As much as I believe in unpredictability, I also believe that we actually do control most of what happens to us in life (no surprise, I like to be in control). I have previously posted a lot about my transition beyond college, my love for camp, and my fashion-forward philosophies on leadership, but today I have been thinking a lot about this idea of putting myself (ourselves) out there for the things I (we) really want in life. Being a New Year, I have a lot of friends and colleagues searching for “something more” this year, and this has me super high on the idea of control and how we can make that “something more” happen if we truly put ourselves out there.
Rewinding a bit, my anxiety was at an all-time high after graduating college. Naturally, I resorted to the one type of assistance that always made me feel better: retail therapy. I shopped. I shopped hard. And not even through a mall, where I was at least letting off endorphins and getting my heart rate up a bit. I shopped online. Fully aware of how dangerous online shopping can be, I concluded my session with a visit to the TOMS Shoe’s online store. At least some of my shopping was for a good cause, I convinced myself. Martyr, again, obviously.
I purchased a pair of picnic colored canvas TOMS, aiming to put my best foot forward (see what I did there?). I was always a believer and supporter in the movement, and never had any issues with the other pairs I had previously purchased. TOMS was always timely about deliveries, and when my order came in the mail, I was saddened to have ordered the wrong size. Clearly, I was attempting to squeeze into a size too small, thus adding more of a complex to my current moment: fat feet.
As I packaged up my shoes to send back to California, I realized that an opportunity was right in front of me. What about working for TOMS Shoes? As an inherent overachiever, I included an apology/thank you note with my return. In addition, I added my resume, credentials, and a few other life goals. Who does this, you’re probably wondering? Desperate people do. And desperate times call for desperate measures.
The stars must have been aligned, because within two weeks, I received an email from an impressed employee who thought I would be a great fit for the TOMS Team. Yes, I know how shady it seems, but after some Facebook creeping, I discovered the individual was actually employed by TOMS. Was this really happening? The position was to be a Personal Assistant, however I was clearly not qualified for the job yet continued to pursue. I had a college degree, and felt, my application should speak for itself. It did. They flew me out to Los Angeles to do an onsite interview, and from the minute I got off the plane, I was immersed in the job. What I did not realize was that in LA, they do things hands on – unlike how we did it in Oklahoma – they actually see if you can do the job before they hire you. I was hanging by a thread. That night, after a series of dramatic episodes, I sat in my hotel room commencing the biggest break down of my life (previously mentioned in a past post).
Of course I was disappointed that I was not cut out for the job, but more than that, I was releasing all the emotions that I avoided for the past few months. Graduating college sucked. Looking for jobs sucked. Reinventing yourself sucked. And I was hungry. One of my great friends and mentors carried the brunt of this breakdown, advising me to order a pizza and sleep it off. She then gave me that one piece of advice I cite as one of the greatest I have received to this day: be honest.
If me crying in a hotel room didn’t tell me I was not cut out for the job, what else would? I barely got through the first day of my two days there, and was sure the second day would only bring more anxiety and struggle. She was right… I needed to be honest and up front. And not just with TOMS, but with myself. This was the first time I was challenged outside of what, for most of my life, had been handed to me (thus, going back to the idea of higher education’s often misplaced support and over-affirming of student(s)/leaders).
I found comfort in my pizza, and booked a flight out of there for the next afternoon. When I got to the office for round two of my professional death, I immediately asked the interviewing supervisor if we could talk. I put it all out there (tears were involved, embarrassingly). I guess my honesty was inspiring to him, and we were able to sever things without any awkwardness. Then he hit me with the next big bit of stress that I didn’t see coming.
“What are your thoughts on staying on with us, but starting as an Intern?”
Intern, I thought? No way. I was just interviewing for a full-time job – I couldn’t possibly be demoted to Intern-status. But, “desperate times call for desperate measures,” replayed over and over in my head. Accepting an Internship didn’t qualify me for a demotion … I wasn’t even qualified to have the Assistant job in the first place. And I had to start somewhere. This was the second biggest takeaway for me: no one is too good for any job. Again, you have to start somewhere.
I was overwhelmed with the sense of urgency connected to taking this opportunity. This is life. I had a friend who was called to move across the country in one weekend. She did. It happens. Life happens. Needless to say, I moved. I packed two suitcases and flew across the country to Los Angeles to be an Intern. Oddly enough, I was incredibly satisfied with this decision. And excited. My family on the other hand, was disappointed in my desire to live penniless in a three-bedroom condo with ten other interns. But for me, I needed something. If it was an Internship – so be it.
When my plane landed in LA, I was greeted out front by two women from my Internship. In the simple conversation from LAX to our condo, I knew that the best was yet to come. I knew that I was going to learn from every single day at TOMS. I knew that the journey was not going to be easy. Maybe the journey was just beginning, in that moment opposed to when I graduated. Maybe it was just timing I was missing. I would have to wait and see, but being fully honest with myself, I knew for sure I was in the right place at the right time.
I find myself revisiting that moment and the risk I took in leaving everything behind. It was the perfect combination of a little drive, a unique approach at putting myself out there, and some desperate determination. It also took an understanding that every opportunity is a great opportunity – it is truly what you make of it. In the beginning of this post, I mentioned a lot of people in my life right now “wanting something more.” And I say, go. Go get it. Put yourself out there.
What willpower do you currently possess? How can creativity assist in your “next adventure” or “something more?” Is the risk worth it? Are you okay with uncertainty, and/or letting things be out of your control, even if for a brief moment?
For all the “more” out there,