As a Throwback Thursday, I wanted to post an entry that I wrote for my friend's blog back in 2016. A reminder of light-giving things!
"I love this idea, giving light. My world has been a bit dark for a little while, and there have been things that have been beautiful and anchoring.
I love everything about this daily ritual. Journeying to the coffee shops, enjoying conversations with the baristas, sitting and journaling or reading or studying, drinking the delicious mix of almond milk, vanilla and espresso (my go-to). I have lived in coffee shops this past year, and although it can get pricey, it’s worth it to me.
Latte art gets me every time.
Whether it’s a small conversation with someone on the elevator, or a deep conversation with a dear friend, it’s these pieces of conversation that keep me tethered to what matters to me. I’ve always loved people, their stories, the small moments that can change a day and remind you that we’re all human and living this beautiful, challenging and changing life. We have a choice to fill each other up in these conversations, and that’s what I try to focus on.
Who doesn’t like to laugh? But stand-up comedy on Netflix is something I thrive on and was the only thing I would watch at points this year. I also cherish laughs with friends and family. When you’re both laughing so hard you can’t breathe and tears come to your eyes, that is the absolute best.
My brother and I: the beatboxing-ukulele duo
Is there something that always makes you happy? For me, that’s looking at a dog (usually big and/or fluffy ones). And maybe even more so, people’s reactions to dogs. It’s like they melt, and their eyes light up with glee and they start speaking in a “dog voice.” “PUP!” … “I want him!!”… “He’s SO CUTE!” All of these spoken by yours truly when a big dog or puppy crosses my path. Someday I will get one of my own.
My favorite plans are the spontaneous ones with other people. I think because they are created out of a desire that feels most like myself in that moment, and the stars somehow align perfectly to create a space where anything can happen and everyone’s in. “Hey, this band is in town and playing tonight! Wanna go?” or “let’s take a roadtrip” or “I want tacos right now. Let’s go!” I have met some life-changing people through spontaneous choices. I am grateful for spontaneity and the friends that join me in it!
It is strange and scary when you realize what or who you assign your value to, and how much. I'm so used to hanging my value on others...but that is precarious. It's like I hang it on a tiny nail in a door that swings constantly with the wind or accidentally gets shut by someone who's careless or moves too quickly. And just like that, my value moves and shakes and falls.
I have a hard time being present, but when I give others permission to determine my value and worth, and they unknowingly drop or shatter it, it seems like that's the only moment there is. That's the only life that ever existed, that time spent with that person or those people. Forget the previous decades I've lived, THIS is my life. Everything else was nothing.
Obviously, that's not a fair way to go about that. Not fair to myself or others.
I have lived 29 years and I feel like I have the fear of a 29-yr-old and the knowledge of a 5-yr-old. I usually say that the 20's feel like a constant unlearning of everything I ever thought I knew. But in a good way...often painful, sometimes inspiring, sometimes terrifying...but overall, good. I used to live like the world was the solid thing and I was fluid and unknown, but now I feel more solid and the world feels more fluid. I can find some stability within myself amidst the unpredictability. I like that.
And then there are nights like tonight, when I'm reminded that when I'm tired and worn down and sad and afraid, my strength dwindles and my mind goes to not great places. A weird headspace. Fragile headspace. Toxic headspace. I feel the need to balance everything to feel in control and instead feel out of control. And night is unforgiving.
And these nights will happen, and that's ok. But I've learned that instead of dwelling in this place, it is time to drink some water, put on comfy pajamas and go to sleep. There are no battles to fight today, only rest. There will be a better tomorrow.
The night is cold
The thoughts wear on
It's getting hard to sleep
The day dissolves
Like it was never there
No good is mine to keep
I see no light in this forever night
The pain is just too great
It's not enough, things will never change
This has always been my fate.
But before I step off into the abyss
And say my last goodbyes
A faint voice whispers,
I hear it say
So tonight, I change my mind.
I never knew you, but I wish you would've stayed. Because you were a person and you mattered, and your life mattered. But it's too late, and this world is complicated and taking one's life is juxtaposed with grocery shopping. And it doesn't make sense, and there's no way to make it make sense. So we push forward in the fog and search for the tiny anchors of light and life and love each day that keep us living. Rest in peace. I hope you stay, friends. You matter very much. There is help, and hope.
People normally write to their 16-year-old selves. The thing is, when I was 16, I still had some semblance of structure in my life. I was going to finish up high school and head to the same college that most of my older siblings went to, and then my life would probably magically unfold for me after that.
But 23, that’s a different story. At 23 I was done riding the graduation high, and I was past hope that I’d find a decent job right out of the gate. The structure I had gotten so comfortable in for about 17 years suddenly fell away, and I was expected to immediately be an adult. Enter: the first of about 80 identity crises. Not to mention that my most useful class in my entire school career from a practicality standpoint was “quantitative reasoning”, which taught us what math could look like in the real world. That insane college tuition was totally worth it, right? RIGHT?!...*eye twitches*.
Let me set the stage: I was working at World Market in suburbia and living at my parents’ house, still trying to swallow the hard pill of not getting out of college with a salaried job and money in the bank. My low point was considering being a family counselor at a cremation company in the strip mall 10 minutes away; even more defeating was the fact that I probably wasn't even qualified with my B.A. in Psychology. Far from college friends, I tried to find a "new" set of friends in close proximity. I also tried going to church consistently for some semblance of comfort. But I was ultimately was still focused on guys and what people thought about me. In reading my old journal entries, I just wanted to give my 23-year-old self a hug. This one entry particularly disturbed me:
"Here I am; manipulative, selfish, inconsiderate, lost, striving, overwhelmed, bitchy, hypocritical, UNWORTHY. I am disgusting, vile, nothing of my own doing is good. Or at least that's what I feel like. Every good thing I have is You [God]. Every good thing I am is You. I don't deserve friends, happiness, generosity, or anything...and yet You bless me with it every day."
I've seen a handful of posts with that dialogue and it doesn't feel like me. I was just a scared, lost post-grad who wanted a boyfriend more than anything and sought value in other people constantly. I wasn't a horrible human; I still focused on being kind and loving, even if it wasn't to myself. The fact that I wrote "vile" and "disgusting" among other descriptors is sad and almost humorous because it sounds like something out of a radical sermon. But that's really what I felt like...I was so overwhelmed with my life that I "surrendered" it. Turns out that still meant feeling everything, wondering why it wasn't changing, and feeling helpless and out of control. Looking back, what would I say to that girl? I would tell her she's more powerful than she could ever imagine, and she deserves to be heard. Her contribution is valuable. I would tell her that she deserves a guy who's interested and friends who feel like sunshine. She doesn't need to mute herself to let others shine; it's not a zero-sum game. Everyone matters, including her.
I would tell her that no one gives a true crap about pivot table skills in advertising for entry-level positions. I would tell her not to waste too much of her time chasing that stupid flaky wedding photographer, that apathetic guy from church or that close-minded and judgmental dude from high school. Although each of them have helped shape her in the rock tumbler of life, I would tell her that eventually those people would fade away and new, more amazing people would come in their place.
I would tell her that it's ok to question her faith, and she should dig in and question it more even if the answers weren't the ones she grew up knowing. That she would still be ok.
I would tell her to talk back to the critical voice in her head and say the opposite to startle it into silence. I would tell her that it eventually starts to speak less and less, and knows it is not welcome.
I would tell her that the satisfaction of her days would be measured less by how many guys talked to her or checked her out, and more in lattes, books, laughter, words, hugs and tiny details.
I would tell her to stop hiding. And to not define herself by paths already taken by people in her life. She has everything to contribute, and is her own person but also a beautiful combination of interactions with everyone else.
I would tell her I love her, and that it will only get better.
And I am so thankful for that. At the end of my 23rd year, I found an internship at an advertising agency that would jumpstart the next 6.5 years of my life. I moved out of my parents' house down to Wash Park to have a whole new set of adventures. I learned more about what it means to be me.
At 29, things are better still. I have so many amazing supports in my life, I've created 3 roles and elevated my career, and I am living in Denver. It's definitely not all roses; I often ride an emotional roller coaster and am scared for some big changes that I want to make, but I know that my 35-year-old self would say: "I love you, and it will only get better".
Thanks for reading, friends.
I've really been liking this song that showed up on my release radar playlist on Spotify. It's called "It's Alright" by a band called Mother Mother. Take a listen! I've included some of the choruses below:
"It's alright, it's ok, it's alright, it's ok
you're not a monster, just a human
and you've made a few mistakes.
It's alright, it's ok, it's alright, it's ok
you're not gruesome, just human
and you've made a few mistakes.
It's alright. It's ok.
It's alright, it's ok, it's alright, it's ok
you're not a demon, there's a reason
you behave in that way.
It's alright, it's ok, it's alright, it's ok
and I believe, yes I believe,
that you will see a better day.
It's alright. It's ok.”
I have to be honest, this week has run me over. I've had a serious case of imposter syndrome at work...what am I doing there? What do I have to contribute? When will they find out I really shouldn't be there? As managers we came up against mistakes that our team members made that cost the agency a lot of money, and we have to be accountable for them and also communicate that those mistakes can't be happening. This isn't the first time this has happened, though it was a different type of mistake, so I had to defend one of my employees against angry executives that only see those mistakes and don't see the growth and effort. I understand that this is a manager's job, but I've been trying to figure out if I fit into this.
We've also had a lot of interviews this week with prospective employees, and I realized that I haven't nailed down a good description of my role. I stumble in my introduction...not fully able to find the words to capture my thoughts about what I do and describe it genuinely.
My current intro: "My name's Katie, I'm the Manager of Paid Search Services & Development. I manage a team of strategists, specialists and coordinators and also manage Paid Search and Shopping strategy across the department to make sure we're consistent, aligned with best practices and innovating across accounts (buzzword, buzzword, buzzword). I created a training program for our department to make sure that new people coming in are fully supported and know who to ask questions to so they're not drowning, which is the development piece of my role.”
It always feels fake when I say it. I don't know why. Maybe because it doesn't acknowledge the journey...I came into advertising with a psych degree. I knew absolutely nothing. When I started at my last agency, there was no one to ask for help and we had to figure it out. I remember the complete panic of being given a task (and every task felt monumental) and not getting full direction. As I progressed at my agency I never wanted anyone else to have that same feeling, so I became the unofficial trainer.
When I came to my new agency, I fell into a similar role of unofficial trainer. Account leads were too stressed to train and utilize their junior-level support people, and our support people were feeling useless and not learning anything. On top of that, our strategists weren't talking to each other and everyone had their own way of doing things. I made time to give people help, pushing aside the work for my 8 client accounts to prioritize other people. But I would still have to get the client work done, which just left me extremely burned out. So after about a year of that, I decided that I needed to make my training role official or I would leave. My boss listened and supported me in an awesome way by helping me to create it. And in creating my role and making it successful, I enabled other people to have a similar role across departments. Now there is a training program in place to make sure that new people coming in are fully supported and know who to ask questions to so they're not left high and dry.
Do I like advertising? Not really. It was fun at first but now I'm over the daily revenue goals and lack of small wins. Do I like supporting people? Absolutely. And management allows me to do that directly. However, there's a lot of other things that come with that in this management role, and I've been taking a good hard look at how I want to move forward.
When I have these rough weeks, it's helpful to remember the journey. It's also helpful to remember that things can always change. I can either change them for myself, or I can be open that they'll change on their own. At my old agency I remember when they dissolved my team and moved everyone into sections with their new teams...except me. They gave me a lone cube in the hallway, with no neighbors. I remember thinking that I could be coloring in a corner and they wouldn't have cared. BUT. Things changed. I moved into a team, I reasserted myself and created a new position at the agency for myself and others at my level who were forced to do things above our pay grade. I left that agency having felt that I made an impact.
I've said a lot of not nice things about myself this week, that catch me off guard and remind me that I am always a work in progress. And I'm grateful for people who listen and support, and allow me to have my ugly thoughts but also help combat them. I normally hold it together so other people can be themselves, but it's been a refreshing, humbling and slightly anxiety-inducing experience to have that for myself. So far, I haven't scared anyone away. :) I'm alright, I'm ok.