“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.
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
I have been trying to run the San Diego Rock N Roll Half Marathon for three years. And I have wanted to run it for even longer. My first attempt in 2013 was stalled before it started when friends got married the same weekend as the race. (It was a fantastic gypsy/camping wedding out in the woods and I was extremely glad not to miss it…) Last year I started training, raised the required donations and then had to drop out a month before the race due to injury. I figured the third time’s the charm and started training for San Diego again this past January. My training was conservative and I stayed healthy, but the specter of re-injury hung over the season. Unlike other races where I had finish times in mind (even if I said I didn’t), a huge success for me this time would be to make it to the start line in the first place. As I told many of my training teammates, I had “unfinished business” in San Diego and some part of me needed to conquer that race once and for all.
Race morning we met in the lobby of the hotel at the un-godly hour of 4:30am for our shuttle ride to the start of the race. We arrived somewhere close to 5am and the race started at 6:50am. For whatever reason, if shuttling is involved, there is an unwritten rule that you must arrive ridiculously early. I had slept 0 hours the night before, so I’m not sure why it mattered when I got on the shuttle. In any case, I had plenty of time to (repeatedly) use the porta-potties, eat my traditional hard boiled egg and English muffin with peanut butter, and attempt to shake off the nerves. Finally, we made our way to the starting corrals and shuffled towards the start line. A small wave of emotion came over me as I crossed the start line and I realized that I was really, actually, doing this thing.
Fortunately, the marine layer over San Diego kept the temperature from being too hot. That being said, the weather was very humid for my Pacific Northwest sensitivities and sweat was pouring down my face from the get-go. Given how beautiful it is in San Diego, the race course is curiously largely residential. Running through neighborhoods does have it’s charms and in one particular stretch I could have partaken of any of the following being offered to runners: mimosas, fireball shots, whiskey shots, bloody marys, and margaritas. I honestly can’t imagine any of those going down well while running 13.1 miles, but I did see one runner make an abrupt U-turn to get a shot of whiskey so I guess it works for some folks. Around the bend in another neighborhood, women were stationed on both sides of the streets handing out napkins. I might have cried upon receiving one of those napkins to wipe off my face, but it was a little hard to tell the tears from the sweat at that point.
For whatever reason, bystanders felt it was important to tell the runners we were “almost there” and that after whatever hill we were on it was “downhill the rest of the way.” These statements were both lies. I heard an “almost there” at mile 4. That is not even the halfway point. Why on earth would you tell a runner they were almost there when they had over 9 miles to go?? On behalf of all runners everywhere, please CUT THAT CRAP OUT. It’s annoying, it’s the opposite of encouraging and the only time I want to hear it is when the finish line is in eye-shot. And even though I should have known better, I really (*really*) wanted the “downhill the rest of the way” lies to be true. It was a huge letdown anytime I rounded the corner and there was another hill in front of me.
Around Mile 9, a fellow teammate who was not running the race jumped onto the course to run to the finish with me. This is an amazing gift and having a running mate makes the time go by so much faster. However, there is another racing phenomenon known as the “Bite Me Zone.” This is when you are getting tired, you are probably a little bit sodium deleted (note sweating comments above) and you are emotionally DONE with this race. Except you are NOT DONE with this race. I was full-on into the ‘Zone’ when Tamira joined me on the course. She was friendly and upbeat and wanted to check in with how I was doing. She has since told me I was not nearly as cranky as I felt, but I finally did have to tell her that I appreciated her company as long as there was no talking (except for me occasionally complaining that we were going uphill again after being promised that it was downhill-the-rest-of-the-way). She tried valiantly to get me to sprint the last .10 of the race across the finish line but I would have none of it and kept my slow and steady pace all the way to the end.
It was a good race, and a tough race, and I was glad to be finished. I also want to give a huge shout-out to my coaches Tessa and Erica who were both a very welcome sight when I saw them out on the course.
Aside from the injury issues last year, I have run in the Seattle Rock N Roll race series every year it’s been held. This is my “home race” and I didn’t want to miss it. Besides, after missing out last year, I thought why not try and run 2 half marathons this season. The Seattle race was just a couple of weeks after San Diego’s race and I figured if I was trained for one, I would still be trained for the other one two weeks later. After finishing the San Diego half-marathon, I was tired, but I felt there was still another half marathon inside of me.
I was hoping for another overcast day like the one in San Diego, but I woke up to bright blue skies without a cloud in sight. I was nervous about the heat, but it was a cool morning and if I could sweat my way through San Diego, I could sweat my way through Seattle. One big difference with this race is that the start line is only a few blocks from my home. I slept in my own bed and wandered down to the race at the far more reasonable time of 6:30 instead of 4:30. I was also starting this race with my longtime running partner, Duana. She was not in San Diego so it was a comfort to have her here this time – even though she was running the full marathon and so the only time we would see each other was in the starting corral.
I had raised money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society this season in honor of my good friend Josh Dand’s cousin, Keegan, who lost his battle with blood cancer. In both races, I wore the same jersey with Keegan’s name written on the back. The race started with a fanfare of fireworks shooting from the Space Needle and we were off. Early in the race, a random stranger shouted at the top of her lungs, “DO IT FOR KEEGAN.” Maybe a mile later a runner came up behind me and said, “You’re running for Keegan? I have a friend running for Keegan in Florida today.” If San Diego had been my own personal unfinished business, this race I was going to focus on Keegan, and for Steve Palesch, and for Gil – those who had lost the battle with blood cancer. This was their race.
One of my favorite parts of the Rock N Roll series of races is the high school cheer teams out on the course. The have some of the best signs (“If Britney Spears can make it through 2007, you can make it through this race.”) and yell out encouragement (“After this race, you won’t have to go to the gym for a month!”) and offer high-fives. I decided that high fives from kids and cheerleaders are filled with jolts of energy and that I was going to return every high-five offered to me. I also heard Tamira and another teammate hollering out my name at one of the cheer stops and this time I had a smile on my face when she saw me.
Close to Mile 9 there is a long slow section that goes through a mile-long tunnel. That might sound nice on a sunny day, but it’s muggy and the walls are covered in car exhaust and it’s all uphill. As I mentally prepared to approach the tunnel, I reminded myself that this race was for Keegan and “Do it for Keegan” was going to be my mantra. I entered the tunnel and that mantra powered my way up the hill. After that, you have another bit of a hill before the most beautiful glorious long downhill on the race. I decided Steve Palesch and Gil were going to power me up this next hill and once again I found myself at the top of the hill in short order. When I got there, I found one of my coaches from last year was helping out on the course. Yon sprinted up to meet me and it was a wonderful surprise to see his smiling face (and he is always smiling). He ran me down the hill and then ran back up again to greet other runners.
Between Mile 10 and 11, I noticed that I was not having my usual “Bite Me Zone” moment. Although sunny, there was a wonderful breeze and the weather remained cool. It was, in fact, perfect running weather. The Seattle course also showcases the city in a way that the San Diego course fails to do – we start at the Space Needle, skirt Lake Washington, and run along the waterfront on top of the Alaskan Way Viaduct. I saw Coach Erica at Mile 11 and she asked if I needed anything and I was happy to report that I felt good. As I came around the bend after Mile 12, I saw teammate Craig – or rather I heard him chanting my name and running up to run with me. There is nothing that beats hearing your name when out on a race. A few seconds later, I heard someone else yell out my name and found my good friend Mark was on the sidelines holding up a sign that said, “Run Lyda Run” and I was able to give him a quick and (sorry Mark) sweaty hug. Craig ran me to the bottom of the last push to the finish and as I entered the finishing chute, Brian was there on the sidelines to give me a high five. I basically floated across the finish line from all the support I received from my friends and family.
Before these races, I had begun to wonder if the Seattle event was getting a little tired and routine for me. But what I found is that sometimes the familiar has it’s own rewards. No one yelled out my name in San Diego like they did here. In Seattle, I knew the course well enough to ignore the “almost there” folks and I knew exactly where the hills were located and how bad (or not) they would be to climb. I reconnected with the reason I was running in Seattle in a way that I didn’t quite capture in San Diego. I was grateful to both races as I gained something important from both of them. As Dorothy says, there is no place like home, but she never would have had that sentiment if she hadn’t left Kansas in the first place. I may or may not run the San Diego race again in the future, but I will definitely be back home where I belong for the Seattle Rock N Roll race.
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.
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
Last week on Monday and Tuesday I had two ‘final’ job interviews with two different companies. As you might guess from the title of this post, I did not get either job. In one case a candidate with more technical knowledge was selected over me. While disappointing, I can’t manufacture a skill I don’t possess, so that one was an easier blow. In the second instance, however, I did not connect well with the hiring manager’s manager. The tension was palpable and I could see discomfort in the hiring manager’s face. Either because of that or because of reasons, I drew a total blank on a question about this company’s industry. It was a stupid mistake and even though I stammered that I didn’t follow their industry, that wasn’t even true. With the benefit of hindsight I had numerous insightful ways I could have answered the question. But, I didn’t, and in interviews there are no second chances, only lessons learned.
Go back in time to the week prior and I was high as a kite with anticipation, excitement, and some anxiety. I studied, I prepared, I did role-plays in my head of how I would answer various questions. Better yet, I literally agonized over which company I might choose if I found myself in the enviable position of having both places make me an offer. I started mentally spending the money on all the things I’ve been wanting to do when I get my next job like go to the spa, or maybe a weekend getaway for Brian and me. Oh, the hubris flowed, and flowed freely, with a nice dash of false modesty on the side (“Of course there are no guarantees of an offer…” she said with a wink). The universe has a funny way of putting us in our place and God surely laughed at my audacity. I meant well, but my judgment was clouded, or rather my head was in the clouds.
I was blathering on to a friend about why this company wasn’t quite right, but maybe it was better than the other one, or maybe not. She rather astutely observed that perhaps neither was the right job. With the wave of a mental hand, I dismissed her comments and went on along my merry way.
When I got the first ‘decline,’ the stress of having to decide was lifted, so I didn’t spend much emotional energy on it. Of course, I already knew in my heart that the second interview was doomed, but I chose instead to torture myself with false hope until the “thank you, but no” email came a few days later. Intellectually, I could see that neither job was really right for me, nor were they what I truly wanted. I had told myself I was following the advice in Stop Worrying About Making the Right Decision and focusing on how I could make either choice a successful one. I also gave myself the “the right job will come along, you just have to have confidence, believe in yourself” pep talk. And I actually do believe the right job will come along. I just forgot to remember that I’m human and rejection sucks. Fast forward to today. I happened to watch that WestJet Christmas Miracle video and suddenly all the emotion poured out and I started to cry, and then cried some more, and kept on at it well after the video ended. I mean it’s a heartwarming video and all, but I went on and on far beyond the power of even holiday marketing efforts.
Why did I care so much about two jobs that deep down I knew were not what I really wanted? I suppose there is some element of fear around being unemployed (expressed to my husband as “No one will ever want to hire me ever again and we’ll have to eat cat food and/or move in with our parents!” she said melodramatically with hand to forehead.) But I think the larger pain is that of rejection. We always want to be the breaker-upper (“it’s not you, it’s me”). No one wants to be the dumpee. We want to be loved, we want to be accepted, we want to be chosen, even if we don’t want what is choosing us. Maybe that is a control thing, or maybe it’s about fear, or failure, or all of them. All I know is that rejection sucks, baby.
Fortunately, I don’t stay down for long. After wallowing around watching more sappy holiday videos (seriously, it’s emotional blackmail, people), I stumbled across this quote that made me feel better.
Thankfully, persistence is a great substitute for talent. ~Steve Martin
I am, if nothing else, a persistent person. Or at least I know how to be persistent. My job search efforts so far have shown me that I can actually make contact with companies and get interviews. The good(?) news about being rejected is that it’s not fatal. Not being picked does not actually damage you. You’re still you. So, I dried my eyes, took a deep breath and got back on Craigslist…
When you’re following your inner voice, doors tend to eventually open for you, even if they mostly slam at first. ~Kelly Cutrone
Now that I’ve been at home, not working for a bit, I’m starting to uncover a few things about my true nature. Not that these traits are any big surprise, but I think we often see our work selves a little differently than we see our rest-of-our-life selves. As it turns out, I have some habits that are intrinsic to my personality, not a function of my job, workplace, or profession.
Here, in no particular order, are a few observations:
- I have no attention span. I know, I know, I’m an American living in the land of instant gratification, but still I am amazed by my own lack of focus. I interrupt my own interruptions. I will walk out of the bedroom to take a glass back to the kitchen and stop to catch something on TV and then turn from that to check my email, then Facebook, then Twitter, which will make me think of something on the TV and then I will see my glass, but remember there was something else in the bedroom I wanted to get and you get the idea. It can take 12 hours for that glass to make it all the way to the kitchen sink.
- I am a big procrastinator. Given that I have huge blocks of time at my disposal to finally get this or that big project done, one would think I would have started, something, anything. (Maybe I’m just too tired from all the ADD-based activity noted above??) Alas, I haven’t organized my scrapbooks. I haven’t created a menu plan with all new recipes I’ve never tried before. In fact, it took me almost two weeks just to get my cycling gloves back downstairs in my bike bag. Thankfully, I’m not a complete loser – I was able to tackle some of the important job-seeking tasks like updating my resume right off the bat. In fact, there seems to be some correlation between the level of priority and the level of procrastination. I do address the mission critical stuff in a timely fashion. I think I was just a little surprised to realize all those things that weren’t that important when I was employed (e.g., the scrapbooks) still aren’t that important.
- I like helping others more than I like helping myself. This is not to say I’m not doing things to take care of myself – I am still going to Weight Watchers, I’m still running, and I am spending time each day on my networking/job hunt efforts. However, I find when I am doing the job search my mind tends to wander to other folks I think I would great for this or that opportunity. Today, after chatting with a recruiter about what I was looking for, we spent a good fifteen minutes with me telling her about this other friend of mine she should be talking to as well. Of course, I didn’t think that helping people was strictly tied to work, but I guess I had expected that I would become much more self-focused not being in a regular work environment every day. So it has been heartening to know that my desire to think about others has persisted even when home all day.
- I’m still an extrovert. Okay, this is no surprise to anyone, least of all to myself. There is only so much hanging around at home that I can handle. Fortunately, I have been taking advantage of my flexibility to catch up with old friends for coffee or lunch and have been doing a little volunteering here and there to get me out of the house. Yesterday was one of those rare days that I was home all day by myself. When Brian got home, we went to run a few errands and bumped into a friend. We stopped at the corner and chatted for a few crosswalk cycles and it was amazing what a lift to my mood it was to talk to someone besides the cat.
As un-earth shattering as these insights may be, I do appreciate that I have had the mental bandwidth lately to observe and take note of them. I think a little self-reflection does us all good, and seeing some of the same patterns in our different walks of life helps reinforce what is “us” and what is our environment. As much as I would love to blame some of my short-comings on factors outside my control, I am actually glad to know that I’m the same (flawed and complex) me, working or not.
I think of myself as something of a connoisseur of procrastination, creative and dogged in my approach to not getting things done. ~Susan Orlean