some of these situations as well, and I don’t have many regrets there. But when you know there is little hope of resolution, sometimes it’s best to just learn from the experience and move on. (A little self-reflection on what you could’ve done better on your end never hurts either). As Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The importance of mentors

As a young professional, I’ve been grateful many times over that I learned the importance and value of mentors early on in my career. I’ve been disappointed to learn this hasn’t been the case for many others that I know, and have certainly realized that they have been a great privilege that I’ve enjoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve invested a lot of time and energy into these relationships, but I certainly am lucky that I had people willing to invest in me.

So why are mentors so important? I’ve been reflecting on this throughout the process of changing jobs, and here’s a list of a few things I’ve come up with that will hopefully should shed light on why you need a mentor, if you don’t already have one.

  1. They can offer you expertise and guidance. One of the main reasons you should seek out a mentor is that they will hopefully have experience in whatever your profession is and be able to offer up their advice and expertise to you. This won’t always be the case–I have several mentors that work in slightly different areas than I do, but ultimately they have a solid understanding of my skill sets and goals, so they’re able to help provide me solid guidance. These are the people I go to for advice when I’m struggling with things, or am ready to make a career change. Any time I’ve needed them, a conversation with a mentor helps provide me with the clarity and perspective that I’m seeking.
  2. They can help you grow your network, meaningfully. Often times people mistake networking to mean meeting as many people in a room as possible, especially at anything billed specifically as a “networking event.” This really, truly isn’t the case (especially if you’re an introvert like me). A mentor can help get you connected with people who will bring meaningful value to your career and help you learn and grow. These can be industry experts, or just people who you may also be able to provide value to. These connections can provide most valuable when you get ready to make a jump–knowing folks outside of your own work and friend circles can help you get a leg up during a job search.
  3. They can boost your confidence. Having someone who knows your skill set and personality can do wonders for your self-esteem. If you surround yourself with the right people, they’ll be able to give you constructive criticism when you need it, and praise as well. There’s nothing better than having a candid conversation with someone who values you as an individual, both personally and professionally, where you can truly explore your strengths and weaknesses and how to strategically work on them. You won’t always have this in any given work environment you find yourself in, so it’s important to make sure you have places outside of work where you can find it.
  4. They can help you determine your market value. There are few things as scary to me when I’m job searching as negotiating a salary is. No matter how skilled you are, it can be an uncomfortable discussion to have. A mentor can serve as a guide when it comes to determining what your specific skill set is worth in the current climate, as well as help you gain the confidence to insist on getting paid what you’re worth. You can use them as a sounding board for any ideas you may have outside of a regular salaried position as well, including launching your own venture or maybe doing some consulting on the side. If you’re both good at what you do, maybe you’ll even have the opportunity to go into business together!
  5. They can inspire you to pay it forward and also become a mentor. When you get to the point in your career when you’ve gained enough expertise, or have even enough knowledge to help others get their start, pay it forward! What better way to honor your mentors than to continue to pass their knowledge and expertise on to others?

Do you have any stories of your mentor making a difference in your career? How did you find your mentor, and what do you do to grow/maintain your relationship? I plan to write a post in the future on how to find a mentor, and some tips on developing/maintaining those relationships, but I welcome any thoughts/advice on your experiences here.

I hope you’re all enjoying your Labor Day weekend–let’s not forget why it exists, and to whom we owe the luxury of workers’ rights and 5 day work weeks. Cheers!

“Vacations are necessities, not luxuries.”

It’s been quiet on the blog lately, and with good reason. Since the announcement of my job search only a few weeks ago, I have been lucky enough to have my inboxes flooded and Slack notifications pinging with requests for meetings, lunches, and phone calls. While this has been wonderful, I hadn’t really allowed myself the time to process things and really reflect on what I’d like to do/which direction I’d like to head once my journey here wraps up.

If you talk to anyone in my life, they can attest to the fact that I am a yuge promoter and champion of self care, in whatever form it best takes for you. For me, it comes in the form of bi-weekly therapy (yes–I believe in eradicating mental health stigmas–it is normal, not abnormal for healthy adults to go to therapy on a reasonably regular basis), early morning gym sessions, quality time with loved ones, and lots of time spent outdoors in nature. I’m not a big reader of self-help books, but even small articles/studies point to the fact that giving yourself down time is good for your brain. Although I agree, I admit that I am not always the best about this, and I am trying to get better. This past week, my boyfriend and I spent some time visiting family and friends in New England. We both made a pledge to attempt to unplug (very limited exposure to news, no e-mails, no Slack) and thanks to my incredible staff here at TIY Dallas, they stepped up and helped make this a reality for me. For the first time in years, I traveled out of the state without my laptop, and it felt pretty great. I had the chance to spend some quality time with Matt, peppered with visits along the coast to lovely places such as Bar Harbor, Walden Pond, Strawberry Banke, the RISD Museum, and more.

Scenic morning run on the farm.
The original site of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond.
The hills of Providence, RI.

Overall, I’m glad that I have friends and people in my life who remind me that although I love the work I do, it’s important to take a break every now and then, especially when things get stressful (which is when we’re the least likely to make time for those breaks). It helps your brain stew over all of those problems you’ve been trying to solve, and do some background work while you feed it new things and perspectives to consider without even really realizing it.

For the first time in ages, I’ve come back feeling recharged, refreshed and ready to tackle these remaining weeks that will lead me to my inevitable transition, whatever it may be.

Follow Your Bliss

Sometimes when you’re searching for answers and clarity, things fall in your lap from areas of your life that you didn’t expect.

Since the beginning of 2017, I’ve been trying to make more time for non-work related reading. This means books not as focused on personal growth, professional development, etc. and just get back to some of my English major roots and read things I love and am interested in. Most recently I’ve been trying to work my way through The Power of Myth, which focuses on an interview that Bill Moyers conducted with Joseph Campbell that tackles mythology from all angles. While most of what they covered is not new to me due to my focus in college, it’s been a nice refresher read on some of the material and I stumbled across a wonderful passage this weekend that resonated particularly well with me:

“Poets are simply those who have made a profession and a lifestyle of being in touch with their bliss. Most people are concerned with other things. They get themselves involved in economic and political activities, or get drafted into a war that isn’t the one they’re interested in, and it may be difficult to hold to this umbilical under those circumstances. That is a technique each one has to work out for himself somehow.

[…]

Each person can have his own depth, experience, and some conviction of being in touch with his own sat-chit-ananda [being, consciousness, and bliss/rapture] , his own being through consciousness and bliss. The religious people tell us we really won’t experience bliss until we die and go to heaven. But I believe in having as much as you can of this experience while you are still alive.” (p. 149-50)

The revelation for me here is that I have gotten to a place where I’ve been ‘following my bliss’ and it’s something I had been striving to do since I began my career journey after college. It took me several years to get here (working jobs I really didn’t like), and I have found a special kind of harmony here in growing, learning, and becoming a better professional along with doing things I love, like helping people. I’ve always strived to “live the questions.” So I think the most practical next step is to figure out what aspects of this place/role gave me the ability to do that and feel this way, so that I can hopefully seek them out in my next role.

Despite the job search and reflections going well, overall this week is a sad one as my coworker Colin will be our leaving our team today–the first to go. The next couple of months will be much quieter and less joy-filled in his absence, but it’s been a pleasure to have him by my side. He’s moving to Atlanta with his family to begin his next chapter, and I am wishing him all the best of luck. I’m grateful to have worked alongside someone who had such great patience (with me, among other things), an incredible work ethic and a wonderful personality. This rainy day will be a sad one, but also happy for the time we all had together. We’re better for having met each other and worked together, and it’s not “Goodbye,” it’s “See you later.”

“What’s next for you?”

This is the never-ending question that I don’t quite have an answer to yet, but people have been asking me for days.

In my quest to figure out the answer, it may (or may not) be helpful to reflect on my career to date. Suffice it to say, I haven’t had the most traditional career path compared to most people I know (perhaps the reason why I was asked to speak at the Alt Path conference a couple of months ago). I went to school and obtained a liberal arts degree, double majoring in English Literature and Foreign Language (Spanish), minoring in Political Science. Most people thought I would go on to teach, but I really just wanted to go on to do anything that my skill set was a good fit for: writing, analysis, time management, people & project management…the list goes on. With the referral of a boss, I ended up interviewing with and landing a job at Amica Insurance Company as a Property & Casualty (P&C) Claims Adjuster. Not my ideal career right out of the gate admittedly, but it paid the bills and seemed to be an excellent fit for my skills set.

Fast forward to two years later, I knew in my heart of hearts that wasn’t the role for me, and transitioned into IT Staffing, filling technical roles for companies like American Airlines & HP. Although I enjoyed the tech & community side of things, I did not particularly enjoy the sales hustle of this role. The competition was stiff, with AA using over 40+ vendors to fill each role. Needless to say, it was difficult to get a hire and I didn’t particularly enjoy that “grind.” Enter: The Iron Yard.

I wasn’t actively job searching at the time, but one day while browsing Twitter I learned that The Iron Yard was hiring a Campus Director for their Dallas location. A couple of weeks later I found the courage to apply, interviewed, and landed the gig. This role has been a mixture of operations, admissions & recruiting, management, HR, budgeting, marketing, community outreach, project management, event planning, and interpersonal skills that I couldn’t have imagined when I first began it. What the role looked like back in 2015 to what it is now as I wrap up my final months is completely different, but I’ve learned so much and have grown so much here and can only be thankful for that. Doing so many different things here is a Catch-22; I’ve learned an enormous amount and stretched myself professionally, but this also makes it hard to figure out my transition. Because I enjoy wearing so many different hats, and not so many roles would allow me to exercise this many skills, it’s difficult to know exactly where to go from here. Enter: StrengthsFinder.

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I dove intro StrengthsFinder last weekend, as a way to help myself cope with the reality of this job search and re-focus. If I want to re-brand, I need to figure out where my strengths lie and find my identity outside of TIY, which has been a huge part of my identity personally and professionally for the last couple of years. To no one’s surprise, including my own, my top 5 strengths are:

  1. Intellection
  2. Input
  3. Learner
  4. Responsibility
  5. Arranger

While these are things I knew about myself, it definitely helps me re-focus and get some perspective on what areas I should zone in on in my job search. This tells me, for starters,  that I’m good at connecting people with purpose, I’m fiercely accountable to projects I take on, I’m insatiably intellectually curious and get antsy when I’m not learning new things. Some of the insights into my personal profile include “Because of your strengths, you can help people understand the details of an elaborate process” and “Driven by your talents, you boldly make demands of and set requirements for people”, both of which are true. While I don’t take this test as the be-all and end-all of my quest for personal insight, it has proven helpful as a first step in my journey to define my personal brand and find my next step.

If you have other recommendations into what has proven helpful to you, I welcome any thoughts and suggestions. And yes, I’ve taken Myers-Briggs, and I’m an INFJ (insert gasp here–no, I’m not extroverted, I’m a mixture of both). 🙂

Self care over everything.

It’s Sunday, and I’ve finally caught up on sleep and had some time to reflect on the last few days. Although I am still in the process of grieving, I think that I’ve shed most of the anger and grief I initially felt and my feelings have thankfully shifted towards gratitude and reflection. After sharing the news with the community, I received an overwhelming amount of support and encouragement which was most welcome and helpful. I am continually amazed by the power of the community here to lift me up in so many ways. I certainly hope to pay it forward as soon as I’m able.

As I mentioned at the start, it’s Sunday. In my personal household, that means a good early workout (I do 7ams on the weekends), grocery shopping, and then home to make some breakfast and do the crossword with my boyfriend. This simple routine is really helpful for me right now, as it provides the control and structure I don’t have in other areas of my life right now. Self-care has always been a struggle for me, but in the last two years I have learned to make it a priority (and turned my life around as a result. See: “Why It’s Okay To Hate Your Day Job“). After everything this week, I was very glad to have a normal morning of routine things to do and check off the list.

As I promised myself, I’ve also begun the process of digging into my job search check list, including working on my resume, personal branding, and this website. I managed to get the domain set up this morning on my own, which was a small victory for me (I work with developers, but I’m not one). My lovely boyfriend is a designer (you should hire him!), and he’s volunteered to help me with my personal branding so we sat down yesterday at Houndstooth to get started on that. I’m also grabbing a copy of StrengthsFinder as soon as I can, so I can have a little bit more direction in my branding and job search overall. It’s been recommended to me by several people now, so it’s about time I put that to good use.

Overall, it’s felt like a restorative and productive weekend. I’m caught up on sleep, and I feel that I’ve got a good start on seeking out the next opportunity. It feels incredibly good to be writing again as well, although I’m a bit rusty on this front. I hope it will get easier with time.