Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cha- cha- cha- changes!

I feel surrounded by – no, encompassed by? or more like “chased down the street and beaten with a stick” by – changes. And this is coming from someone who used to LOVE change, surf it like a wave and do little dances as it was happening, thrilled by the newness of whatever was happening. Right now, though? I’d give anything to keep just one solid square of the security of my current/former life under my feet right now.

In no particular order:

  • Ky is coming home for the summer. Freshman year of college under his belt, and my Freshman year of empty nesting coming to an end. How did it go by so FAST? I feel like I’ve just learned how to live alone again and be a good “phone mom” and “occasional weekend mom” and now my chick is flapping back to the nest. Huh.

  • The biggest of my two jobs has ended. The career I’m transitioning away from has left the building. The career I’m transitioning TO? Not here yet. It must be late. I’m like 99% sure I haven’t been left at the career altar. 90% sure, minimum. Like 89.5%. Whatever – it’s like they say: “Out with the old… then stand there awkwardly and watch ‘the old’ get smaller in the distance and ponder the complexity of the universe as you momentarily contemplate chasing ‘the old’ down and begging it to come back.”

  • The house I’m renting is being sold! And there goes the last legitimate reason for me remaining in the same town and same home I’ve lived in for 10 years. This is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place since childhood. And it no longer makes sense, what with my commute and the cost of living etc etc etc. I’m spending 20% of my waking hours in the car, driving to or from work. I’m spending 10% of my household budget on GAS to do all that driving. This house no longer makes sense. But I love it. And I’ll miss it. And moving right now? Feels terrifying in this sea of change and uncertainty. Not to mention moving is a HUGE pain in the ass.

How am I dealing with all this change, you ask? Why, with yoga, running and deep and healthy meditation. (And by yoga/running/meditation I mean back to back episodes of Orphan Black in bed in my pajamas, way too much Wolavers India Pale Ale and frantic calls to my mother asking if she’d like to buy the building I live in and become my new landlord).

In other words, taking it like an adult.


…in an old book, my attic, my house.


To have something wonderful by creating nothing

To put your spirit into your life, to your now

To concentration on the important things

To pay attention to yourself

To exist.

To be beautiful. Ugly. Haunted. Innocent.

I do love you. Fucked up.


“I was so frustrated to miss you on Thursday. I know you said it was no problem, but to me it was a big deal, since there isn’t an old friend or hang out I’d rather have seen than to spend time with you. In consolation, I spent 3 hours swimming in the Gulf. I’d forgotten how warm and salty it is, how organic it smells, how it’s constantly in motion. How buoyant and safe you feel in the waves. So much more nurturing than the water I swim in now.

I get really attached to bodies of water in a way I never seem to attach to the places I live, and I kind of have an intense personal relationship with the Gulf in that it has absorbed a countless number of my most intense emotions over the years. I’ve poured so many thoughts, ideas, hope, pain and plans into it. It’s like we have an intimate relationship now. And swimming in it makes me feel so safe and at peace.

…which is also how I felt with you Tuesday. I said “natural” and you said “at peace” and to those I’d add “safe” because that’s really what it was. Not that swimming in the Gulf is a perfect substitute for being with you, but if I had to miss you on Thursday, it was a good place to be. And anyway, the water is a good thinking place for me.

You were fantastic about communicating everything you were thinking and feeling while I was there. And I think I was so overwhelmed at times that I couldn’t immediately tell you what it meant to me. Sometimes I need to walk away and think before things sort themselves out in my heart.

I need to know if you are happy in your life.

Is this what you wanted? You said so often that I wouldn’t like the person you’ve become. Do you like that person? Is it what you want for yourself? I’m stronger inside than I look. I think about love, and it’s easiest for me to relate things to Sarah – there is not an avenue she could choose, or a person she could “turn into” that I would not accept and love. Since I want her to be happy, some personas and choices would be harder to understand and accept, and I would always encourage her in directions that make her feel good about herself, and her life, abut accept them and love her I would.

Likewise, though I don’t know the details of your life, I do know that had I been given a chance, I would have felt the same for you.

I told you, you and Sarah are all I know of that kind of love. I’ve never gotten to develop it with you, but I do know what I’m capable of, and it’s a lot more than I expected of myself back then. If I’ve gotten to know you on a different level than ‘everyday’, then I’m proud of that, and if the kinder and gentler side makes you happy, then this is what I hope you cultivate. If you’re happy in the rest of your life, then I can’t think how I’d not want that for you.

And what about the person I’ve become? you’re also seeing a much different side of me. I don’t use the word “love” in my relationships, I’m not especially warm, I take independence to a new level and I’m constantly told I’m “missing something” inside – which of course I am.

I’m amazed and touched at how closely you’ve followed my life. I wish I could do the same – and I’d love to – but you seem so uncomfortable with me seeing your real life, and nevermind that it’s not as easy to trace as my life is. Also, there’s nothing you’d see about me that could hurt you.

It’s amazing how similar our experiences were when we parted all those years ago. I knew you cared, I knew you must have hurt too, but I thought that the excitement and newness of your marriage would have made up for any regrets you felt over me. I never imagined you felt as much sadness and yearning as I did. I contacted you again a few years ago because it had been so many years, and yet I was still having dreams about you that were vivid, and sad.

I tried to put it behind me. That note on the Chinese food bag I saved all those years went into a winter solstice bonfire in 1999.  I kept wondering when I could move on. Not that I constantly thought about you – after a while I really didn’t – but you were certainly the monster under the bed in all of my relationships. 

I told you that I never really talked about you to my friends – and I didn’t – but just recently on a cruise a good friend was really hurt by a woman he loved who left him to marry someone else. I could practically feel the exact emotion he was feeling. And I did tell him a bt about us, how I felt with you, how I felt when you left. I told him that I could still feel the love in such a way that I could practically trace its shape and location in my body. And I could also still feel the size and shape of the pain, too. And that if it’s real, it just becomes a part of you and that’s as close to the other person as you will get again.

Well, this was a year ago – not knowing ----“

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Fare thee well April! I kicked your butt and took at least one name.

--> Hello Goodbye April!!  <--

Only two weeks until Ky is home for the summer (ack!!!!) and, combined with the end of April, I’m feeling quite reflective today. Sometimes when I’m involved in working really hard for something and I haven’t QUITE made it a reality just yet, I feel like I’ve gotten nowhere. If that brass ring isn’t in my hand, I see it as a failure, regardless of how many inches closer to it I am this month than I was the one before.

To get away from this I’m going to try to remind myself of all the things I’ve pushed forward this month – even things that didn’t pan out perfectly (the 9999 ways to not make a lightbulb and all that…).

Left the least favorite of my two jobs! This has to get top billing.

  • Actually FINISHED, with excellent work ethic and grim determination – in a series of 60 hour work weeks – the work I had left at the least favorite job. Omg. Done.

  • Was offered enough solid work in my second job to take me through December in relative comfort! Woohoo!

  • Didn’t let the HUGE rejection I received to a program I’d been pretty much counting on get me down for long…

  • …but instead turned it into a different sort of opportunity that seems to be suiting my mind, my finances and my schedule even better than an acceptance might have.

  • Scheduled time with my old career transition coach for a tune up.

  • Registered for a super cool class this summer!

  • Reached out to (let me check) 12 different organizations that could move me forward in my (new, wannabe) field.

  • … and got positive feedback and even some offers from 3 of them (1 is especially exciting!)

  • Did a Tough Mudder --> Survived!!!!

  • Made a Mindmap of all of the intricate plans, thoughts, ideas and different potential avenues for the next 6 months of my life, all based on my core values.

  • Woke myself up in the middle of the night to write an email I had been dreading – I think I’m glad I did this.
  • Spent twice as much time with friends as I ever have – I know I’m glad I did this!

  • Put together all of my thoughts about getting myself career transition coached, and blogged about it.

  • Really took the time to connect to my child, my students, my family members and my friends  - without distraction or impatience.

  • Wrote 6 professional applications including the neverending coverletters, statements, philosophies and specific relevant experience descriptions – this is roughly equivalent to a full 40 hour work week in terms of man hours!

  • Ran 173 miles and enjoyed about 150 of them completely!

  • (listened to Harry Potter Audiobooks 6 – does this count????)

Actually there’s even more than this but I’m kind of shocked ----- I DID all of this in April?

Yup. (back pats all around)!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Hiring a career transition coach Part III: the coaching process

Keep in mind that this is just my experience with coaching, and yours will probably take a different route.

When I’ve told my friends that I have a “coaching session” (I still feel kind of embarrassed saying that, always reverting to my blue collar roots & wondering if I shouldn’t have just ‘worked harder’ at it myself?) – my friends almost all ask me, in a kind of unconvinced tone, “I mean cool, really, it’s cool that you’re doing this… but… what does the coach actually do? Does she just, like, encourage you? Or does she tell you what to do next?”

Fair questions, because that’s what I wondered too when I started pondering career transition coaching. In fact, in my search for a career transition coach, I made a point of asking them “What do you actually DO? What does a coaching session actually look like?” 

Some of them answered in the negative space:

  • It’s not therapy.
  • it’s not being told what to do.

 The best answers were less bullet-friendly, but are in the category of:

  • A coach can help you articulate your strengths and weaknesses, especially as they impact your career.

  • And to identify what your overall goal is, in a career (make money? be happy? help people? be creative? find a work/life balance? bury yourself in your work? adventure? security? all of the above?)

  • ..and then you can work out what parts of your personality, work ethic, education, drive, ambition and skill set will come in to play in different career scenarios.


Spoiler alert: in my case it covered all of these things, but much more. There was a less clinical, more personal aspect that tied in my personality and passion and energy level with my skills and interests and rhythm. It turned out not to be a ‘worksheet/bulleted point’ sort of process. Going in, I didn’t know this and the thought of using words like “passion” and “personality” would have scared me off. Once I was actually involved in the process, I totally understood how it all fit together and worked as a whole. I don’t think I would have gotten much help or insight out of a set of worksheets.



My coach and I had already talked a bit about the current state of my career during our getting-to-know-you session. She knew I was in a very small and specialized area of academia, she knew I was very unhappy there, she knew in general the broad brushstrokes of what field I was aiming for, and she had a general picture of my life outside work (single parent, only child in high school, very little family support, bit of an introvert, lots of drive and energy in my personal life).

Before our first session, she gave me several questions to think about and answer. I won’t repeat them verbatim, but they mainly fell somewhere in these three categories:

  1. What am I trying to leave behind in my current career?
  2. What are my goals for the career I’d like to have instead?
  3. What would I like to get out of coaching?

--> I spent a lot of time thinking about each of her questions – really thinking about them. I wrote down the most obvious answers and then I looked deeper. If during the course of trying to answer the family of questions that fell into the first two categories there were things I simply didn’t know, or hadn’t figured out yet, I added them to category 3.

--> I also took it upon myself to review my CV and really think about each job I’d held in the past. What I thought about it in retrospect. What I remembered feeling about it in the moment. [I’m so glad I did this – eventually we did a lot of work looking back over my work history and taking apart the different pieces of each job I’d held in terms of my skills, my feelings while doing the work, my work/life balance, etc – this turned out to be one of the most eye opening parts of the coaching experience for me.]


So what DOES happen during the sessions?

  • My coaching sessions took place (by mutual agreement) over the phone. We could also have Skyped, but I find Skype really distracting and would prefer to keep my deep-thinking-hair-twirling habit to myself.

  • Our sessions were 90 minutes in length, and every minute of that was thoroughly used. We covered a lot of ground! The fact that I was well prepared for each session was one of the keys to the success of the process. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do a lot of work outside the session itself in order to maximize the time spent talking to the coach.

  • We spent some time visiting (and revisiting)
      • My core values
      • My strengths
      • My past work experience, and the positives and negatives involved in each of my previous positions.
      • How my core values, strengths and needs could ideally play out in a professional sense
      • My ideal work environment
      • My ideal work/life balance

  • Each session was recorded, and I was given access to the sound recording of our call after the session. I appreciated that I could access them and always meant to listen to them again, but I never did. The feelings and ideas I had after each session stuck around better if I let them bubble in my head without revisiting the specific questions that gave rise to them (this is just how I work, YMMV and all that)

  • My coach also took notes during the session, typed them up and emailed them to me within 24 hours. Those have proven invaluable to me. I still go back and read them a year later – that’s how well they summarized what she heard me saying.

    • You know how your voice usually sounds weird to you when you hear a recording of it? That’s how weird my words sounded when someone else was summarizing them. Obviously I’d heard what I was saying – they were my own thoughts and ideas and statements – but reading someone’s “take home message” of those words was bizarrely enlightening. I felt like I was reading about a different person.

    • And you know how it’s always easier to give someone else advice and see the patterns in someone else’s life? Yeah – that’s how I felt reading the summary of our sessions. This “other person” coincidentally also named Emma – well, it was kind of ridiculous that she couldn’t see the obvious patterns in her career.

      Why did she KEEP making those same unhappy choices?

      How can she not see that she’s been using the same excuses and lines of reason for like 20 years? And there hasn’t been a compelling reason for them in like 15 years?


--> Why doesn’t Emma just take some of that energy she’s throwing down a bottomless dark well of despair and instead put that energy into something better?  My gosh, you’d think she LIKED being a work martyr. Doesn’t she WANT to be happier?


  • Within the write up after each session, my coach would also include for me some of my beloved bulleted point lists in outline form:

          1. What our goals had been for the current session
          2. Career/work strengths
          3. Things/Feelings/environments I don’t want for my career life
          4. Things/feelings/environments I do want for my career
          5. Coach’s observations (outsider’s view of what I was saying)
          6. Goals for the next session
          7. Any resources, reading suggestions, homework/preparation for the next session

--> By the way, re-reading the write ups for these sessions has reminded me that I totally, completely chose the right coach for me. She really hit this out of the park.


Next up: Hiring a career transition coach Part IV: the outcome. I think this will give a semi-realistic sense of what solid, tangible successes came out of my career transition coaching.

Monday morning inspiration

…from the person I believe to be one of the most inspirational human beings on the planet.


I think “patience” is going to be my watchword for the day.