This is yet another challenging post for me as part of the Support Driven Writing Challenge, because (and this is me being completely honest) I am not a fan of thinking spaces. As a recovering workaholic and over achiever, thinking too much can cause anxiety for me. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important to plan, strategize and reflect. However, for me I need to have a defined time a place for those things balanced with a time when I don’t have to think. Borrowing from Gallup’s Strengths Finder, welcome to the mind of a responsible, disciplined achiever that likes consistency and harmony.
When I need to get it done
I am my most effective in my “plugged in state”. My noise cancelling headphones on, Fall Morning Spotify Playlist going (no matter what season), and a to do list in front of me. My most focused time outside of the work has to be in the sanctuary of a coffee shop. I don’t know if it is the unlimited supply of caffeine, the overwhelming feeling of intellect bustling around, or just simply that I won’t be judged for being antisocial with my computer in front of me. Coffee shops allow me a place to disconnect and drown out the distractions around me.
When I need to work through it
Like I said before, too much thinking space isn’t a good thing for me. But there are times when I need it to work through the hard things and just like any Type A personality, I like a structured space to work through life’s craziness. When something is particularly heavy or a situation is too complicated to work out in the quiet of the coffee shop, I hit the pavement with my running shoes on. While a lot of people say that running helps clear their head, running is the exact opposite for me. It makes me think and allows me to work through my day in a mental and physical way. One of my biggest blessings is the gym at my office. Getting on the treadmill during my lunch break has rescued me during some pretty hard times whether it be working on an impossible technical situation, fighting impostor syndrome, or reflecting on some heavy feedback. After a run, whether it be 15 minutes or 45 (definitely not a true runner), I always feel a sense of completion, both mentally and physically. Whether I have found the answer to my problem at mile 2 or come up with an action plan, my confidence is restored and I’m ready to face whatever life has for me.
When I need to forget about it
Now for my not thinking space. Believe it or not, my thinking exercises during my runs led me to the realization that you can have too much of a good thing. I was trying to run daily and I found out very quickly that my anxiety level was rising dramatically. Yes, there was a lot going on in life. I stayed continually busy with my work and was having a hard time setting up boundaries. However, trying to work through all these things during a run made me feel like I was drowning. I had to tell myself that I didn’t have to spend every hour of every day being productive and that restful mind is just as important. I found my peace and quiet like may others: on the yoga mat. Yoga was an escape for me because I was forced to shift my focus during practice. I couldn’t think about the 15 things I had to accomplish after leaving the mat, I had to make sure my body was in the right position, that I was breathing right, and my balance was just so. I’ll go ahead and break blog code and quote Dr. Brene Brown a second post in a row:
I encourage you to find your thinking space but also your not thinking space. Make sure you are making time not just for your body to rest, but your mind to rest also (and please don’t always resort to Netflix to do so.)
When I first sat down to write this post for the Support Driven Writing Challenge I knew I was going to struggle. What the heck am I going to write about? My technical support tools are not exactly cutting edge and require a lot of work arounds. I don’t have the cool gadgets and a powerful machine like my super techie husband, so I decided to think about to the things that make me me and help me accomplish my daily goals.
Planning with Passion
I confess, I am one of those people that will never let go of pen and paper. No matter how cool and mobile tech gets, I don’t think I will ever give it up. The conversation of making our grocery list with Google Keep rather than my trusty magnetic notepad on the fridge is a monthly battle between my husband and I. This love for pen and paper led me to find the Passion Planner. I needed something to structure my days and my thoughts. I felt unfocused and scatterbrained and this little jewel helped me find my way. It encouraged me to nail down a goal for 2016, practicing being present. Did I reach it? Heck no, but I was constantly reminded every week to be present and it made me find my groove with my next tool.
I love books. Rory Gilmore is my spirit person, I have no clue how she carried so many physical books around with her since I cheat with the Kindle app. A lot of people love their Saturday mornings because they get to sleep in. I love my Saturday mornings because it is my chance to escape my current reality and engage in an exciting world that an incredibly talented person has thought up. Allowing myself to escape into a different time and place keeps me calm and fulfills my human need for rest. Currently my fall Saturdays consist of being up before 9:00 (hey, I sleep in a little) a cup of Cuvee, below 65 degree temps on my patio with the wind chimes going, and the latest NY times best seller.
Do you love being inspired? Let me re-phrase that, are you addicted to being inspired? Because I am. The best way I have found to fulifll this addiction: Ted Talks. Ted Talks have introduced me to facinating people that speak about incredible things. My addiction started with a Ted Talk talk by Dr. Brene Brown (embedded below for your enjoyment). After watching it, I was instantly e-mailing the link to my old co-workers back in Tennesse and talking to my teammates at my current job about the importance of vunerability. My love and appreciation for Ted Talks has extended to my current team where we have monthly meetings where we watch a 15 to 20 minute talk and have an open discussion. That time has allowed us to explore new concepts in the workplace and learn about the successes and failures of amazing people.
Whole Foods Dates
Allow me to stand on my soapbox for a moment. Rest is vital to the human body and mind. I don’t mean just getting the sixish hours of sleep you need to physically operate. I am talking about your disconnect time, your “I’m going to sit here and enjoy the moment” time. I do that at Whole Foods with my husband. We have a Whole Foods equipped with an expansive salad bar, pizza oven, sandwhich shop, coffee stand and pub. Everything about this Whole Foods is inviting and it allows us to sit and rest with good food and drink. I find my peace and calm amongst the cheese, wine, and decadent canolis they make at the pastry counter. Call it silly, but I find my rest at Whole Foods and that rest completes my tool belt.
I read a lot growing up. I still do, but of course, when you are younger everyone reads the same thing because it’s what you do in school. I’m sure you have read “The Lord of the Flies” by William Golding and “Animal Farm” by George Orwell. Along the same lines, we have all come across the same poems, like “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. When I was younger I was obsessed with this poem because I thought it spoke to my desire for travel. Call it cliche, but I still identify with this poem in a major way, for what I think Frost meant it to be for: a journey that you didn’t expect and weren’t too sure about.
“You went to school for what?”
My academic and career background couldn’t be more different than what I am doing now. I became intrigued by the human body and death at a young age, stay with me, when I was in highschool and taking basic anatomy. I read as many fictional and true crime books I could get my hands on, and loved learning about the science behind finding out “who dun it”. I knew going into college this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a medical examiner and speak for the dead through the wonders of the human body. I graduated college as pre-med and realized that my heart wasn’t ready for full blown med school, and I simply hated chemistry. I took the journey back to my hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. Knoxville is home to the best forensic anthropology in the US, with skeletons located in the basement of the football stadium (yes, that part of The Blind Side is true). I worked for two years to get into their graduate program taking classes, volunteering at the Body Farm, and working at Chick-fil-A to pay for my school bills. One day while processing a skeleton fresh from the farm, I realized that this life wasn’t my passion. I enjoyed it yes, but it lacked fulfillment for me and I felt like I was moving into a career where I would never be able to disconnect. This was definitely not what I wanted for my future self or the family I hoped to have one day.
What I learned frying chicken
Cue the first road divergence in my life that Frost talks about: I could have gone ahead and started the job hunt from scratch, turned back to school for a different degree, or take the unusual road: keep working for Chick-fil-A. I went from being a team member, to running shifts at the restaurants, to a director position in marketing for three stores. It wasn’t always glorious and boy did I smell terrible after a shift, but I learned some of the most valuable things at Chick-fil-A that I carry with me today.
First: Servant Leadership - I learned what it was like to work WITH people as a leader, not have people work for me. I was exposed to an environment that cultivated personal growth and encouraged personal best.
Second: Loving People - There is something about being completely understaffed late at night after a Georgia/UT football game, on the verge of tears, and having a customer look at you with a smile and say “It’s cool. I know you all are trying your best. Waiting 15 minutes for my food is fine”. I discovered the basic fundamentals and importance of empathy in business. I felt the frustration that my co-workers felt when they were having a bad day and identified with my customers when all they needed is their caffeine fix from sweet tea.
Third: I have a genetic disposition to being a workaholic. When I talk about strengths in my current role, I describe myself as a Drill Sergeant. I’m a responsible and disciplined achiever who likes consistency and harmony in life. Translation: I don’t understand work life balance. I got so caught up with work in my marketing role at Chick-fil-a that I never seemed to be able to put my phone down. I was always monitoring our social media sites, and allowing some negative posts to affect me as a person. It took a 40 day fast from working at home and a whole lot of yoga for me to understand that work has it’s place and time. I learned how to better organize my time, prioritize my daily goals instead of trying to achieve them all at once, and delegate tasks to others that wanted to help me. I also learned not to feel guilty about rest, it is just as productive for your mind and body as work is.
Where I am now
That brings us to another major fork in the road In 2013 that led me where I am today. My husband accepted a job at Rackspace in San Antonio, Texas and we we relocated 16 hours away from our hometown, our family, and our friends. I was faced with the challenge - did I want to stay on the path that I was on, well worn and easy. Did I want to continue to be a workaholic, always tired and smelly from being around the fryers in a Chick-fil-A kitchen? I reached completely outside of my comfort zone and went down the road less traveled with an overgrown path, tripping over sticks and weeds. I decided to explore opportunities at Rackspace for myself. Transparently, I was terrified. I never considered myself a technical mind, I left that up to my Linux admin of a husband. I started working in frontline support with email customers and built my empathy talents to new heights. I could see my previous self in the people I was helping as they were lost in confusion of trying to set up their email on their phones or Outlook. I learned to speak servers and cloud infrastructure with high spending customers, became intrigued with new technologies and took a deep dive into using tools that I never thought I would.
What do I enjoy the most about where I am now? Looking back and realizing all those forks in the road that I crossed, and the lessons I learned along the way, shaped me into what I am today. I like to say I am a self-proclaimed service snob because I have come from two worlds, both very different in their products, but both treating the customer experience as the number one focus (which is still a new idea in the tech world). My customers were me back in the day, confused, frustrated and slightly intimidated by technology. My journey has taught me that the best way to work with those kinds people (my previous self) is to meet them where they are. I never thought I would be in support role, advising and helping customers make technology work for them and enabling them to be successful. It’s taken me to a place where I feel fulfilled, challenged daily, and get to hear people’s stories. I guess I could say that the road I took was less travelled and really has made all the difference.