“If you divert over to the other block, you will be able to finish the marathon and get your medals. No one will know the difference.” That was the message delivered to us somewhere after Mile 19 this past Saturday at the Fargo Marathon. My running partner, Duana, and I shared a knowing look with each other, but we needed a moment to sort out the options that had just been made available to us before making our decision official. We could accept the diversion, cut something along the lines of 1.5 miles from the race, but maintain course support (water stops, mileage signs, volunteers directing us at corners and turns, and traffic support from local police at intersections). Or, we could take the paper map in the volunteer’s hand, move to the sidewalk and guide ourselves to the finish without any support or signage in an unfamiliar city as they were starting to erase the course in front of us. We would get in the requisite 26.2 miles, but there wasn’t a guarantee that there would be a finish line when we got to the end. There wasn’t really any decision to make. We took the diversion. We heard one last “no one will even know” as we turned right instead of going forward and Duana found her voice and said what we were both thinking, “but we will know.”
However, I was surprised to find that I was not nearly as upset as I thought I might have been at this situation. We had gotten off our pacing, (or more accurately, I had gotten us off our pacing) many miles back. It wasn’t really any surprise when the volunteer jumped out of her jeep to tell us we were starting to ‘time out.’ I had been fearing for some distance that we would be swept off the course and delivered to the end via this same jeep, so the option to continue on under our own volition was the far lesser evil of the possible bad outcomes we were facing. I did have a few moments when I thought Duana would be disappointed and mad/sad that I had lost our collective mojo and she told me she was worried that I would be emotionally bereft that we were cut short, but once we settled that neither of us was going to have a break down or try to break-up our friendship over what we were in agreement was the right decision, we commenced marching forward. Maybe it helped that both of us have successfully completed 26.2 miles in the past, or maybe we were just too tired to think of anything other than the rest of the race in front of us.
So, what happened? There was no big drama, no weather issues (in fact, it was perfect cool and overcast running conditions), no race-related injury; not even a huge marathon-style bonk – just a gradual loss of momentum that finally took over the pace we needed to sustain to finish within the allotted time limit. There are a thousand tiny little things that go into the success or failure of any endurance race, but I can point to two main challenges that grew over the miles and literally and figuratively slowed us down.
From the moment we started the race, we were in last place. I am used to being at the back of the pack and those other slowbees are ‘my people,’ but none of them showed up to this race. There was a woman in a white shirt who was within eyesight for most of the race until she dropped out and another gal walking on crutches who was just ahead of her until she dropped or was pulled, but otherwise it was very lonely back there at the end. I was not mentally prepared to be in a class by ourselves, all by ourselves. There were two volunteers (a mother and daughter) who took turns tailing us on bicycles and/or in the aforementioned jeep, and occasionally a motorcycle police officer (we learned later the husband/father to the volunteers), but we were often on the course all by ourselves. At one point our bike escort peeled off for a quick bio break and directed us to follow the bike path into the woods and she would catch up. There was no one around us, we couldn’t even see girl-with-crutches or white-shirt-girl and started to wonder if we were lost. Finally, we spotted an empty runner’s gel on the ground and were relieved to see a clue that we were still on the race course. All along the way, bands that were playing for the front of the race were packing up or gone. We saw empty lawn chairs where locals had been greeting racers. At this point, we were still easily maintaining our pace, but being alone in what is normally energetic and full of people can definitely mess with your head. At least it messed with mine and I started asking myself why there was no one else in this race in our pace group. You need all the energy you can muster to focus on what you are doing, so that mental distraction was the opposite of helpful.
The other challenge was nutrition. It is not unusual to feel a little nauseous during a race and that is usually my clue that I actually need more fuel or electrolytes. I was getting nauseous and occasionally a little lightheaded, but I would eat a little something or take a hit off my electrolytes and feel better. However, at the end of the race it was clear I was not keeping up with my body’s demands as I ate less in this longest of runs than I had in our shorter ‘longest training run’ a few weeks prior. To combat the nausea, we switched around our run/walk intervals and that helped for awhile, but somewhere around Mile 16, both my body and my spirit weren’t in the run anymore and we dropped to all walking. At least that resolved the nausea, but as I watched our splits get slower and slower I knew we were running into danger of exceeding the course limit. I wanted to ask our ever-present bicycle escort whether we would get swept, but I was afraid of the answer, so I just kept going with the specter of not being able to finish joining us for the journey. If I am being honest, there was also a part of me that would not have been disappointed to just go ahead and give up, and quit the race.
Somehow, we didn’t. We pushed on at a dangerously slow pace and kept putting one foot in front of the other. When offered the diversion, we took it and kept going. I even managed to make a joke when we magically arrived at the next mile marker without having to go past the previous one that “that last mile really flew by.” Duana snorted and we continued on. At this point, she was about 20 paces ahead of me, but routinely stopping to let me catch up or at least making sure I was still tagging along. After Mile 23, it was clear that both of us were starting to feel the pain of all those accumulated miles in our hips and feet. At Mile 25, Duana’s right hip was starting to get the better of her and she picked up a small limp. She looked at me and said she had 3 words for me, “Thank ‘effing God” and I knew she was talking about the wisdom of taking the diversion. We plodded past the last band on the course singing out “you have 3/4 of a mile to go” on a repeat loop. We made our way into the Fargodome under sheer force of will. Our tailgate party/family cheered us on the last few steps where the announcer butchered our names and Brian and my friend Lee ran out to greet us. Once past the finish line, we tromped on down to the end of the stadium to collect our medals.
How far did we go? Upon consulting our separate GPS devices and eyeballing the course map, we know it was somewhere north of 24 miles – 24.something, there was some consensus around 24.7 miles although we don’t really know for sure. Less than 26.2, in any case. Did we deserve to get medals for our not-quite-a-marathon? I suppose that is debatable, but when I look at my medal it is a reminder to me of everything I pushed through to find my way to the finish line. Just like in life, the journey is rarely (ever?) as expected. And I am not pretending that we did the full race, so I’ll take the medal and the accompanying disclaimer that goes with it.
Other than that, how was the play, Mrs Lincoln? It was not all doom and gloom by any stretch. I became fond of our traveling family of escorts – especially when the daughter told me that she and her mom rode with the final finishers every year. It takes a special kind of kindness to choose year over year to be with those who are guaranteed to be struggling (and probably in less than stellar moods). Back around Mile 11 when things were still going well, we encountered a water stop with a DJ playing and we danced and jogged our way through, singing along to “We Built This City.” At one point where a band had closed up shop, a man ran along beside us playing music from his iPhone to make sure we had some tunes. We got high fives and well wishes from the small handful of folks who hung out along their sidelines to make sure they were there until the bitter end passed. One of my best friends, Lee, flew out to North Dakota to be there for us. Showing up for people is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Brian even tracked down a Tibetan gift shop so he could bring Nepalese prayer flags to Fargo, which he hung on the porch of our Airbnb house. Plus there is no greater (or louder, seriously) cheerleader on the course than my husband. We saw Lee and Brian numerous times throughout the race and we always heard his whoops and hollers long before we got to them. We raised more than a few bucks to fight blood cancer and honor Duana’s Pop-Pop. Not to mention the texts, emails, and Facebook posts of support and encouragement we received as well. We are both truly lucky to have such amazing friends and fans in our lives.
Plus, we had each other. I can’t begin to imagine what this day would have looked like without Duana at my side. At one point when I was having a minor pity party, I told her she would have finished the full 26.2 if I weren’t there slowing us down. Without missing a beat, she replied that she wasn’t there to run a full marathon by herself. She was there so we could do this event together and whatever happened it would be a collective effort. That by itself made the event special, even if it wasn’t quite the end we had envisioned. Also, the main reason I set out to do this crazy thing was to prove to myself that I could rebound from my broken foot. That those dark times did not define my future outlook. Maybe I didn’t get the 26.2 mile prize, but I managed months of training and 24.whatever miles on my feet on Saturday. That feels like success in my book.
Here are a few short steps to have a happy/healthy/successful/long/fulfilling life:
- Sleep 7-8 hours a night
- Take Naps – *NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN PEOPLE*
- Eat your vegetables
- Cut out sugar and alcohol, and saturated fat, oh and carbs. Pretty much don’t eat anything that tastes good.
- Eat real butter instead of margarine (now we’re talking!)
- Don’t drink cow’s milk, but also don’t drink soy milk if you are a woman
- Get plenty of vitamin D, but I guess not from milk. Get it from sunshine, yay, unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, in which case get used to having crappy vitamin D levels.
- On the 5 minutes the sun comes out, wear plenty of sunscreen so none of the vitamin D gets in. Also because skin cancer = sucks
- Ladies take your calcium with vitamin D, but calcium citrate – not calcium carbonate if you are prone to kidney stones otherwise you will end up in the ER with, well, kidney stones. Note: 99% of all calcium supplements will be calcium carbonate, except expensive name brand ones.
- Don’t go to urgent care or you might get misdiagnosed with diverticulitis and end up in the ER with kidney stones even though you told the urgent care doctor that this feels just like when you had a kidney infection in college. Also get a C. Diff infection from antibiotics prescribed for misdiagnosis. Learn the hard way about the importance of probiotics and a good primary care provider.
- Eat yogurt, because probiotics *ALSO NOT HAPPENING*
- Keep a food journal
- Keep a journal-journal (can I write about how much I hate keeping a food journal?)
- Socialize with friends (without sugar or alcohol..??)
- Spend time with family, but in real life not on social media, which is fun when they live all over the entire country and airfare to go visit your parents is more than airfare to go to Hawaii. Of course, fish and relatives get old in 3 days, so don’t stay in that place you just spent more money than Hawaii to go to for too long.
- Exercise regularly. And exercise includes the following:
- Aerobic activity
- Strength training
- Core fitness
- Getting 10,000 steps a day, even though days you work out with your trainer and you can barely sit on the toilet the next day you are so sore don’t count because that kind of torture does not equal steps
- Do something creative like look at pinterest to see exactly how much of a loser you are because you can’t make handmade pasta in the shape of chinese lanterns
- Turn off the TV (Is a life without binge-watching Stranger Things on Netflix even worth living?)
- Drink red wine and eat dark chocolate (take that, #4! And, uh, does white wine count if you don’t like red wine?)
- Follow your passion
- Eliminate debt (if only my passion for giving unsolicited advice paid better, or at all).
- Meditate. Sit in a quiet place and calm your mind. Being a FOMO media loving American makes this very easy.
- Get an annual physical, and your eyes checked, get an annual mammogram, go to your dentist twice a year, and visit your various specialists that you have accumulated since you turned 45. Make sure all the various medical professionals mention that losing weight will solve all your problems but then don’t give you any guidance on how to do that. Get a colonoscopy before you are 50. Tell your husband terrifying stories about how he will never be able to handle the prep for your own amusement.
- Lose weight by calculating a mystery point system, journaling what you eat, and going to regular meetings. You will lose weight if you do these things. You will not lose weight if you do none of these things and just keep paying for your membership.
- Go to bed at the same time as your spouse. Unless your spouse routinely goes to bed before 8pm, in which case sit in the other room with the TV on ruining your brain with blue light and mock him from the sofa for his sleep weakness. Definitely wake him back up when you go to bed and tell him you are doing it for your marriage because you read an article on the internet once that couples should go to bed at the same time.
- Get off social media. (Well, then how am I supposed to know which friend of mine has some vague problem they are willing to post about but not say what it is.)
- Don’t smoke. Done. Never started. Super glad. If you have friends who smoke don’t ask them all the time if they are going to quit or tell them all about lung cancer. They will band together and plot your murder in which case your non-smoking life will be much shorter than theirs.
- Be married. I don’t necessarily recommend it to someone training for a long distance triathlon unless you like hearing about swimming, running, biking, bike parts, bikes in magazine, lifting up a bike with one hand to prove that yes it really is super lightweight. The only defense is to do your own endurance event and then you both talk about your events non-stop and effectively ignore each other together.
- Have a pet, especially one that eats too fast and promptly barfs their dinner on the carpet and then is hungry again. They will especially like to do this the morning you are having company over that night and just finished vacuuming.
- I have heard having children both makes you immortal and want to run in front of traffic, but I haven’t done that one so I can’t really comment. I can have fun getting “that” look from people when you told them you chose not to have kids, like, on purpose. It seems to be a mixture of pity and longing.
- Stop reading and making lists. They definitely make you depressed and feel bad about yourself. Hang out with your friends and family, drink a little wine, eat a little chocolate, run around the lake with your friend regularly enough to get some exercise and also not need to pay for actual therapy, and maybe eat some vegetables with those carbs. Hug your cat and your husband on a regular basis. Definitely watch Stranger Things on Netflix, but maybe not all at one time, just like 2-3 episodes a day.
I’m not particularly prone to depression. I have my moments of not wanting to get out of bed and face the world, just like any of us do from time to time, but fortunately those are few and far between and don’t generally last long. On the other hand, I’m not a 24-hour fun factory either. I go through moods and seasons of feeling more, and sometimes less, satisfied with myself. Right now is one of the “less” times. There are things I could point to like the damp and grey Seattle weather, the shorter days, being in the off season with my running, work frustrations, or <insert challenging thing here>. Those are probably contributing factors, but let’s face it, they are also constants and I can think of plenty of times I have had an equal list of annoyances in my life where my outlook was far more positive. Also, thankfully, I have no major life issues I’m dealing with right now. So I don’t really have any particular excuse for my recent general malaise.
But nonetheless, it is here with me and seems to have settled in for a leisurely visit. I feel bored and boring at the same time. I can think of all kinds of things I could do, or should do, but then I go “meh” and don’t do them. (Or I get fatalistic about how doing the dishes is a sisyphean task that I am doomed to repeat in a never ending cycle until I die…) I have been here before and I know well enough that “this too shall pass,” but I will admit that I struggle some to know how to function well with this malaise thing traipsing through the day with me. My mind wants to shake it off and get on with my normal life. Of course, it turns out thinking to yourself “shake it off, shake it off” is not especially effective.
I waffled on whether to even share this on my blog. I am not in a deep funk. I don’t need saving. I’m leery of the well-wishing I may get as a result of my post. I chose to share because, in my experience, any time we think we are alone in something we’re generally wrong. I know I am not the only person who has had a case of the blahs. There is comfort in community. If you are there now, I feel ya, friend. If you have been there, and done that in the past, I would love to hear how you have navigated the blah times.
What gets me through? Movies are a great companion. I love more than I can say in words the places that movies can transport a person. I have all kinds of complicated emotions about Woody Allen the person, but The Purple Rose of Cairo is proof that he gets the power of film to take us away from the every day of our lives and it remains one of my all time favorites. Sometimes I need romantic comedies that make me smile and embrace their happily ever afters. Other times I seek out those heartfelt movies that tap into that place that needs to cry it out and I cry sloppily on my sofa with the cat cuddling at my side.
The other saving grace in my life are my friends. It is amazing how much laughing with a group of people burns off the fog. Or when Brian and I laugh about some absurd thing until we can barely breathe. Or how running or walking with a friend lightens my life with that powerful combination of talking and physical exertion. We are social creatures after all, but as a dyed in the wool extrovert, that social interaction is like water in the desert for me.
What gets you through the blah days?
P.S. Not sure how this bit from The Mary Tyler Moore Show has stayed with me all these years, but Ted Baxter pretty well sums it up! (From the start of the video to the 3:52 mark.)
It’s a good time to be plus size. At least the interwebs says it is. I have seen a plethora of stories about us larger ladies and all the amazing things we are doing these days like running marathons, modeling swimsuits, getting married, even making it to the cover of magazines. There is a big part of me (no pun intended) that thinks, “Finally!” Finally, people are noticing that the heavy-set does all kinds of things you normal-set people do. Heck, we might even (gasp) be normal people.
But I have to confess I feel somewhat conflicted about the isn’t-it-great-to-be-fat movement online. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, so I won’t pretend to know what it’s like to live in the skin of the women featured in the posts I referenced. Here’s the thing, I don’t want to be judged or ridiculed because of my body size. I don’t want my weight to be a measure of my intellect. And I think brides should feel beautiful, and sexy, and loved on their wedding day. If you want to wear a bikini in size 22, more power to you. And, as a runner myself, if you want to run ultra marathons at 250 pounds, I will be the first person to cheer you on. I want to be treated like a person.
However, I want to be treated like a whole person, and my weight is a piece of the puzzle that makes up who I am. I am an active person and generally in good health, but I could weigh less and be healthier. Losing weight would lower my risk for diabetes, heart disease, cancer – or at least get rid of my chronic acid reflux… I don’t have a glandular problem, I don’t have some past trauma hanging over me. I simply eat too much. Some people smoke, or drink, or gamble. My personal challenge just happens to show on the outside more than other people’s problems.
I used to be very judgmental of people who smoked until I worked on a team filled with smokers. I watched them repeatedly try to quit. They would quit for their birthdays, make New Year’s resolutions to quit, quit on the Great American Smokeout day. They would make pacts to quit together. I saw smokers try Chantix or get nicotine patches, or gum, or e-cigarettes. I honestly never saw a group of folks try harder at anything over and over again. The experience was eye opening. Before, I thought they just didn’t want to stop that much, but I came to appreciate that the addiction of smoking is powerful and I was grateful I never happened to take it up in the first place.
That’s how it is with me and my weight. I have done any number of things to end my unhealthy eating habits. I buy fruits and vegetables (that I don’t finish and go bad in my fridge). I find new and interesting recipes. I train for half marathons. News Flash: you can train to run 13.1 or 26.2 miles and gain weight doing it. I make pacts with myself to cut out sugar, or alcohol, or processed food. I am a member of Weight Watchers and think I may have a record going for most years on the program without losing any weight. Sometimes I lose a few pounds. Generally, those pounds come back and bring a few friends along for the party. Maybe I don’t want it enough to make a lasting change, but please be rest assured I *try to lose weight* over and over again.
What do I want for my efforts? I sure don’t want to be tolerated. Tolerate means to “allow the existence.” I already exist and I don’t need anyone’s permission to keep on existing. Should I be celebrated? I love being the center of attention and who doesn’t love a good celebration. However, I don’t want to be celebrated for my plus-sizeness. Celebrate me for being smart, or a good friend, or maybe even (I hope) a good writer. That leaves acceptance. Accept me as a flawed human on this earth, just like all the other flawed humans – even the skinny ones.
Acceptance is not love. You love a person because he or she has lovable traits, but you accept everybody just because they’re alive and human. ~Albert Ellis
My company is undergoing an organizational change. This is nothing new. You work long enough and every organization changes. Change is the only constant, right? I was not part of this latest re-org, but I will have to say goodbye to a number of colleagues at the end of June. Sad to say, this isn’t the first time I’ve had to watch people leave, or be the person leaving. These situations are never easy, but I’m usually able to maintain some sense of perspective. Having changed jobs, I know you can leave one and find another one. There are good people in lots of places. Job transition is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen to a person.
This time around, however, I have been having a much harder time maintaining my objectivity. I have only been with this company for just over a year, so I don’t have the kind of relationships that come with working with the same people for many years. Yet I feel like I am losing my best friends. Some of them have been with the company for 14 years. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it must be for them to think about leaving after that amount of time. It hardly seems appropriate for me to be this level of upset after such a short amount of time together. Why do I feel so devastated?
Over the years, I have had a few great managers, some good managers, and fortunately only a small number of really bad managers. I have worked for great companies and not-so-great companies and some in between. I have had work that was satisfying, work that was boring, and work that was way over my head. I have worked with a lot of exceptional people and met a few I was not sorry never to see again. Very rarely, if you are lucky, you have the chance to work somewhere with a fantastic boss, amazing leadership, and co-workers that you universally respect and admire. When all of those pieces fall into place, it’s downright magical. I have had pieces of it here and there, but it wasn’t until I came to my current job that I got a taste of the kind of magic I hadn’t had in a long, long time.
I’ll offer just one example, of many. The group of folks I work alongside (most of whom are leaving) go crazy bonkers for team member’s birthdays. Because my team is all in the field and I’m the only one who physically works in the office, they adopted me for their birthday shenanigans. Offices get decorated with super hero signs, tropical flowers, we “put a bird on it” (a la Portlandia) for one birthday, and recently decorated someone’s office to be the Alaska Airlines Boardroom – complete with in flight magazines and airplane sized booze bottles. For my birthday, these amazing people decorated my office with a running theme since they knew I was training for a half marathon. They put out a water stop, finish line, and a huge RUN LYDA RUN sign on my door. Inside my office they covered the walls with inspirational running quotes, but not only did they decorate my office, they all showed up to work in track clothes and wore race bibs that said, “Team Lyda.” I was touched beyond words. It is powerful to be seen and known.
Upon hearing about my birthday treatment, a friend of mine said she had heard there were workplaces like that, but didn’t think they were real. Well, this place is real. And very, very special. My deep sadness comes from knowing that with all these people gone, the thing that made this place so magical is going with them. I looked into the future and I am mourning what would have been.
The truth in both work and life is that impermanence is part of the deal. The bad times don’t last forever, but neither do the good times. None of us gets out of this life alive. And I think the only way you navigate through these ups and downs without losing all hope is through gratitude. When the magic happens, you have to cherish and appreciate every moment you get. I am so thankful I had the chance to work with these wonderful people. I’m working as hard as I can to appreciate that I even got that opportunity to be with them and not focus on their leaving.
My friends, you will be missed. And I thank you for the time we have had together.
My running days have been put on hiatus due to a ‘very small’ stress fracture in my femur. I have also had more than my fair share of other health issues this year (misdiagnosed diverticulitis, actual kidney stone, antibiotic-induced C.Diff colitis…). None of them, thankfully, have fallen into the VERY SERIOUS bucket, although I suppose that is a somewhat relative and subjective description. If you counted by the number of benefit statements I have received from my insurance company, or by the ways and times my pelvis has been ‘imaged’ the stats are impressive (and expensive – how on earth do people without health insurance afford to be sick??). But, they are all resolved already or will be within a few months time. Hardly worth complaining about, especially when I consider those with chronic illnesses, those battling cancer, or those recovering from life-changing injuries. My problems pale in comparison and most definitely fit more appropriately into the NUISANCE bucket.
Regardless, I have found myself in a weird space of wanting to talk non-stop to those willing to listen (and/or unable to escape) about my laundry list of woes while at the same time feeling somewhat embarrassed for whining about what are ultimately minor problems. In my more zen like moments I am able to put my situation into perspective. Other times, I want the full-on, self-indulgent, pity-party-rave-of-the-century. And somewhere in between those extremes I simply wonder what is my deal with all this BITCHING I seem to be consumed with of late.
Because sometimes I can be a little dense, it took me a few days to connect the dots between not being able to run and not being able to bitch. I am fortunate to have found just about the perfect running partner in my friend, Duana. We are both pretty slow. Well, I am slower; a lot slower, but not by enough to make running with me more painful than running alone, so we make it work. We made a deal some time back that we “leave it all out on the trail.” This means no topic is off limits. We can bitch and moan about the most mundane frustrations of our day or talk deeply about our greatest fears and anxieties. We do both. Sometimes in the same breath, but if I’m honest there is probably more in the mundane category than life’s deepest mysteries. It’s an amazing gift to have a totally catch-free, no holds bared bitch buddy.
Plus you add running to the equation and it’s win-win. Each step on the trail releases each whine and moan into the pavement and at the end of the run we are tired, sweaty, and a lot less stressed-out. Without the running, I feel like my petty complaints are hanging in a cloud around me, tagging along wherever I go. Talking about them does help and I am so grateful for those who have been a sounding board these past few weeks, but without the running to go along with the talk, I seem to be having a harder time letting the pettiness go.
Meditation would probably help, or yoga, or coffee dates or happy hours, or even a good Rom-Com on Netflix. I don’t discount any of those alternate methods, but I sure will be glad when the day comes that I can lace back up my running shoes.
Tuesday morning will be my first day of a new job with a new company after 5 months of unemployment. I am both excited and nervous about what-comes-next and I’m sure it will be the stuff of future blog posts. As I anxiously await these new adventures, I have reflected a bit on what I learned during my “in-between” time.
My family and friends have been awesome, although I pretty much already knew that. They kept me sane, or at least kept me company, during my darker days. My husband, who knew better than to try and tell me ‘everything would be fine,’ showed me listings for studio apartments in Hawaii along with calculations on how we could sell everything, take the cat, and move to paradise. It was never the reality of moving to Hawaii, but the idea of it, that he knew I needed. My friends met me for lunch, coffee, or drinks and did tell me everything would be fine when they saw that that was what I needed. My family encouraged my search efforts by offering either to move in with me and pay me rent or for me to move in with them and pay them rent… Those ‘threats’ were in jest, but I was comforted by knowing that no matter what happened my family had my back.
This experience, and the support I received, showed me what a truly blessed life I live. I have much to be thankful for and any complaints I have are, at their worst, mere inconveniences.
The biggest surprise for me in all this was the help I received from total strangers. One of my strategies based on online networking techniques I learned in my time at LexBlog was to target companies that I was interested in, based on industry (e.g., technology, social media, online marketing) and use LinkedIn to research local contacts within those companies. Once I had a specific name, I looked to see if I had any connection to them through mutual friends or some other common interest. From there I sent out emails that included specific questions I had about their role or their company and asked if they would be willing to meet for coffee. Of course, some of these emails were ignored or my request was politely declined, but I was delighted to find others who accepted my invitations.
These coffee dates were a godsend to me. One of the challenges of job searching is the amount of rejection you have to endure and yet stay positive and hopeful. Applications go ignored, or you talk to a recruiter and then never hear from them again. Not to mention those times when you make it to the face to face interview stage only to have the company go another direction or select a more qualified candidate, or in the case of one interview that went sideways have them re-post the position you applied for the next day. Your self-confidence takes a beating and you start to wonder if you actually have some sort of anti-job cooties.
Unlike interviews, having coffee with someone is more about sharing ideas than evaluating each other. I loved learning about what the people I met were doing, why they did it, what they liked about it, or didn’t like about it. I also enjoyed talking about what was going on in their particular industry. I was able to offer my own observations and sometimes we agreed and sometimes we engaged in lively debate. All of this left me feeling like I actually had something to offer the world. I would come home from these encounters high on a much needed dose of confidence-building.
Aside from the time these people shared with me (and I view time as a precious commodity), I was time and time again taken aback by the generosity of spirit shown to me. I was encouraged, offered free advice, and connected with yet other contacts. None of these people knew me and had no reason to help me, and still they all said yes. There are lots of reasons to be disheartened by the state of the world these days, but I saw that given the chance there are plenty of people who will reach out to a total stranger and offer a helping hand. None of the people I met with asked for anything in exchange, except perhaps to pay it forward. I was humbled by their humankind-ness and I have made a promise to myself to do whatever I can to offer the same to others when the chance presents itself.
Let our New Year’s resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word. ~Goran Persson