I Wrote This Last Wednesday

So let me tell you about my day yesterday.

I went to a conference for women in aerospace. Some of it was very woo-woo, but mostly it was a ton of amazingly kick-ass ladies in a room talking about how we can continue to be more kick-ass. That is inspiring to me. Rah, rah – go team!

Then, I watched/listened/absorbed ‘Lemonade’. When I was in middle school, I love NSYNC. In truth, I loved Justin Timberlake, but you know what I wanted more than Justin Timberlake? I wanted to be the kid that wasn’t like everyone else. So, I liked Lance because he was basically JT-lite (I’m guessing Lance would have pretended to like me too, so it would have been mutually beneficial).

Well, here it is. I loved ‘Lemonade’. I felt moved. I felt like “OMG, Beyonce is poetically saying/speaking/visually-stunning me with vibes I have felt.” I found out a lot of the stuff I gobbled up belonged to a woman named Warsan Shire. She is a poet.

So maybe I’m like everybody else in the world. Maybe I’m woke, or maybe I’m not woke? I don’t want to not like something awesome just because I’m worried I’ll be like every other person. Maybe we’re all cool, you know (because I’m cool – right)?

Then I watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and had two glasses of red wine. I watched the episode where [SPOILER ALERT] Tina Fey becomes Kimmy’s amazingly appropriate therapist. I am digging this storyline.

I then took a shower. The shower is where I do 98 percent of my cataloging for my day. I use my reflective moments in the shower to make sense of all that gets thrown at me during the day. So here’s the tenuous threads of my brain captured here in my blog.

Have you ever seen Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk about creativity and muses?

Now you have. It’s it awesome?

I am Tom Waits in the car, but instead I am in the shower. There are no pens in the shower. The shower is relaxing and gives me soothing feelings of apathy. By the time I leave the shower, I have yelled at my muses and told them to come at a better time (and then they shout back – UM, when the hell are you ever available for us these days anyway? – TOUCHE, muses. Toosh – eyyyy).

Tonight, my muses came by and instead I felt like I should listen. I captured these strings of thought and wisps of connection and I began to think about how emotional I’ve been feeling lately. How real I’ve been feeling lately. How unusual I’ve been feeling. How deep I’ve been feeling.

It’s scary for me to feel deeply. I have learned that I am addicted to feeling deeply and I chase that depth until there is no light left. 

I’m speaking about my experience with depression – or whatever the hell you want to call it because these days, I don’t think I want to label it as that anymore. I’m going all Winston Churchill on it and trying on another way to look at it. Whatever it is, I feel things and I feel them deeply. These days, I picture my feelings like a wavelength with very small peaks and valleys for very long stretches of time and it helps me do things like get out of bed and be a productive member of society, which ultimately gives me a greater sense of accomplishment and well-being.

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However, sometimes I miss feeling consumed by my feelings because even though they hurt me, they made me feel like I was more myself because I felt my whole existence so intensely (and the excitement of the frequent peaks and valleys was exhilarating). I got to spend days obsessing over my own thoughts and feelings in the pursuit of giant epiphanies about life and myself. These days, I don’t feel driven to drown myself in them the way I used to because I have just enough stillness to see straight down to the bottom. Ah, thanks therapy, a master’s degree and ongoing yoga. Also, general life circumstances and aging + the ongoing effort of choice to just not do that unrealistic shit anymore. #adulting

It doesn’t mean that I still don’t have moments where I miss those indefinite moments of feeling things as deeply as I could stand it, just because they were strong and powerful and beautiful in their own bizarrely tragic way.

At this conference (yeah, let’s pivot back there real quick), a speaker who was clearly a rad human doing amazing things in her career, said when talking about getting offered a VP position, “I have cultivated an ability in my life to look at a decision I’m about to make and determine if I want to say ‘NO’ because I’m scared. If the only reason I’m not saying ‘Yes’ is because of fear, then I’m going through with it – the only thing that can happen to me is I will fail and I’ve learned that I will try again, anyway.”

She helped kick some sand up. No deep digging, but just enough dissonance that I took the time to listen to my muses today. I used to write poetry. I stopped somewhere in my life because I felt like I wasn’t good enough to write it anymore. I’m not going to read my work at a coffee shop and I expect no round of snaps. Why would I bother?

But today, I wrote a poem because I don’t want to be scared. I don’t want to fear my feelings because of their depth. I don’t want to care if anyone understands me. I don’t want to fear whether my expression of those feelings will be accepted. I want to write my amazing/crappy poetry in my tiny corner of the internet I’ve dug out for myself so I don’t dig any further and I get it out of me so I can move on to another opportunity to feel extraordinary about feeling extraordinarily…  

I miss my black dog,

She was an effortless certainty,

At night, I would chase her.

In morning, she would let me sleep.

 

We would dig,

Dig deep.

Looking for what was buried,

Desperate for what we could not see.

 

Scraping.

Causing ourselves to bleed.

Picking at the scabs,

To see what was underneath.

 

She would heal me.

A new layer of skin,

Smooth and unknown,

A perfect place to dig again.

 

She cut my flesh,

Hit my bone,

Ripped out my marrow,

Just to know.

 

I miss my black dog,

She kept me company.

Possessive and imposing,

Aggressively digging into me.

 

When my nails bent back,

The pile of misplaced earth thrown aside,

My fingers bloody,

Alone I cried.

 

My black dog had hurt me,

Even though I had never left her side.

 

I loved my black dog,

She made me feel known,

One singular being to understand,

The absolute knowing of feeling alone.

Part Next

So, I suppose this is a Part 2, but let’s not call it that. This is Part Next, where I tell you about the next chapter in my journey.

I moved to Seattle, I started my private counseling practice, I got engaged and I was making zero dollars and planning a self-funded wedding. Also, I just wasn’t really enjoying what I was doing. I ended up being offered a position in a vocational cosmetology school serving as their counselor/administrator. I had no idea what I was going to be doing on a day-to-day basis other than some administrative processes of the school and being available for students who were having challenges getting through school.

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[this was my office & that was my to-do list]

I don’t think it’s any surprise to you that many of the students flowing through the school had mental health issues. Vocational education seems to attract people with limited resources and hence, ongoing issues resolving their problems. It’s one of the reasons they hired me. I was essentially a human resources generalist with an amplified focus in social work. I updated the student hours against the time clock, wrote the student handbook and thus became the official handbook know-it-all, and managed all student files. I was also the person who handled when a student need a leave of absence, recommendations for in-patient rehab or when they needed additional assistance that a typical cosmetology educator did not necessarily know how to provide.

I ended up loving that job. It was the perfect mix of business and social services. I was embedded in doing good – supporting the effort to educate people and enable them to make something of their lives. I also had a level of authority and autonomy that allowed me to feel like I was contributing to the overall success of the school and of others. It felt like a broader impact than I had experienced doing one-on-one counseling and there was a measurable level of success. The goal was graduation. I could measure my contribution.

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[I also regularly got used as a model, not too shabby]

I need constant novelty to feel like I’m growing. The first year I learned the job and the second year I mastered the job. After that, there was no upward mobility and I wasn’t getting thrown into anything new and/or challenging. There were no equivalent positions available and at two years in, I realized I wanted to continue doing what I was doing, but I wanted to make it official. I wanted to get into human resources.

I started looking at jobs. I wanted to see what I would need to be an official human resources leader at a company. Turns out, my master’s degree was a great fit for entering human resources, because if we’re being honest, HR is basically counseling at work. It’s the highest level of development. You’re already working with people who are motivated to grow and change because their livelihood is at stake. You can capitalize upon the strengths of your employees and harness them for the good of a company. It’s so freaking awesome, you guys.

The only hitch was that most companies wanted a degree in HR or business, neither of which I had. I had the years of work experience and the level of education, but not educational focus most jobs required. However, there was a very amazing loophole – a Professional Human Resources certification [PHR]. Actually, I wouldn’t call it a loophole, I’d call it a great fortune. I studied for months for this exam and passed it with flying colors. I pretty much got a job offer right after I get my certification.

I’ve been working in HR for several years now and have been continually amazed at how perfect my education has been for what I do daily. My writing skills coupled with my counseling abilities have been like Batman’s utility belt for HR. I can look at an employee on a singular level, a group of employees at the team level or an organization on the systemic level. I get to look for patterns, processes & people to support, champion, improve and inspire. I can’t get bored because THERE IS SO MUCH TO DO.

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As I’m sure you can tell, I am not your normal HR person. I like to think HR can be done in a way where you are everyone’s greatest ally and champion. Is it difficult to do? Hell yeah – but so is mental health counseling. Plus, there are so many different areas of HR to tackle and become an expert in.

So, that’s where I am. I feel fulfilled by what I do and I am glad I got the education I did because I think it prepared me for my current job better than many people who get a formal education in HR.

Anyway, expect me to still share mental health stuff, but especially how the mind relates to work. I’m really into lots of different areas HR directly influences that are becoming huge in the national conversation – paid parental leave, a livable hourly wage, work-life balance, ‘Lean In’, & millennials at work. Expect me to talk about those things and so much more. I’ll continue to talk about all the things that I’m geeking out on in the hopes this remains a place to process all the ideas and things I’m learning and hopefully benefit some of you out there.

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Welcome to my life now, kids. I hope you enjoy the ride.