Doing the things I'm really good at is the dream

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I've been having conversations with family members over the holidays about life and what's been going on here in Ottawa with the Wilson crew. Some have been a little out of the loop because I've had some big changes that came with big time commitments and I haven't been good about keeping them up to date. (Fortunately, they're forgiving folks.)

The discussions I've had all led to questions about how I'm feeling about my current employment situation. I get accused of having a lot of jobs. If I included every single one on my resume (even the now irrelevant ones), yes, it would be a lengthy list. But I've stayed for as long as 6 years in one position. Also, I'm 40 and I work in tech, so "lifers" aren't that common. That said, I like to think about the future and how I want my career to look 2-5 years down the road. That's my version of pursuing the dream.

My favorite football team (okay, the only one I ever actually pay any attention to) just got a new coach. I found out that he's had some criticism that this is his third job in a year. No doubt, for a football coach, that's unusual. But then I found out that he said FSU has been his dream job. (He even wanted to play at FSU, but they didn't pursue him.)

For me, the narrative of that story changed completely as soon as I found out how much Willie Taggart wanted to be part of the FSU football program. He's been a class act since day one on the job and he led the team to another bowl game victory so they could finish out the season with a winning record - 41 years in a row, baby! He's off to a great start.

I can relate to what he's done. I started a job in August 2016 that I really loved. "Writer" became my professional title, not just a label I applied to myself. The role had potential to grow in ways I was excited about. And I was having a great time doing interesting work and getting valuable experience. When changes happened in that situation this past summer, I really struggled with the loss of all that potential growth - I just didn't see how I could take the next steps in my career in that company.

The struggle eventually led me to shift my thinking and look at my situation objectively. First of all, I couldn't let my discouragement about the changes poison my day-to-day work. So, I let that shiz go as much as possible. Sometimes it was a minute-by-minute choice. Then I had to figure out what I really wanted. A good friend helped me plan how I could take action to find the right next step for me. That was the point when I started seriously opening my mind to possibilities.

The next opportunity came along within weeks. The potential growth I was seeking with the job I took in 2016? That became a reality in 2017, though not at the place or with the people I thought it would happen. But that's okay, because it's so much better to be in the right place at the right time in the right role than to be loyal to something that doesn't work for you.

I'm good at building. I assess, make observations, figure out a plan, and execute. I love the intensity as you figure out what works and what doesn't. I don't even mind occasional late nights putting out fires. But I want to know that the end result of what I'm doing is valuable and appreciated. I want to be challenged and learn as I work. And I found a role that lets me write while I expand into other areas that I'm good at as well. So, I'm ridiculously excited about the future.

Looking back on 2017, it was a year of big changes. For me, for my little world, for all of us. If 2018 goes like 2017 has, it's gonna be a really fantastic year. Bring it on.

Filling days with happy routines

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I recently changed jobs, and the switch means my 5-minute commute is now 30-40 minutes. That's a big jump, but it's kind of awesome. The only thing I didn't like about my 5-minute commute was that it eliminated my best opportunity for me-time with audiobooks. I've always been a voracious reader, but life happens and it's hard to find the time. For me, the commute is the perfect time to get through non-fiction books, particularly on business topics. 

When I was noodling on how to position a product, I listened to Positioning. When I was struggling with how to explain a complex but important concept, I got inspiration from Made to Stick. And one of Jim Collins' stories in Good to Great reaffirmed my choice to leave my last position. Some days I need something fiction to get lost in because my brain needs a break from absorbing information and generating ideas. Occasionally, I switch on my favorite playlists so I can give a concert in my car.

Having a longer commute creates some logistical challenges, but I try to take advantage of every moment of that time to prep for my day and unwind from it when it's over. The routine - provided I'm not rushed - makes me happy and less stressed. 

Life is too busy not to have routines that inject some amount joy into each day. I love getting my first cup of coffee in the morning. That first sip is the best, too. 

Sometime last winter, my colleagues at my previous job started sitting together regularly at lunch and I looked forward to that routine. It made hard days better and gave us all a break from the grind. This one was good for our whole team, especially since we were dealing with so much change.

It's amazing to see the impact of a simple routine when you're going through change.

One routine I practiced when I was younger, but has fallen away was something I learned from my fifth grade teacher. She once told me that she loved to wake up on Saturday mornings, have a cup of tea, a hot bath and read. I still think that sounds divine, but I haven't done it in years. I might have to revive it before it gets too cold. 

I like having happy routines that are also comforting and calming; they're a safe space in each day, week or month. 

To the women I admire most in the world

International Women's Day is a day of recognition that I honestly wasn't aware of (isn't that a shame?) until about two years ago. In all the years I've worked for and with women, this day was never brought up or recognized. 

Back in the days when I worked for the State of Florida, when my mother and I were employed in the same bureau, I had the absolute pleasure of working with a group of women who I liked personally and professionally a great deal. Many of these ladies were, in fact, also old enough to be my mother and in true Southern style they didn't mind telling me what they thought or what to do. (I even went to school with one of the women's two daughters.) I dubbed them my Ten Moms. I still miss the camaraderie I had with those ladies. I miss them period. Sadly, my mother and other that I know of have  passed away in the years since I moved to Canada. Time moves on and so have I but the memories I have of the first women I looked up to in the workplace will stay with me. I am so blessed to have two truly wonderful women to work with in my part-time job - they are lovely, funny and awesome. I couldn't have picked better if I'd had to choose myself. 

Back: Vicky (Mieka), Lara, Me, Front: Barbara (Reid), Donna, Sara

Back: Vicky (Mieka), Lara, Me, Front: Barbara (Reid), Donna, Sara

Getting involved online has opened up my world to many people, places and things. There's the obvious fact that I met a guy and moved from Florida to Canada to be with him. But that doesn't count on International Women's Day. What does count are the women like Lara, Sara, Vicky, Donna and Barbara who were the original Losing it in Ottawa gang. Most of us were strangers one day and friends the next. Though we've gone on to do other things for the most part, I still count them as friends and admire their chutzpah. Seriously, when you admit your struggles as openly and honestly as we did, it takes guts.

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One person who I definitely haven't been separated from in that group is my business partner, Lara. After founding Losing it in Ottawa together, we worked together to start Social Capital Conference. When she needed a new partner for Kids in the Capital, I said yes. The only thing we weren't doing together was consulting - and then we were. I've had a lot of co-workers that I've clicked with and worked well with, but Lara's different. It's like we feed off each other. Ideas burst forth and we seem to complement each other's strengths and weaknesses. We can tease each other about our eccentricities and quirks. A mutual friend, Jordan, has often called us Statler and Waldorf for our twitter conversations that happy when we're feeling goofy and loopy. I admire Lara for many reasons, but the one that is most clear is that she knows what she wants and she isn't afraid to go after it. She's the best kind of partner to have in business.

In general, I don't get starstruck by people who are public figures, but there are people I've come to know through social media that I definitely get starstruck with. I'm still embarrassed when I think about my giddiness meeting women like Amber Mac and Gini Dietrich. I look up to them and respect them as women who are contributing value to their respective fields. Gini, in particular, is someone I follow with great interest because she's so down-to-earth, approachable and she's just plain good at what she does. Also, when I have employees, I hope I'm half the boss she is. Or maybe I should just convince her to let me work for her too. ;)

Ultimately, the women I admire are not famous. They aren't doing outrageous things for attention. They are being who they are, doing what they do the best they can and being awesome at it. This is merely a select few women that have influenced me in my life and I haven't even talked about the most influential woman in my life much in this post. My mother helped shape the person I am more than any other woman in my life. There is no doubt that I was incredibly blessed to have her for a mom.

Who are the women you admire in your life? Make sure they know today!

Anxiety with severe depression

I nearly had a panic attack when I heard those words last year from my doctor. It's been just over a year since she said them to me. I still don't fully understand what the catalyst was, though I have my theories. It wasn't a single circumstance.

Ultimately, I had a lot going on in life that was weighing me down. The previous summer, we started the process of looking at Brandon's speech and communication delays. Then found out he had motor skills delays in December, so moved on to the possibility of a developmental disorder. I registered him for kindergarten, but worried that he wasn't going to be ready just days before going to see my doctor.

I remember thinking in December that I was so out of shape. Walking to and from work was taking my breath away every time. Except the change happened overnight. One day I was fine, then next I was winded. Odd.

Except I wasn't winded. I was hyperventilating. And it wasn't just on the walk to and from work. It was at varying points through my day and I'd forgotten the months of hyperventilating when I started high school at 14. Just like those first few months of high school, I was so tired. I seemed to sleep well, but stress was weighing me down. I couldn't focus and my work was suffering.

I probably should have gotten help over a year before I actually did. The day I sat on the bus and couldn't catch my breath, tears streaming down my face for no apparent reason. To this day, I have no idea why I had a panic attack on that day at that time. 

It wasn't easy to go see my doctor last year. I'd been depressed in the past, but I was always (somewhat) functional. I kept going and tried to do things to help alleviate the depression. It was usually circumstantial, which seemed easier to recover from, not that PPD after a miscarriage is a walk in the park. Time did heal.

Last year, I had to admit that I wasn't functioning well at all. I was sinking further and further and I knew I needed help to crawl out, especially not knowing what we were facing with Brandon.

So, I went to the doctor, listened to her diagnosis and felt terrified and relieved at the same time. She handed me a prescription and a note for work. I was taken off work for six weeks and monitored.

It took a couple of weeks, but I soon began to feel more like myself. I was engaged, energetic and focused more so than I'd felt for a very long time. It lasted for several months and then I started sinking again, so I went back to my doctor. A temporary solution that was to have lasted just six months has stretched over a year now. I've missed taking my medication occasionally and I know I'm not ready to go without.

I'm writing this today because I've only ever eluded to my struggles in passing. It was an intensely private and personal struggle, much like my fears of the unknown with Brandon were last year. Even family members don't know the details of what I'm sharing today. It's not that they don't care - it's that I just wasn't ready to talk about it. I'm not totally sure I'm ready now even though I believe in talking about mental illness with everything in me. That's why I'm just going to put it out there anyway.

Today is Bell Let's Talk day which is all about ending the stigma of mental illness and helping raise funds for mental health. I don't have a Bell phone line, and most of my friends have iPhones (iMessage and BBMs don't count), but I can tweet up a storm and I'm happy to share the Bell Let's Talk image on Facebook. (Go do it from this link so you get counted.)

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When we have the flu, we go to the doctor. We go to the doctor with broken bones. We shout from the rooftops when we have cancer, because it sucks so bad that so many get it and there's no cure. We aren't afraid to tell people about these kinds of health issues, so WHY is it so hard to admit when we're struggling with mental health issues?

It shouldn't be. It's a sickness in a part of our body that needs treatment and attention. So, let's talk about it. Share your struggles so it's no longer considered a weakness. And if you don't have mental health issues, show your support. The world will truly be a better place for it.

Day 22 - Passion (#reverb11)

Passion - If you could quit your day job and your quality of life wouldn’t change, what would you do?

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I think about this all the time. It’s actually what drives a lot of what I do in my free time, because that’s when I finally get to work on the things that I really love.

If I were to quit my day job to do the thing I love to do, I would help businesses develop strategies to use social media effectively.

I’d continue to build up communities that are supportive and helpful.

I would spend a bit more time writing in this space where I get to chronicle the life I love and share my thoughts.

In some ways, nothing would change. And yet, this would make a huge difference for me.