Are You There Career? It’s Me, Ashleigh.

After months of asking the universe this question, it FINALLY ANSWERED.

I have now officially been employed for three whole days, and even though the world can’t get much brighter than November in Florida, it most certainly has. On Monday I got up at 6 a.m., made my safe a healthy protein packed breakfast, and dusted off my old work wardrobe. Heading out the door felt good. Really good. So how did all this finally come about?

I took a risk, that’s how. A huge, scary, life-threatening (okay, maybe not) risk. Long story short, I applied for a double-digit number of jobs, and at first, I was having very little luck getting through HR as I relayed in this post from a few weeks ago. My final big push of applications went through in the middle of August, with a few trickling randos to follow. I ended up getting four phone interviews and four final interviews for five different jobs, which was both amazing and amazingly stressful at the same time. However, things became really complicated as I learned more about each opportunity and met more people, and one particular position stood out among the others. It became even more interesting when that hiring process got pushed back and prolonged, while the others swiftly took off at breakneck speed. My greatest fear, of course, was not getting a job. My second greatest fear was having to take the wrong job.  One by one, the positions for which I completed final interviews called with offers. What came next was a full 24 hours of feeling honored and nervous breakdowns, trying to decide whether to take it or go full-out for the one I really wanted. My heart knew where it wanted to go, but my head was panicking. Ultimately, I chose to risk it, and as a former career counselor, I know full-well that these risks can go either way to the extreme. In my case…

It paid off.

I’m officially an Eagle.

FGCU Shirt

I’m so excited to report that after five painstaking months of unemployment in a state where I knew no one, I accepted a position as an Academic Advisor for Special Populations in an amazing office full of incredible people at Florida Gulf Coast University. A school that is well-known for it’s dedication to sustainability, service-learning and… Dunk City! Check it out:

Already I feel a sense of purpose, a life-permeating stimulation, a welcome exhaustion. Not to mention that after two years of major life changes (jobs, graduations, surgeries, getting married) and major risks (moving to Florida, quitting my job, you know, the usual), I finally feel a small sense of stability creeping in. I know where I am going to be in the next couple of years – a concept that is alien to me. We’re officially DINKS (dual-income, no kids) again, and although we have some catching up to do, we are off to the races. FINALLY.

So today I am thankful for my career. For the opportunities I am so lucky to have. For finding a purpose in helping others. For Bill supporting me through this rough patch and some very dark days.

Oh, and the teeny tiny, completely unspectacular, not at all awe-inspiring view from my office window.

Office View

How on earth did I get here? This is was gratitude feels like.

xo

Advertisements

What’s Beyond Proud?

That’s a great question. Whatever it is, I feel it.

Last night was Bill’s last show at his current station. The station where we met. The station where I got to see him shine. And the station that gave him the experience he needed to make it to Fort Myers. So forgive me if I just can’t help myself, but I just had to post this from his last sportscast as KSBY.

http://www.ksby.com/videos/saying-goodbye-to-our-weekend-sports-anchor-bill-halter/

So, so proud.

The Life of a News Wife

So this is what it feels like.

In a post that went up a little while ago, I wrote that Bill and I were staring down the barrels of two vastly different paths, and each requires some major life changes in the form of a hard, massive, aneurysm-inducing decision. And then I didn’t tell you a thing about what I was talking about, like a big jerk. Well, I finally have permission to announce that we have in fact pulled the trigger, there are some major life changes underway, and I actually am about this close to have an aneurysm.

In five days, Bill and I are moving to Florida.

Yes, you read that right. FLORIDA. Just about as far as you can get from my lifelong home – my beautiful Golden State of California – without leaving the United States. It is exactly 2846 miles – or a 42-hour drive (39 with no traffic) from our home in San Luis Obispo, CA, to the front door of our new townhouse in Fort Myers, FL. That is so ridiculously far that I simply cannot handle it.

It has been a long while since I’ve posted something on this little heart-of-my-heart blog of mine, and that is because the process has been overwhelming, exciting, stressful, and exhausting.  It has been so hard for me to sit down and gather my thoughts enough to write anything coherent, and I’m pretty sure that I still can’t so bear with me. We also made the decision not to share until contracts were signed and everything was officially official, which was excruciating for me. There is nothing I wanted more than to fill you in, but I couldn’t. So here we are now, and I’m probably smacking you in the face with this news in exactly the same way I was smacked in the face two months ago.

When I chose to marry Bill, I knew that I was choosing more than just a partner in life, but a specific lifestyle as well, and one that was very different from anything and everything I’d ever known. The lifestyle of someone working in news has its glamorous side, which most of you probably recognize. Being a “local celebrity” as people often put it, people saying “hi” on the street, never having a dull day at work, the perks that come with it, and the like. These are all great, and Bill handles each of these so humbly and kindly that my face nearly falls off just watching him sometimes. However, there is a side of the business that not many realize, and that is the nomadic nature of moving up and being successful as a journalist. When Bill and I first met, I wasn’t too aware of this commitment to this imminent upheaval. I was, however, committed to him from the start, and I soon found out that he was to me as well. Going way back to one of our first dates, I divulged a secret. I told him that even though I had just started my job at the station where we both worked, I had recently been accepted to grad school and had made the decision to go. I was so nervous about telling him, mostly because I worried for the security of my paycheck for the rest of the summer and the possibility of severely disappointing my new boss, who took me under her wing and called me her little protege. What I didn’t realize until he told me later in our relationship was that my committing to a two-year grad program could have also meant I might lose Bill, squashing any dreams of marrying the hunk of a man sitting across from me. That was because the end of his first two-year contract was fast approaching, and he had just recently gotten his reel and his resume together to fly off to the next opportunity. Luckily, I didn’t lose him, and he chose to quit his job search and re-sign a new contract for another two years, allowing us to date and eventually get engaged while I finish my grad program.

Within three months of meeting, Bill took me home to Minnesota to meet his family and attend a college teammate’s wedding. It was an incredible whirlwind of a trip, but I will always remember a specific conversation we had while he drove me to the airport to catch my flight back to California. (I was leaving a few days earlier than he was for work.) After such a crazy weekend, we finally had a moment to ourselves, and Bill took the chance to address a giant elephant in the backseat of the car on that Minneapolis freeway. He explained that his business came with interesting circumstances: the promise of relocating with no promise of where. Basically, an agent, if you are lucky enough to have one, manages the job search, blasting out feelers and resume tapes all across the country, incessantly checking openings and communicating with potential landing pads. If the materials catch a station’s eye, the correspondence begins, the journalist is flown out, negotiations get underway, and – BOOM – new station, new city, new life.

As a career counselor currently working in the liberal arts, I knew this, and I explain this process to many, many students in the journalism department at my university. “It’s a difficult business. You have to work your way up from station to station. You may have to take a job in an obscure market and live in a small town for awhile to build up your experience.” It’s a fact of life. I lay it out, no fluff. In fact, Bill and I have always joked about Bangor-freaking-Maine, as the place we could end up, settle down, and live forever until we died in our sleep of old age in that god-forsaken New England town. (I apologize to anyone in Bangor, Maine. I have never been there nor known when to take my foot out of my mouth.) However, despite all this unemotional real talk, it is another beast entirely to live it. Enter into our lives Fort Myers, which I had no idea existed until about two months ago.

It’s such a strange thing, to have someone else take control of the job search, if you can even call it that, as it really should be called more of a “job wait”. Once Bill got his reel and his resume together (with a little help from his personal career counselor), he simply sent them off to his agent in Chicago. After a few edits, he continued to chug along at his current gig, sometimes going weeks without talking to the big man in Chi-Town. Then all of a sudden, things changed. Quickly. Too quickly. So quickly that almost two months later, I’m still not sure what’s happening. It was as if Bill was a fish, swimming through silent water filled with fishing lines and hooks ominously hanging still all around him. Every once in a while, one would twitch slightly, causing panic but ultimately being dubbed a false alarm. Then, in the eerie quiet while Bill and I were looking left at the hook at the end of the line from, say, Minneapolis or Las Vegas, one snapped into his gills from the right and shot us both up and out of the water into a strange foreign world, where the sun was too bright and we didn’t know how to breathe the air and the noises were deafening compared to peace below the surface.

“Where in the hell is Fort Myers, Florida?” was likely my verbatim answer, the only possible deviation being the choice of expletive I used.

So fast forward a few weeks, and here we are. Bill flew out on his own and spent two quick nights there, mostly with the station. These days were agonizing for me, as his “interview” and “orientation”, for lack of better words, lasted 13 hours without a chance to call and update his poor little bird of a wife at home. Drawing up an offer seemed to take weeks, but when it landed in Bill’s hands it was all happening way to fast. We deliberated and anguished and lamented and marinated in this crazy idea, letting our imaginations run wild with the infinite possibilities (him) and the imminent crumblings of all that is good and holy in this world (me). We talked about our life plans for careers and a family. We hashed out logistics for three grueling hours at a time. We created pros and cons lists and talked to our parents and lost sleep. I rattled on about alligators and hurricanes and humidity and nile monitor lizards eating our dog and giant-ass bugs flying into my newly frizzy and unmanageable mess of hair. We almost made a decision, and then we didn’t. We got close to saying the words, but they got stuck in our throats. One day we knew we had to go, and the next we were sure we couldn’t. And then one morning before Bill went to work, he addressed what we had discussed so many times before: that the news business can be inconducive to having a family and a home and a steady and secure life. We knew this. While some of his colleagues had made it work through the flexibility and willingness of their spouses and others simply love their careers too much to be anything but truly happy, many of our other journalist friends had faced the difficult music in this area, and we had heard their regrets firsthand. Bill confessed that he saw his soon-to-be-expiring contract as an opportunity to get out of the business, to settle in San Luis Obispo, and to allow me to shine in my dream job, and honestly, a HUGE part of me wanted that more than anything. However, part of my very nature – and one of the reasons I love my job so much – is that I can fully see the light in someone’s eyes and feel the heat radiating from the fire in their bones when their work and their passions are one in the same. It was clear that one of the most vibrant examples of this was staring me in the face with his big, beautiful blue eyes. Bill had wanted this career since the day he came out of the womb, and I knew what I had to do. “You’re right, this might be a great opportunity to get out of the business. But look at us. I have my master’s degree, you’re done with your job, we don’t have kids. There’s nothing holding us back. Maybe this is the time to lean in, to really give this business a shot, and to take this opportunity. This doesn’t happen every day, and maybe we can’t let this slip away.” I didn’t want Bill to spend the rest of his life wondering “what if?” and regretting his decision or resenting me. The next morning I sat on the edge of the bed just after Bill had woken up, swallowed hard, and said, “Let’s go to Florida.” And then we cried.

So here we are, five days from moving day. Our house is utter chaos, and our belongings have been reduced to brown boxes. Goodbye parties have happened (with a few more on the horizon), and I’ve seen some people that I love nearly and dearly for the last time for what could potentially be a very long time. I have two days left at work before I leave a job and an office that have felt more like a dream and a family than work. We have a site unseen townhouse waiting for us in a gated community we don’t know in a city I’ve never been to. I have panicked and sobbed and grieved in sadness, and I have laughed and squealed and hugged in hope.

I do have pictures and tips and ridiculous anecdotes from the journey so far, but for some reason, this doesn’t seem like the time to include those. Thank you for letting me share this with you, and I hope you know that writing this and sharing this has helped me immensely, knowing that some of you are in this with me. Please know that you are invited to follow along on our adventure of a lifetime, from the roadtrip across the southern United States to the new house to the amazing new friends and opportunities we are about to find in our tropical paradise. And even though I waver between wondering what the hell we have gotten ourselves into and feeling the thrill of an uncertain future, one thing is for sure: we’re doing this.

This is the life of a news wife.

Midweek Muse: Your Inner Voice

Yesterday, a life-changing moment occurred. I had the incredible opportunity to present to students a workshop that I had created from the ground up. It was something a little different from what had been done before, something that I thought our students might need, and something that was undoubtedly, unabashedly, from start-to-finish ME. From the moment the idea sparked to the second I finished speaking, “How to Get to Where You Don’t Know You Are Going” felt like my baby. I was so invested that I realized I have been metaphorically holding my breath, unsure of how everyone would respond. I put my entire self on the line with this thing, not too mention my sanity, working ten to eleven hour days with no lunch break (plus over the weekend) for a week straight just trying to get it done. I was completely and utterly vulnerable.

But when I saw my extremely hard-working coworkers had cleared their schedules to attend and students were sighing in relief as I told them that they will, in fact, survive all this life business, I started to feel like I was doing something great. I was making an impact. I was in MY ELEMENT. And to be honest, as students came up afterward just to thank me for the  hour, I realized I had used my voice and stayed true to who I was while creating this project. I smiled for the rest of the day, knowing I have found a workplace place that values my voice and supports me in my creativity, even when that voice and that creativity are a little off the path of what has traditionally been done.

I’ve never felt like this before, and it is really something. So as a little Wednesday inspiration, I wanted to use one of the messages from my presentation to pass on some of that feeling and support to YOU.

Don't Let the Noise

(From foryouyouyou.tumblr.com via Pinterest)

If you ever need some support in staying true to your inner voice, I’ve got your back.

When It Floods…

You know those weeks when hardly anything goes right, nothing comes easy, and frankly, everything just kind of sucks? This was one of those weeks.

Like Thursday. Ohhhh yes, let’s talk about Thursday. A shining, pretty little example of the week in general. Before I get into details I want to establish that the week was one of those – and I know we’ve all had these – with too much to do and nowhere near enough time, energy, and patience to get it all done. Think on that for a second, and have a little sympathy. Now, that means that I needed to get into the office early. But lo and behold, the first time I slept through my alarm in all of 2013 happened to be, you guessed it! THURSDAY. Up, ready, and out the door with time to spare, but a girl’s got to eat, right? Of course this means a pit stop at Pete’s for Simply Oatmeal and Genmai Cha tea. (Sidenote: If you haven’t tried that tea, go do it. Classic Japanese green tea with roasted popped brown rice sounds weird, but it smells and tastes amazing.) Of course, the line is long and takes forever. I still get into the office early, but later than anticipated, and in general, I don’t enjoy inhaling my breakfast at my desk while trudging through email.

So then the day takes off, and it’s one thing after another flying in to push back all of the things I really have to do, like prepare for that speech I have to give to the higher-up’s advisory council and that huge presentation I have to give tomorrow and, oh yeah, that highly anticipated workshop I’m so glad I came up with two months ago that I felt was SUCH a great idea, and all the students I’m supposed to see in between. That means that even though I woke up to one of those days where I’m so constantly hungry that I’ve turned into an insatiable beast, I already know that a lunch break is out of the question. Good thing I brought the leftover Shrimp and Andouille Sausage Jambalaya that I was SO looking forward to… dropping straight upside down on the floor with a huge splat, not a single bite or ounce of integrity salvageable from the steaming ruined pile. And as luck would have it, as I’m a sniffling (read: crying at work) hunched-over mess in the middle of a main office thruway trying to clean up the disaster, an employer recruiting our students walks by. And so does an intern. The look of pity from the former and a confused look of awkward terror from the latter later, I’m left sans lunch with zero pride and no time to get a replacement  as I head back to my office to shut the door and sob while attempting to type and squint through tears at this stupid PowerPoint that’s ruining my life. If that weren’t enough, I’ll spare you the gory details of the extra hour I stayed late, the painful and emotional conversation, the unexpected dropping of money, and the changing of every stoplight in town just before I got to it when all I want is to JUST GET HOME that occupied the rest of the day.

Instead I’ll just tell you that right at the moment when I had absolutely HAD IT and fruitlessly started yelling at the asshole tailgating me in the middle of my small town just to take my anger out on somebody (ANYBODY), I also realized something else.

I realized, “This is water.”

This was water.

This is, was, and always will be… water.

If you don’t know what I mean, please watch the this video created by TheGlossary.com and inspired by a speech given by novelist David Foster Wallace:

For me, on this ugly Thursday, the realization that this was water cleared the way. All of a sudden I was able to remember the parts of my day that weren’t that bad, and oh yeah, the parts that were actually… GOOD.

The part where my husband showed up at the office with a plate of fish tacos to let me eat and work through lunch and our dog to get me to smile (if only just a little).

The part where an unprompted coworker told me I was rocking it, despite feeling like I was trudging through quicksand while trying to beat the deadlines.

The part where I actually had a job at which to have a bad day.

Or how about my favorite part, when I finally walked through the door to my home to find it warm and comforting, with pot roast and vegetables simmering on the kitchen counter, filling every room with their smell, and with the gentle humming of washer and dryer filling the silence upstairs. Indy was sitting on the couch, happy to see me. Bill came tearing down the stairs, a smile and humble pride at figuring out the Crockpot all over his face.

The funny thing about water is that the more you thrash and kick and fight it, the faster you sink. But if you stop struggling and just feel it, eventually you’ll float back up to the surface. So that begs the question… Are you going to let it all come flooding in to surround you and fill your lungs so you drown? Or are you going to stop focusing on the shit, and see the beauty and the peace and the calm lying just beyond the surface?

Your choice, love. Your choice.

It’s Wednesday and It’s 3:30 P.M.

A while ago – on a particularly rough Wednesday, mind you – I stumbled upon an article written for the Telegraph entitled:

Women Look Their Oldest at 3.30pm Every Wednesday

As you can imagine, this was by far the most encouraging thing I have heard in awhile. After reading the article, it makes sense that this would be the particular time when all of the negative factors would come crashing into each other, creating the perfect cocktail for a complete and utter train wreck on your face. Wednesday is when work stress is at it’s peak, what with all the things you need to get done by Friday afternoon facing off with that well-intentioned-but-never-ending to-do list we all made on Monday. Add to that the natural afternoon slump we all feel in the middle of the afternoon, with lunch safely and snugly in our bellies. Then factor in that the effects of booze take a few days to show up on your skin, and we may or may not have thrown a few back over the weekend. (But with the work week we all had last week, who wouldn’t?!) Top it all off with the finding that women logged the least amount of sleep on Monday, which you guessed it, can take a few days to surface, and you’ve got a lot of fabulous women transforming into the zombies from World War Z faster that it takes you to undress Brad Pitt with your eyes in the first scene of the same movie.

Pretty sweet, if you ask me.

Or not.

So dragging you down in the dirt and rubbing your face in a big pile of insecurity is not my intention. Instead, I want to give you reminder to take care of yourself at the lowest point of the week. You are incredible, and you are working hard. In the hopes that you’ll remember what makes it all worth it, here is a gift from me to you in the form of a gentle nudge to remember the reasons why we do what we do, courtesy of one of my favorite songs by Brandon & Leah.

Happy Wednesday!

P.S. I think you look beautiful.