Reflections

Knowing When to Transition

I started this sabbatical with a broad plan — explore a list of different careers that I had long been interested in. 

But how I tackled this exploration was a little looser. I purposely did not create a detailed plan of attack, with strict timelines. With most of the fields being pretty unknown to me, I knew that would be a near impossible task.

Instead, I relied on my gut.

I started with whatever career path was pulling my interest at any given time; explored that field through whichever resources were accessible and seemed the right fit — from online classes to one-on-one training to hands-on experience; and when I felt like I was no longer energized by the pursuit, I moved on.

But the ‘moving on’ has always been the difficult part. How do you know the difference between discovering something’s not the right fit for you and just plain giving up?

Of course, the simple answer is — often, you won’t know for sure. You just need to follow that instinct.

And sometimes, you will change your mind.

After working as an interior design assistant for those few months before Artie was born, I started doubting my interest in interior design. There was a lot of headache around demanding or indecisive clients that gave me bad flashbacks to my time in sales. I feared that the drain of managing clients would overshadow any energy I got from the creative design process.

I used my maternity leave to reflect on my future in interior design, and ultimately decided it was time for me to transition away from the field. 

But then, a few months later, a friend posted on Facebook asking for some interior design advice. I commented with a few suggestions, and before I knew it, I was actually getting paid to put together a couple of design proposals.

It re-sparked my interest in interior design, but made me realize I needed to find the best way for it to fit my working style. Maybe that’s only pursuing it as supplemental income, so that I can be super picky about the clients I work with. Maybe it’s focusing more on the content creation side of design.

And then, there’s knowing when to transition within a given career path. This has happened a lot with my exploration of video production and content creation.

As I documented in my past blogs, I tried to dive in a little too deep when it came to video content. I attempted a complicated video format that requires a lot of time, different shots, synching video and audio and editing. It got so overwhelming that the work was no longer energizing.

But video as a medium still piqued my interest.

So, when I revisited video content creation a few months ago with the launch of my YouTube channel, Ke Aloha no Hawai‘i, I knew the key would be to make the filming and editing process much simpler.

And I’ve successfully produced 17 videos!

But even with this channel, I got to the point when I knew I needed to transition my work. While working on the core content — my grammar videos — vastly improved my planning, filming, and editing skills, it also required a lot of time. So much so that I didn’t have much time to actually continue my own Hawaiian learning.

So, I decided I would wrap up the grammar videos (for now) and transition to less time-intensive vocabulary-focused videos.

And I’ve also decided to attempt to launch a new YouTube channel, on a topic that would attract a wider audience. More details to come!

What I’ve learned through all of this is that you won’t always know for sure if you’re making the right decision. Because here’s the big secret: most of the time, there is no “right” decision. There is just the best decision for you at that one point in time. And most decisions aren’t permanent; you can always change your mind.

So, when you get to that fork in the road, just go with your gut. Choose the path that looks like the best fit for you at the time. It’s ok, if you end up turning back and following the other path instead. Your journey on that new path will likely be richer and more fruitful because of what you saw and experienced on the first one.

Reflections

Focusing on the Things You Can Control

It goes without saying that these are very tough times that we are living in. The whole situation seems so overwhelming that it can be extremely difficult to cope. I, like many others, have been riddled with anxiety and depression. 

“Why won’t people just wear damn masks?!”

“When will I be able to hug my friends and family again?”

“What if I get sick?”

It’s hard not fall into that bottomless pit of hopelessness and despair.

But I’ve been desperately seeking out resources to help calm my mind and bolster my mental state.

One of the biggest tips I found: focus on the things you can control.

I set out to find some project that I could throw myself into and completely control. And so for the last five weeks, I’ve focused on healthy eating and fitness.

I’ve made almost all of my meals from scratch. I’ve avoided added sugar. I’ve cut out sweets and alcohol altogether, I completed a 28-day strength-training challenge and just started a new one. I started hiking again and taking Artie on regular walks.

Not only do I feel the physical benefits of these changes, but from a mental standpoint it feels comforting to have something in my life that I have complete control over. I control whether or not I stay within my daily calorie limit. I control whether or not I get that workout done.

And moreover, I actually get to see the positive results of this hard work, as I witness the numbers on the scale and measuring tape go down.

I realized I can use this same mentality for my career exploration, where I’ve been plagued with worries: 

“Success in a lot of these fields I’m considering is so out of my control.”

“Is anybody actually hiring right now?”

“You can’t guarantee you’ll make money from that.”

So I have to focus on what I can control.

Can I completely control any monetary success from YouTubing? No. But I can still move forward with developing and maintaining a channel. And along the way, I’ll develop useful skills in video production, editing, and community management.

Can I guarantee that I’ll become a working actor? Of course not. But I can continue to find opportunities to improve my craft. I can build my website, create my reel and get new headshots to improve my professional presence.

So instead of obsessing over the end goal that may or may not be attainable — securing that dream job — I’ll focus on those stepping stones that I can control.

Reflections

Knowing When to Take a Break

For the last three weeks, I’ve written about The Artist’s Way, a book and 12-week guided journey to unlock and reclaim creativity in your life.

And for the first couple of weeks working through the program, I was extremely frustrated with myself, lamenting that I wasn’t dedicating as much time to the tasks and exercises as I should be.

I tried to forgive myself a little, and last week I wrote that if I can just spend a little more time and energy to the work each week, that would still be an accomplishment.

Well, I found myself halfway through this past week, and I hadn’t even read the next chapter, let alone done any of the tasks!

And it’s not that I was lazy; although, given … all of this (*gestures everywhere*) … it would be perfectly acceptable to be lazy. It’s just that a lot of other projects ramped up this week, leaving me little time to work on The Artist’s Way.

And so, I had to make a decision: 

Do I power through and do at least a little work on the next chapter in The Artist’s Way so that I can keep to the schedule I committed myself to?

— OR —

Do I put a temporary pause on the program and revisit it when I have more time and energy?

I obviously chose the latter, but it’s interesting how often decisions like this can come up.

When we commit to a new project, we want to see it through, even if it means just focusing on the minimal viable product (or MVP), as I’ve written about in the past. We don’t want to hold up the work, just because we can’t do it perfectly.

However, I think there’s a point where you have to accept the value in pressing ‘pause’. Not necessarily giving up, but just taking a small break and waiting until you have the necessary resources to tackle the project.

Because if you’re just doing work for work’s sake and not getting any value out of the experience, then what’s the point?
So, I will be taking a 2-week break from The Artist’s Way to wrap up another project that is occupying most of my time at the moment. But don’t worry — I’ll be back on the journey, with hopefully more time and energy.

Reflections

Recovering a Sense of Identity

I continue this series on The Artist’s Way with a look at “Chapter 2: Recovering a Sense of Identity.”

Week 2

As we open ourselves up to reclaiming our identity as an artist, we are often bombarded with self-attacks. These little voices of self-doubt can easily slide into self-sabotage. I have definitely been experiencing this:

“You’re not spending enough time working on this stuff.” 

“You have no dedication.”

“You’re not actually brave enough to really go out on a limb.”

“You should just quit now.”

This week’s chapter also covered external attacks ― people in our lives that can block your path to reclaiming creativity in your life. 

First, there are the “poisonous playmates”, people who question your new creative pursuits, planting seeds of self-doubt. Funny enough, these are often people who are still creatively blocked and threatened by your own recovery. Here was a quote from this section that particularly resonated with me:

“Often, creativity is blocked by our falling in with other people’s plans for us. We want to set aside time for our creative work, but we feel we should do something else instead.”

I’ve talked many times about the fact that, before going on this sabbatical, I made my career decisions mostly based on what others would think ― “other people’s plans for us.” And even now, as my sabbatical has gone on a little longer than I originally planned, I am constantly doubting my on-going exploration and question whether or not I should just get another full-time job again ― “we feel we should do something else.”

The chapter also discussed “crazymakers”, people who take over your life with their problems and drama; just when an opportunity arises, you are interrupted by needing to fix some drama in this person’s life.

As I read this section, I was relieved to know that I don’t really have people like that in my life, or at least, I don’t let anybody’s drama get in my way. But then I had a horrifying thought ― I may very well be someone else’s crazymaker.

“They are often charismatic, frequently charming, highly inventive, and powerfully persuasive … If they can swing it, they are the star. Everyone around them functions as supporting cast, picking up their cues, their entrances and exits, from the crazymaker’s (crazy) whims.”

It made me really reflect on my own behavior as I deal with my struggles. Of course, I want to be able to go to people I am closest to for their support. But I need to make sure I’m not taking them away from their own progress.

In general, through internal doubts or external questioning, recovering creatives will be bombarded with skepticism throughout this phase. It’s important to push against those pessimistic voices.

So much goes in the confines of our minds. Doubts about our abilities. Fantasies about what should be. But Cameron cautions that if we get too stuck in our head, we’ll get stuck altogether. Her solution: attention. Get out of your head and pay attention to the world around you.

I liked this rule: “Remember that it is my job to do the work, not judge the work.”

Tasks

There were actually no exercises in this chapter, only the tasks. I started the week off great by dedicating time early on to start the tasks.

I did a task where I chose three affirmations from Week 1 that I felt strongest about and I wrote each one five times in my morning pages. It’s funny (and sad) how persistent doubt can be. I found myself scoffing at these affirmations, questioning their truth.

There was also another ‘imaginary lives’ task, where I had to think of five additional paths that I would take. And once again, the challenge was to try to live one of those. I sort of accomplished this. One of the paths was that of a writer, and I finally got down on the page a little something that has been floating around in my head.

There was a task to list ten things that completed the sentence “I would like to ______.” They could be big or small. It was interesting to see what came to mind for me. There was a follow-up task to choose one of the smaller to-dos and actually complete it. I chose one that seemed doable but didn’t find (or make) the time to complete it.

And that’s where the work on my tasks ended. This week was the opposite as the previous one. I tackled the tasks on the very first day but then abandoned them for the rest of the week.

So in that way, Week 2 was very similar to Week 1. I still didn’t carve out enough time. In fact for this week, I had dedicated so little time and thought to the work, that I forgot what the chapter was even about by the end of the week!

Basic Tools

Morning Pages

I successfully completed my morning pages six out of the seven days. Though, as I’m writing this, I realized I forgot to do them this morning!

The morning pages continue to bring to the surface some pretty intense feelings. They are thoughts that have been swarming around my mind for a long time, but finally putting them down on the page brings on a tidal wave of emotion.

Something about writing down my thoughts make them more definitive and clear. I have often found myself crying while doing my morning pages. It’s one thing for resentment to be simmering in the back of my mind, but to actually see it in black and white, see the evidence of how much it has been plaguing me … it’s a lot to be confronted with.

Artist’s Date

I managed to do my artist’s date … sort of. I walked down to Lake Merritt Park all by myself. However, it was easy for this to feel like just another walk since it’s a walk I do often. Also, I talked with my mom on the phone for part of the walk. Habit, I guess. It’s hard to adjust to just spending time with yourself.

This week, I want to try to do something completely new and to really cut myself off from others during this time.

Thoughts

Reading this chapter, I do want to be careful about the people I allow to have influence in my life. I can see how easily other’s opinions can guide my own decisions or feelings about my path.

I continue to beat myself up about how much (or rather, little) time I am dedicating to the work on this program. But if I can give even just a little more time and attention to it each week, that is something to be proud of.

Reflections

Recovering a Sense of Safety

In case you missed my post last week, I am working my way through The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. This book walks you through a twelve-week program to reclaim your identity as an artist and spark creativity in your life. I will be blogging about my progress here.

Week 1

As you can probably tell by the title of this blog post, the program kicked off this past week with a focus on “recovering a sense of safety”. The chapter on this topic talked about how people and events in our lives can often stifle our creative energies and foster core negative beliefs about what it is like to be an artist.

And, in turn, we pivot to “more practical” pursuits, withering away into a ‘shadow artist’. As Cameron puts it: “Artists themselves but ignorant of their true identity, shadow artists are to be found shadowing declared artists… gravitating to their rightful tribe but cannot yet claim their birthright.”

She talks about how shadow artists often choose shadow careers, in some way related to their creative passion. I think back about my time working in marketing & advertising and how my favorite part was giving presentations.

And as we shadow artists reclaim our identity as declared artists ourselves, we need to be patient with ourselves. “Progress, not perfection, is what we should be asking of ourselves.” 

Before this sabbatical, I shied away from things I wasn’t immediately good at … even as a young child. Being a perfectionist became so much a part of my identity that I sprinted as fast as I could away from things I couldn’t be perfect at.

But here’s my favorite quote for this Week 1 chapter: “Remember that in order to recover as an artist, you must be willing to be a bad artist.”

Exercises – Core Negative Beliefs & Affirmations

There were a few exercises peppered throughout this chapter. Cameron recommends doing the exercises right after reading the chapter.

This chapter’s first exercise had me uncovering my core negative beliefs about being an artist. And then I rebutted each negative belief with an affirmation.

It started by writing an affirmation about yourself as an artist and writing it ten times in a row. Using Cameron’s template I wrote: “I, Laura Domingo, am a brilliant and talented actress.” (hey, I used a template!)

The idea is that as you write this affirmation over and over, your little demons will pipe up (or what Cameron terms your Censor) with their protests:

“You aren’t driven enough.” 

“You can’t handle the uncertainty and risk.” 

“You’re too fat.” 

You note all of these ‘blurts’ as Cameron calls them.

And then you turn each into an affirmation:

I am driven enough to succeed.

I am comfortable with uncertainty and risk and can overcome doubts that may set in.

I have control over my body and can find opportunities for my body type, regardless of size.

The idea is to then read your affirmations every day after doing your morning pages … but I forgot that I was supposed to read through them. So, I’ll try to do it next week!

Tasks

At the end of each chapter there are a list of tasks to complete throughout the week. Week 1 had ten tasks. 

Cameron admits that it’s unlikely you’ll have time to complete the entire list, so she recommends aiming for tackling at least half of them. So for Week 1, that was five tasks.

I will admit: I completely failed at making time to work on these tasks throughout the week. I didn’t end up going back to the list until the last day of the week, which meant I was cramming most of the work into one day.

Tasks #1 and #2 were to do your morning pages and go on your artist date, respectively. These are things we are supposed to do throughout the program, and I’ll talk about them in the next section.

So, then I had to choose at least three other tasks. Cameron recommends a mix of the task(s) you are really drawn to and those that repel you.

For me, there were a few tasks related to identifying old enemies of your creative self — people and experiences that seeded some of your core negative beliefs about your potential as an artist. 

I was not looking forward to doing those. I knew it would drum of painful memories and possibly reignite insecurities. But that’s exactly why I chose to take on those tasks. We have to be willing to tackle fear and discomfort to reclaim our creative selves.

The task I was really looking forward to was one about imagining what I’d do if I had five other lives to lead. I’m so bummed I didn’t make time to work on this task earlier because the second part of the task was to choose one of these imaginary lives and try to live it for the week.

I want to try to find time to still do this task at some point.

For Week 2, I am determined to carve out time each day to work on the tasks. I may need to actually schedule it in my calendar.

Basic Tools

As I mentioned in last week’s blog post, there are two activities — or Basic Tools, as Cameron calls them — that you do throughout the entire 12-week program (and beyond!).

Morning Pages

This daily task has you hand-write three full pages — ideally right after getting out of bed — of whatever comes to mind. It’s a way of dumping the thoughts that are plaguing you so that you can start the day with a clearer head.

And … I was successful in doing them every day! I did beat myself up when I forgot to do them right away on the second day … and the last day. But then I remembered that it’s an accomplishment that I still managed to eventually do them.

I did find it helpful to clear the thought clutter. It allowed me to get onto the pages a lot of thoughts that, otherwise, would have been festering in my mind. And I also felt a lot more alert after doing the morning pages.

And though the point is to just get your thoughts on the page for the day and then stash those pages away, it was easy to notice some recurring thoughts throughout the week. 

I’m definitely being plagued with feelings of resentment at the moment. Especially related to loss of self and personal time. I wonder if going through this program will help dissipate those feelings of resentment.

Artist Date

Well, one success and one … utter failure.

The artist date is something you should do once every week — an outing (or date) … with yourself! But all by yourself.

And, I just could find the time to do it. Though, if I shouldn’t let myself off the hook with excuses  — I didn’t work hard enough to prioritize a time to do it.

To be fair, it’s hard to do this with a child. Not that Ryan isn’t willing to take Artie-duty for a couple of hours. But I already had a lot of pre-scheduled commitments that required Ryan to watch Artie by himself: rehearsals, my workouts, shooting and editing my YouTube video, a hike I had already planned with a friend.

I realize that this is one thing I will really need to work with Ryan on to figure out a time when I can fairly go out and do something by myself. And once again — I just need to put it in my calendar.

Thoughts

Doing the work on this chapter really helped me realize just how many doubts and negative beliefs still plague me when it comes to my potential as an artist. And some of these negative beliefs are so ingrained in me, that I can’t even remember where they came from.

I felt like a failure this week in so many ways. Didn’t get to this task. Didn’t dedicate enough time to that one.

But I guess I just need to remember my favorite quote from the chapter and accept that sometimes I’ll be a bad artist.

Reflections

The Artist’s Way

For years, people have recommended that I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I didn’t know much about it except that it was a book to help jumpstart your creativity and that for a lot of people it “changed their lives”. 

Wow, that’s a lot for one book.

Well, I finally started reading it yesterday and here’s what it is: a book that walks you through a 12-week program to — yes — unblock and foster your creativity. As Cameron puts it, it’s a way to nurture your inner artist, a.k.a. your creative child (cringe).

Sure, let’s give it a try. I’m going to spend the next 12 weeks working my way through the program outlined in the book. And I’ll be blogging out my experiences and thoughts here.

For those unfamiliar with The Artist’s Way, here’s how the program works:

There are two exercises — basic tools, as Cameron calls them — that you do throughout the entire 12-week program. On top of that, each week, you read a new chapter with a specific theme. You spend the week completing that chapter’s exercises and tasks.

Cameron recommends dedicating at least 7-10 hours a week to the work — just an hour a day or more, if you choose.

Basic Tools

Throughout the program, you are supposed to do two things:

Morning Pages

This is a daily exercise you complete every morning, ideally right after you get out of bed. In fact, for people on a strict schedule, Cameron recommends setting your alarm a half an hour earlier to give yourself time to complete this exercise.

The assignment: handwrite three pages of whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t need to be profound. It doesn’t even necessarily need to be very coherent. It’s supposed to be more stream of consciousness, even if the only thing that comes to mind is, “I don’t know what to write. Hmmm, what should I write?”

After that, you put the pages away. Don’t look at them. Cameron even recommends sealing them in a manila envelope. She says you shouldn’t go back and read any of your morning pages for the first 8 weeks.

The point of this exercise is to clear your mind and dump all the thought-clutter to make room for more creative thinking throughout the day.

This is the one exercise I had heard about before reading this book, and I know a lot of people swear by it. I can totally see how it would help. A lot of our thoughts and anxieties get in the way of our concentration and motivation, and getting them on the page can be a way of releasing them, even if temporarily.

The Artist Date

This is a weekly exercise where you are tasked with taking the artist out on an outing. And yes, the artist is you. So essentially a “me” date.

I know, I know. A little hippy-dippy.

The point is to dedicate a chunk of time each week where you go out and do something all by yourself. And it doesn’t even need to be art-related, like going to a museum; it can be as simple as browsing an antique store or taking a solo trip to the beach.

Through this exercise, the hope is that you’re exposed to more inspiration and insights. You might see something on one of your dates that becomes your next big idea. Or you might realize there are certain activities that you do on these dates that you really don’t enjoy and are just doing them because they seem like things that an artist should do.

Weekly Chapters

As I mentioned, in addition to the basic tools that you use throughout the 12-week program, you also read and work through one chapter every week. Each chapter centers around a theme and is filled with essays from the author, including real-life experiences from people she’s worked with; exercises; and tasks.

Here’s how Cameron suggests tackling the activities for each week:

Read the Chapter

You will set your weekly schedule. Because I just started reading yesterday, I’m on a Monday-to-Monday schedule. The first step, of course, is to read through the chapter. On something like a Monday-to-Monday schedule, you could read the chapter Monday night.

Exercises

There are a few exercises peppered throughout the chapter. Cameron recommends completing the exercises right after reading the chapter. She specifically says to “speed-write” through the exercises. I think the idea is to just write down whatever pops into your head for each exercise rather than spending too much time ruminating.

Tasks

At the end of each chapter is a list of tasks. This is essentially your homework for the week. Cameron admits that you likely won’t have time to complete all the tasks, but you should sim to tackle at least half of them.

In choosing which tasks to take on, Cameron suggests selecting the ones that really appeal to you AND the ones that you strongly resist. You can save the neutral ones for later.

Check-ins

At the end of the week, you do a check in with yourself to reflect on the exercises and tasks you completed, as well as any other discoveries you made. 

Since, I’m on a Monday-to-Monday schedule, it’s recommended that I do this check-in on Sunday.

I can roll the check-in into my morning pages that day, or carve out a separate time to do the check-in. Much like the morning pages, the check-ins should be handwritten. Cameron suggests allowing yourself at least 20 minutes to do your check-in.

The check-ins are essentially a journal of your creative journey.

Early Thoughts

I have read through the introduction chapters as well as the chapter for Week 1 of the program. I have also started some of the initial exercises.

One note: Cameron does mention God a lot in the book. And in the edition I’m reading, she does warn you of this. If it’s not something that resonates with you (or if you are like me and find it a little off-putting), she recommends substituting the term “God” with some other higher form or source of creative energy. I mean the full title of the book is The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, so what do you expect?

Today was the first day I did the morning pages and for me, it was pretty easy. I was worried about running out of things to say, and when that thought popped into my mind, I put it on the page. It was nice doing a brain dump first thing in the morning. I was a little distracted taking care of Artie during my morning pages, and I do fear not getting the most out of the exercise when I have to also keep an eye on Artie, but it’s better than nothing.

I’m also a little worried about the artist date during shelter in place, as I’m limited on the activities I can do. But I’m trying to push past that defeatist attitude. Too many times I can talk myself out of things before I even start. There are still plenty of activities I can do, and maybe the limitations of this situation will make me do an outing I otherwise would never have thought of doing.

Overall, I am ready to work through this program and committed to tackling it with an open mind. 

Have any of you done the program? If so, share your thoughts and experiences.

Planning, Reflections

Busy ≠ Productive

It’s been a busy few weeks. Extremely busy. 

It’s funny to think about being overly scheduled or busy during a time when we’re all still sheltering in place, but if anyone can do it, it’s me. 

However, despite working on a lot of things, I haven’t necessarily felt productive.

Now, I am being a little unfair to myself. I’ve accomplished a lot — kept up with my weekly YouTube videos and blog posts, applied and interviewed for jobs, worked on a small interior design project, refreshed my LinkedIn and resume, started rehearsals for a new play. All while helping take care of a teething 6-month-old.

But, although I’ve completed a lot of tasks or projects, I’m not feeling like I’ve made progress … or at least, not the type of progress I was expecting to make.

For example, while I have successfully stuck to my schedule of releasing a new YouTube video every Monday, I haven’t made the progress I hoped I would towards making the video creation process more efficient and quicker each week. In fact, this week’s video was probably one of the longest and most arduous processes I’ve dealt with.

I guess it feels like I’ve been running in circles rather than a straight line. Productive in that I’ve been running. But unproductive in that I didn’t get myself anywhere but where I started.

This defeated feeling also stems from the fact that I haven’t worked towards any of my major goals lately. 

A few weeks ago, my friend and I decided that we would be each other’s accountability buddies while creating and working toward some major goals. We started by separately brainstorming our individual goals and then we talked over our list together, identifying our top priority goals and how we would measure success.

My top goals:

  • Get my home clean and organized
  • Lose weight and get in shape
  • Generate income from acting
  • Generate income from podcasting

The next step was to separately work on identifying the milestones and tasks that would get us to our respective goals. Then we would meet again to discuss our plan and create some initial timelines.

But … I still haven’t gotten around to creating my list of tasks. Nor have I worked on any of those goals. Instead I’ve filled my time with projects that, for the most part, do not service any one of those goals.

Ah ha! Now it’s clear. I have a prioritization problem.

So, I’m going to take some time to reset, reflect and reorganize. This week, I want to:

  • Confirm my top priority goals. Is there a reason I didn’t work on any projects that were related to my top goals? Are they really the paths I want to focus on?
  • Scale back on my current commitments. Maybe I’ll focus on shorter YouTube videos and/or blog posts so that I can keep up with the frequency but reduce the time needed to complete them.
  • Question every new project I take on. Do I really have time for this? Is it a time-sensitive opportunity? Does it help get me toward one of my top-priority goals?
  • Identify what progress looks like. What exactly do I want to accomplish and by when?
Reflections, Uncategorized

Starting My Search

Well, after weeks of looking at jobs and ruminating on what I’d want to pursue, I finally broke the ice and applied to a couple of full-time jobs. I realized I had been paralyzed by the uncertainty of which path I’d most enjoy. But then I reminded myself that just because I apply for a job doesn’t mean I ultimately have to take it. 

So, I’ve decided to cast my net wide and apply to any job that interests me — whether it be in my previous field or something new. And it’s been fascinating to reflect on the roles I’ve gravitated towards.

Finding something new in my old field

When it comes to opportunities related to my previous marketing career, I’m not pursuing the exact same type roles I was in before; I’m still set on that work not being the right fit for me at this time. But I have found myself drawn to more communications-focused roles. In particular, I seem interested in:

  • Creative writing: In my last job at Facebook, I had to do a lot of writing; however, it was business and technical writing, which I found pretty boring. In searching for new opportunities, I have been interested in roles that revolve around more creative writing  — whether that be writing social media copy for a fun brand with an interesting voice or creating scripts and storylines for mobile games.
  • Creative operations: I enjoy finding order in things. I enjoy creating plans and seeing them through. I actually have a lot of project management experience through my previous jobs, and it was always so satisfying checking off that to-do list and seeing everything fall into place. Even now, a lot of my work as a podcast producer involves organizing the team and managing logistics. So, I have found myself drawn toward roles that revolve around managing creative operations; in fact, one of the roles I applied to this past week centered around managing the logistics of the company social media channels.
  • In-person communication: When I worked at the advertising agency, my favorite parts of my job were presenting at conferences and having in-person meetings with clients. I have been interested in communications roles that center around these types of face-to-face communications — preparing presentations for events and prepping speakers. While in-person events are obviously not happening at the moment, a lot of these are at least translating to virtual events.

Pursuing new fields

I also plan to explore opportunities in new industries; I mean, that’s been the focus on my whole sabbatical. But it’s been revelatory to see what types of roles and fields I am actually motivated enough to go through the effort of preparing applications for:

  • Podcasting: I have mentioned time and time again in this blog that podcasting has been a surprising new interest for me. It was not something I set out to pursue at the beginning of my sabbatical, but it’s been one of the most rewarding experiences during this exploration and one that has probably helped me grow the most. I find that I really appreciate the medium and see such potential in the artform. In fact, I find it such an interesting space that I’m willing to start from the ground up just to get my foot in the door. Indeed, one of the other roles I applied to this past week was an entry level position, doing work I’m over-qualified for, but in the podcasting space.
  • Livestreaming: I had already been interested in livestreaming as a medium but this ‘shelter-in-place’ situation has magnified just how powerful livestreaming can be to engage and connect people. We did a livestream event for the podcast, and I really enjoyed it. There is a role for a livestream producer — helping pitch, plan and moderate livestream events — that I plan on applying to.

Reflections and Next Steps

I see certain patterns and shared elements across the roles that I’m interested in, both in my previous field and new industries:

  • Creative content
  • Production and project management
  • Engaging audiences

Being able to surface these factors will help me in my job search, as I can search for opportunities (regardless of industry) that center around these duties.

The process will be slow — it’s been a while since I’ve applied for jobs, and my resumes need a lot of updating. But I’m trying not to pressure myself; it’s ok if I just apply to one or two jobs a week. I want to take my time, being thoughtful and deliberate. Slow and steady wins the race.

Reflections

Lessons from Exercise

As I mentioned in some of my recent blog posts, I’ve been working hard to get back into shape after pregnancy. But it’s not just about shedding the baby weight; it’s about getting back into the habit of practicing discipline and working toward a goal.

As part of my weight loss pursuit, I recently completed a month-long strength-training regimen through the 30 Day Fitness Challenge app. It was tough, and I was tempted to give up multiple times; but I powered through and completed the challenge!

I realized there were a lot of techniques and other learnings from the fitness challenge that can carry over to my sabbatical journey and, ultimately, my next career:

Break your project up into smaller pieces

The workout plan was comprised of a number of strength-training exercises that you would complete a certain number of sets of. And when it came to doing, say, 40 sets of knee-hop lunges, the task could be daunting. But I found that breaking it up into four sets of ten helped me mentally tackle the workout more easily. It was easy to tell myself, “Ok, just 10 sets. Oh, how about another 10 sets,” and so on, rather than be faced with “30 more sets to go.”

Focus on quality

For a lot of the exercises, the app would remind you how to use proper form. While in the past, I have found myself just rushing to get a workout routine done, this time, I really wanted to focus on doing each exercise correctly. While this slowed me down and was a lot more work, the results, obviously, were a lot better. I felt a lot stronger at the end of these 30 days than previous workout routines where I had subpar form.

Accept uncontrollable delays

Each day’s routine was made up of a number of exercises with 30 seconds of rest in between. Of course, with a baby, it was nearly impossible to complete the workout plan as scheduled. I would often need to pause mid-routine to take care of a fussing baby. Sometimes a half-hour regimen would take me a full hour to get through. At these times, it was tempting just to give up. But even if it meant stopping ten times throughout the workout, I made sure to complete each day’s routine.

Don’t give up on the parts you hate

Let me just say — I hate side planks. Throughout the 30 days, I found them so difficult to do, and they were always the exercise I dreaded doing. I wanted to skip the exercise each time they came up, but I forced myself to complete them. I had to remind myself that the reason I found them so hard to do was because these were the muscles I needed to work and build up the most. For me, the most difficult things to do are most often the things I hate doing the most. But these are also the areas where I need the most growth, and keeping that in mind helps give me the motivation to complete the task.


I am proud to say that I completed that 30 day fitness challenge! Not only did it help get me started on my weight loss journey and made me physically stronger, but I also gained such a sense of accomplishment from setting a goal and seeing it through.

Reflections

Rewarded With Smiles

The piercing scream of a crying baby jolted me awake. Or perhaps I was already awake, and the cry had simply plucked me out of my delirious daze. It had been so long since I had had any real sleep, it was hard to tell. 

Oh right, the crying baby. My crying baby. 

Ryan laid curled up on the sofa across the room. “I should let him sleep,” I thought. With all the strength I could muster, I awkwardly swung my legs over the side of the hospital bed, touching my feet to the cold floor. I allowed myself the tiniest moment of rest before I hurled myself up to standing and hobbled over to the bassinet.

How can such a small thing make such a big noise?

I swooped up my newborn son in my arms and sat us down on the yoga ball, desperately bouncing and shushing, in a futile attempt to calm him down. The crying persisted, and — whether real or imagined — it seemed to intensify. 

I was exhausted. I was in pain. I felt like an imposter. I felt like I didn’t know myself anymore.

And I broke down and cried.


This was my reality for the first few weeks of my son’s life. I will be the first one to admit that I really did not enjoy the newborn phase. Artie didn’t do anything but sleep, cry, eat and poop.

Meanwhile, I was recovering from a third degree tear. I was sleep-deprived. I hated my body. And I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.

Other moms seem to adore their little new additions, loving every precious moment of being a mother.

But I think the key word is: seem.

Because I was also guilty of carefully curating the photos and videos I posted online. The peaceful baby. The happy family.

But the reality was a lot of exhausting days and even more exhausting nights. Frustration and desperation. And many tears — from both baby and mom. 

People would assure me: It gets better! It’s just a phase!

And you know what? They were right.


Just this past week, I finally thought to myself: “I think we’re in the fun phase now.”

It started one evening when I got home late. Ryan and Artie were already asleep, and I was just about to curl up in bed when I noticed Artie tossing in his sleep. I turned on my cell phone flashlight to get a better look and rubbed his chest to calm him down. This was a risky move, of course, as I was in danger of waking him up, which would inevitably bring on his middle-of-the-night, blood-curdling cry.

And as I feared, his eyes popped open. I grimaced and braced myself for the oncoming wail. But to my amazement, it never came. Instead, Artie focused on my face, flashed a wide, gum-filled grin and let out a loud, happy coo. 

I couldn’t help but tear up and smile back.

This week, the laughs and coos have outnumbered the cries. Artie stares at my face and seems to really recognize who I am. And after weeks of sticking my tongue out at him to make him laugh, he has started mimicking me, sticking his tongue out right back at me.

It’s all just so cute. And happy. And fun.

And I think I enjoy and appreciate this phase so much more because of how incredibly difficult those first few weeks were.


In one of my favorite books, The Little Prince, there is a chapter where the pilot and the little prince trudge through the desert to find water. They finally make it to a well and use all their strength to pull up the bucket and quench their thirst:

I raised the bucket to his lips. He drank, his eyes closed. It was as sweet as some special festival treat. This water was indeed a different thing from ordinary nourishment. Its sweetness was born of the walk under the stars, the song of the pulley, the effort of my arms. It was good for the heart, like a present.

The point of this part of the story is that we can appreciate so much more the things that we toil for.


I’m bringing all this up because I think I’m about to hit a pretty difficult phase of my sabbatical. I’m going to have to make some tough decisions. I’m going to need to do a lot of research and weigh options. Likely, I’m going to have to cut this sabbatical short — or at least put it on hold — even before I’ve accomplished what I set out to. Ultimately, I’m going to have to make the transition back to work and adjust to a lifestyle and schedule I haven’t had in a while.

But I will try to keep two things in mind:

  1. It’s just a phase, it will get better.
  2. The cries I have to weather first will make the smiles all that much more rewarding.