Enjoy it while you can!

enjoy itGuess who’s back?! It’s been awhile since my last post, and for that, I apologize. I’ve actually been ENJOYING some time off (pun definitely intended). Since the last time I wrote, I’ve been on a quest to discover and pursue my passions. While some may think I should be pursuing a new job, during my last six-plus months of unemployment, I noticed there was one piece of advice I got repeatedly from some of my most trusted peers…

“Enjoy it while you can!”

What does that even mean? Who enjoys unemployment? For the first three months, I could barely get a full night’s sleep, wondering what was wrong with ME. Well, there’s nothing wrong with me. In fact, nowadays I tend to think what the hell is wrong with some people (hashtag #realtalk). When I came to that conclusion, I was able to sleep longer than usual with no regret. And, I definitely don’t spend day after day sitting in front of television (my dad would be proud). I have so much to tell my loyal followers who have been along my side and invested in this journey!

I was on the phone the other day with a woman I know professionally, who was asking about how things were going for me. I explained to her what I had been doing (as I will explain to all of you in the days and weeks to come) and that I was actually enjoying my unemployment. She went on to tell me how she followed my blog and was excited to hear what was next to come. She wished me the best of luck and would be looking forward to my next blog post. I admit, I was floored! People that are not related to me actually READ this blog?! That was all the inspiration I needed. So here’s my short list of accomplishments to get you caught up while I work away at wordsmithing some more posts for you to enjoy! I thank you for taking YOUR time to enjoy this while you can.

UNEMPLOYED ACCOMPLISHMENTS

Yes, you can actually accomplish things when you’re not a slave to the grind.

  1. Discovered my passion for volunteerism (aka ‘working for free’)
  2. Saved Flo’s life…literally (just a little allergic reaction to chemo, no biggie…)
  3. Designed a new home office (5 years later)
  4. Became a starving canvas artist (shopping at Michael’s ain’t cheap!)
  5. I am enjoying LIFE! (we all should try it sometime)
  6. Wait, I’M a business? (Hello self-employment!)
  7. Lost 20 pounds and counting (detox, detox, detox)
  8. Surviving financially (learning how to make Abe cry)
  9. I’m refocused, re-energized and ready to hit the ground running!
  10. And I’m enjoying my unemployment…while I can! (time is ticking…)

Stay tuned for more posts!

Finding Passion – Part II

“It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind.”

– T.S. Elliot

My parents never talked to me directly about ‘my future’ much never mind helping me figure out my passion in life. And there’s nothing wrong with that; my parents are old school. Trust me when I tell you that my parent’s passion back then was for me to graduate high school, not get pregnant, and graduate college. If anything, they made me passionate about getting an education…and not getting pregnant. By the time I graduated from college, not once, not twice, but three times, I had admittedly reached all the goals I had ever really aspired towards. Job well done, but goals are not a passion.

Passion was never a subject discussed at home, in school, or anywhere that I can remember. It’s always been as simple as, you do what you have to do in life, whether you like it or not. If you like it, consider yourself lucky. Unintentional or not, my parents provided me with a pathway for a passionate journey through life. As early as I can remember, my parents let me take dance lessons, musical instrument lessons, participate in Brownies and Girl Scouts, go to summer camp, and signed endless permission slips for honor programs and field trips to museums, theaters, and more. Oh, and when I was a kid, you played outside. I ate mud pies (so I’m told), dug holes, built igloos, played with other kids (gasp!). I had my imagination, which was a playground of its own. Through a fine balance of nature vs. nurture, I’m certainly passionate about being creative.

Not so long ago, I found a story I’d written in first or second grade. I can’t remember the exact year, but it was one of those ‘where will you be in 25 years’ deals. Now I find myself wishing that the teacher, that any teacher, would’ve asked me what my passion was instead. Well, according to my 7- or 8-year-old self, I should have been America’s first black female president. Flash forward to today, and you guessed it. I was the first black female president of Salem State University’s Beta Sigma Chapter of Delta Mu Delta’s Honor Society in 2007! (Disclaimer: This statement may or may not be entirely accurate until I do some further research after accidentally discovering that potential fact while writing this paragraph.) Okay, okay…so I was a little off in my early prediction. Hey, Salem State is in America. Even imagining a black president, whether it be me or President Obama, was a profound idea at that time. Look at how far we’ve come. Two things learned: I think BIG and I have pretty good foresight. 

I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember going to a science fair in junior high and wanting to be a meteorologist like Michelle Michaels, or even a physicist. As I watch my youngest niece Casey journey through college, I’m happy to report that some of that dream was not lost in her passion for science. In high school, I thought I’d follow my dad’s footsteps and work at General Electric as a machine drafter or engineer. By senior year, I learned that I hated straight lines and trigonometry. I should have taken graphic design. Didn’t matter. The Internet boom would change technology as anyone graduating in the ’90s had learned it. Therefore, my dreams of working at GE were obsolete before I even knew it. All was not lost, I carried the torch to Temple University where I double majored in English and Psychology. The goal then? To be a criminal psychologist, studying serial killers, of course. Never quite reached that goal, and I left that torch in Philly. After a year of the college experience, some lingering homesickness, and a steep increase to tuition, that dream would never be fully realized. Oddly enough, my oldest niece Chelsea, is a psychology major with an interest in forensics, and some serial killer tendencies (kidding, kidding). Hey, everything happens for a reason, right?

I could go on and on about the variety of jobs I’ve had since I was 14 and able to get a work permit. I’ve been a tobacco peer leader, women’s clothing sales associate, jewelry sales associate and a piercer of ears, cashier, retail/wholesale auto parts associate, a driver, gym facility attendant…and those are only the paying jobs! Thankfully, I’ve found marketing to channel my creativity, but the journey continues. I’ve done marketing for a wealth management firm, a custom cake bakery, and a home health agency. I guess I’m a Mik of all trades if you will! So naturally, I’m curious to see where I end up next. I’m like a leaf in the wind.

So. We’ve established thus far that I am definitely passionate about having a career, learning new things, and being creative. I love marketing great products and services to people who truly need them! And as I was most recently told, I am definitely passionate about LIFE. I’m also becoming more passionate about writing this blog. Maybe that English major at Temple wasn’t a total fluke! Okay, now were on to something. Time to piece it all together…

Stay Tuned for Finding Passion – Part 3

Finding Passion – Part I

what-is-your-passionA few weeks after being laid off, I sat down with a colleague Shari for lunch in Marblehead. I was looking forward to a good lunch with some good advice. Shari is a recruiter, and we happen to sit on the board of the Northeast Arc together. At the very least, it seems like all the years of working, networking, and volunteering are finally starting to pay off. At a time when I need people, I can thankfully look in my rolodex or LinkedIn and finally say, ‘I got people.’ (Gold star if you can name the commercial…)

About 15 minutes into having lunch with Shari, she asked me the most profound question of my life. “So, what is your passion? What’s the thing that makes you get out of bed in the morning?” Say what lady? It was then I realized that the smallest questions are the hardest to answer. The toasted wheat bread of my BLT had become extremely dry in my mouth, and I felt a knot begin to form in my throat. Not again! I’ve always suffered from a mild to moderate case of anxiety, and two things that make me extremely uncomfortable are: being caught off guard and not knowing the answer to a question…mostly because the two combined oftentimes make you look and sound like an IDIOT.

“Um…” was about all that rolled off of my tongue. I didn’t know what my passion was. While I know that I like to do many things, there was nothing I could say with certainty as to the reason I get out of bed in the morning. Truth be told, I get out of bed because, well, that’s what we’re supposed to do. And passion? Pssh, the most I’ve been passionate about while being a “responsible” adult is collecting a paycheck. Beyond that, I will be 100% honest and say that I had no clue what I was passionate about. Fumbling around for a “passion”, I told Shari that I’m passionate about the volunteer work  I do. And I am. She quickly replied that while that was all fine and dandy, that is social work, not marketing. I wanted to cry. I didn’t know the answer, and I could quickly feel myself…and my appetite….spiraling out of control. In all of two weeks, I had taken a hit to my self esteem so fierce that it had me questioning whether I’m a good marketer, had I chosen the right career, did I made a mistake leaving previous jobs; and, on top of everything else, do I even have a PASSION?

I let Shari do most of the talking after my futile attempts at figuring out my passion in all of an hour. As she talked, I concentrated on swallowing my food and not bursting into an emotional flood of tears. While life was buzzing all around me, I felt like I was a very dark place in my life…and all before my 35th birthday. Way to kick a chick when she’s down. The score was Universe – 1, Mikki – 0. Fortunately, Shari gave me a lot of good advice that afternoon and told me to reach out to her with any questions. However, the only thing that rang loud and clear in my head was my inner voice asking one little itty bitty tiny weenie question, “What is your passion?” Hell if I know, but something tells me I need to figure it out!

Share Your Thoughts and Stay Tuned for Finding Passion – Part 2

Laid Off and Laid Out

Mikki and Kitty

If you think unemployment is the cat’s pajamas…you’re wrong.

Well, aren’t we quite the pair? While I’m sitting at home laid off, Miss Kitty’s sitting here laid out! I’ve been busy preparing for the holidays and spending a lot of time with my family, but I have been working! In the next week, I’ll be releasing some new blog posts on my journey through unemployment. You’ll also be happy to know that I got around to putting my home office together (although now I have piles of paper to tackle!) and getting some new business networking cards printed. On the other hand, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve caught myself sleeping until 11am a couple of days last week. And, I thought last Wednesday was actually Thursday…all day. Do you know how ridiculous you sound when you’re trying to prove Thursday is the 12th using a calendar with cats on it? That’s all fine and dandy, but all I proved was that Wednesday was still the 11th. I need a job…bad. In regard to the home front, Flo is doing as well. We had a small hiccup in her chemotherapy yesterday that allowed us to spend literally most of the afternoon doing blood tests and waiting. So job or no job, my work is never done!  I’m looking forward to Christmas, it’s also Flo’s birthday believe it or not. So, the best gift I can ask anyone to share is to appreciate the time you have to spend with your family. Have a great day and stay tuned for some new posts! I’ve been trying to figure out what my “passion” is… (Hint, hint!)

Find a penny, pick it up.

lucky penny

And all day you’ll have good luck.

It was a dreary day, and I was crossing the street to my car when I saw it staring heads up from the ground. I’m not necessarily superstitious. However, with all I’m going through at the moment, I thought it couldn’t hurt.  So, I stooped over for the penny, checked the  year, brushed the dirt off, and placed it securely in my right pocket. I needed all the luck I could get. It was a 1979 penny [my birth year], and it looked like it had been through a journey of its own.  Instead of staying inside of money-lined pockets, it had seen everything from the inside of a bank vault to the gutters of Boston Street and in between. It had, in fact, lost most of its shine; but, it had not lost its inherent value. And while it keeps its same value, this particular penny had become priceless in the lint-lined corner of my empty pocket. Now, off to Salem State University’s Career Services office, me and my penny. Time to work on a RE-employment strategy. Wish me luck!

Everything happens for a reason

Trust-that-everything-happens-for-a-reason

Quote by Oprah Winfrey

As much as we don’t want to hear it, it is one of the few pieces of advice that we place our hope in when times are tough. Just minutes after being laid off, I couldn’t help but think, “Uh oh. Why is this happening right NOW?” The timing couldn’t be worse. It was just weeks before the holidays and only two months before my 35th birthday. Great way to ring in the new year, right?

And now, only one week after being laid off, my mother and I were back in the oncologist’s office at Mass General. Flo had been fighting cancer for about six years now. It started with DCIS, the precursor to breast cancer, and then a mastectomy. Five years later, in November 2012, as we were getting ready to celebrate her being a survivor, she went in for a normal checkup and was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer. She went through a major surgery, several hospital stays, major transfusions, and five intense rounds of chemotherapy. When I wasn’t working, volunteering, or attending board and committee meetings, I did everything I could to make sure she was well taken care of. In a matter of weeks I became nothing short of a home health aide/nurse, managing meals and medications, giving injections, cleaning wounds, and monitoring her overall condition.

When I got the offer for the “better opportunity”, her health was on the upswing. I really thought things were coming full circle for all we had been through. As Flo and I walked back out of the oncologist’s office just one year later, I looked back over my shoulder to see the doctor say, “I’m sorry.” I told her it would be okay, because that’s what I always say. Standard response, I guess. But it really wasn’t okay; we were just informed that my mother’s cancer was back exactly one week after I’d been put out of work. Who throws a party for that?

Truth be told, I felt like my glass was starting to look half empty. If everything happens for a reason, I dared not to think about why I would need this unexpected time off. Deep down, I had already given way to a personal gut feeling. And quite randomly, all that came to my mind was the lines of a Robert Frost poem, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

There’s no easy way to say this…

no easy way to say this

“We’re eliminating the Marketing position.”

Images of a sit-down meeting I had with the president only nine months ago flashed before my eyes. I was asked to join the management team, leaving behind a secure job for a “better” opportunity. Now I was being laid off. And there it was, over as quickly as it began. On a Friday morning, I was kindly escorted out of an office that I would no longer call home, with boxes and a pot of freshly made French Onion soup in tow. Oh yes, to add insult to injury, I was laid off on the morning of the office’s Soup Day, unbeknownst to the Human Resources manager.

I sunk into the driver’s seat and politely sped off. There was no looking back. ‘What am I going to do?’ ‘How am I going to pay my bills?’ ‘How do I file for unemployment?’ ‘Did I do something wrong?’ ‘What will my colleagues think?’ ‘What’s my DAD going to think?’ Shocked, incensed and disappointed, the 45-minute drive home was a long, tearful one filled with phone calls to my boyfriend, family and closest friends. Fair to say that they were as shocked as I was. By the time I made it home, I was numb with fear, doubt and uncertainty. I was officially unemployed.

By 12:30pm, I was at Fountain Place in Salem having lunch with my mentor and colleague, John Boris. I tried to maintain my composure, I was having a hard time. Tears traveled down my cheeks and onto my portobello panini, which I was having an even harder time swallowing. I must say, this was the first lunch that I’ve ever had with John where he barely spoke a word. I was a mess, and all I could do was apologize. Repeatedly.

“It will be okay. You get one day of grievance and then I expect weekly progress reports,” he said.

John was right. I knew I wouldn’t cry after today (for the record, I’m not much for crying). It’s just been  a tough day. By 4pm, my boyfriend tried comforting me with an early dinner at Kowloons. Truth be told, all I wanted was a Mai Tai. Just one. The last thing I needed was to be sobbing over fried rice. But I couldn’t even enjoy that in peace, as my phone vibrated with a call from the Vice President. She apologized and said she was sorry that she couldn’t be there for the meeting this morning. That was awfully nice of her.

By 7pm I was back home, now sitting outside of my house in the passenger seat of Chickie’s car. Chickie is my dad. He stopped by to drop off some junk mail; it’s his way of visiting and checking in on me. Embarrassed and wanting to get it over with, I told my dad that I had been laid off and recounted the day’s events. I knew he wouldn’t be angry with me; but, you have to know my dad, he’s not a “warm and fuzzy” kind of guy.

“I know how you feel though. I got laid off in the 70s before I found this gig. Been there ever since.”

I was born and raised in Lynn, Massachusetts, a small city that once thrived on manufacturing and industry. My dad is a crane operator for General Electric, going on 43 years. In her earlier years, my mother worked the assembly lines in the shoe factories. A modern day Norma Rae that one there. As he proceeded to tell me how the job I do doesn’t “produce” anything, I thought about how boring it must be to work on an assembly line. The same thing, over and over again, day in and day out. “Well, Mikki… I’m sorry to hear that. I don’t wish that on anybody. Well, you’re not going to find a job sitting around in front of the TV. ” Wait, what?

After an hour of listening to some good old-fashioned (very old-fashioned) fatherly advice, I told Chickie that I’d be alright. After all, I’m a Wilson. Between you and I, I’m pretty sure my dad has no clue what I actually do for a living. He just knows that I go to work to do…work. God bless him. I love him to death. By 10pm, I was definitely ready for bed. As I lay my pounding head on the pillow, I knew only a few things that were certain after a day filled with uncertainty:

  1. I will wake up with eyes so puffy that may land me an audition for Mike Tyson’s “Punch Out”.
  2. I now have the perfect content to start that blog I’ve been trying to start for years.
  3. I am unemployed, but I will get a new job!
  4. Those two Aleve will kick in any min…. [snore]