To preface this, I have to explain a bit about my background, career wise. For the first five years of my adult working life, I worked in corporate fitness (I have a B.S. in Kinesiology). After getting my Masters in International Marketing, I started my own travel planning company, Chimera Travel, that I ran full time for eight years (shameless plug, you can visit my newly brought back to life travel blog here). But life happens, and with changes in technology and the economy and numerous other factors, I needed some extra help financially. So I took a part time position at a front desk, which has grown into an almost full time position, while still running my travel business. In the midst of all this, I became a significantly more active mental health and chronic illness advocate which is currently out of the goodness of my heart – i.e. I make zero money and sometimes spend money doing this. And believe me, I don’t do this for the (hypothetical) money but I can’t do full time, or even significantly part time, and still have a roof over my head and eat. So, I have my numerous jobs/would be jobs.
Yesterday, between my job job and yoga, I sat and wrote/blogged and had coffee at my favorite cafe. When I previously lived in Old City Philadelphia, I my apartment was literally around the corner from this cafe. I was there probably three times a week on average. I worked solely for myself at that time, and I’d meet friends there for coffee or breakfast, spend my days enjoying free refills and snacks while planning client trips, blogging, working on business marketing. I knew all of the staff, and many of the other frequent customers. I’d run into neighborhood friends there almost every time I went. It was like my Cheers, but with coffee (I also had my “Cheers” bar/restaurant, which was two doors down from my apartment, but that’s a different story).
So yesterday, I sat down at the cafe, ordered a coffee, and took out my notebook and computer to start working. I had some blogging and journaling planned. And I found myself almost in tears with nostalgia. I can’t really call them sad almost-tears, nor were they happy. They were nostalgic ones. I can’t explain it any other way. I sat there with my coffee, hoping my face didn’t betray how I was feeling. And I began to understand that the way I remember feeling in those days was how I was meant to feel. I had felt a purpose. I felt motivated and inspired. I felt control over my life, at least pieces of it. No, I couldn’t control when a client’s flight was cancelled, or when someone had a last minute request on a day I’d planned to take as a wellness day. But there’s always going to be something like that, in any job. Or volunteer opportunity. Or life. And if it’s not your job or client or organization, it’ll be your child waking up sick on a day that you planned to be out and about and getting things done. Or your car breaking down when you absolutely had to get to an important meeting. Or something else.
From my favorite cafe. I love their mugs – and free refills!
My point is, there’s always going to be something out of our control, as much as I dislike this (I need to work on my letting go). But those days in which I worked for myself, I had control over so many important factors: the company as a whole – the direction it went (or ideally went), the mission and vision, the goals, the values it all embodied. I had control of the marketing, both in print and online – not only the content, but what I chose to do/not. The target market. Not to mention that, client emergencies aside, I got to make the schedule. I chose when to start and end work. If I needed a personal or wellness or sick day, I took it. If I had to make it up later by working longer other days, I did. I made those decisions. For someone with chronic illness, that’s particularly important. And possibly, most importantly, I felt like I was working toward something and for something. I had goals for my company, and for my life involving it. I felt like a made a difference – not necessarily in the world at large, but to my clients. I felt important to my little piece of life. Because without me, the business wouldn’t run, and the clients wouldn’t get their travel planned by my company.
So I sat there remembering this feeling. Being reminded of what it felt like to really feel feel connected to my life’s work, like what I did 40+ hours a week mattered, not only to me, but to others too. I helped people experience the world. They explored new cultures and traditions. They had their first experience ziplining or swimming with dolphins or hiking a mountain they always hoped to hike. They had exciting honeymoons and destination weddings. They had family reunion trips. I had clients who came to me never having owned a passport and, after their first trip overseas, decided to take one every year.
And when I think about being able to help others, to Spread Hope to others, and to potentially be able to combine my love of helping people with my love of helping people travel (and naturally, traveling myself), I think about how amazing that would be. To get back to that feeling of purpose, that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be. That ability to feel happiness at how I’m spending my days. To feel like I’m making a difference in my little corner of the world, both to others and to myself. And thinking about it, while a bit sad at not being there, makes me hopeful. I begin gathering ideas, almost involuntarily (though certainly welcomed). I don’t try to, they just fly into my head. I get inspired and motivated.
Now if I could only stop the doubt from creeping in. The doubt that says that, once again, this won’t work well enough. That something – the economy, life, etc – will throw me off and I won’t be able to push through it to ultimately be successful. The doubt that says it’s too risky, that I’m being rash and careless. The doubt that says others will be disappointed me, will doubt me themselves.
And if I could only get some help. Not financially, but in the form of support. If I had friends that would be willing to help me create and run projects for Spread Hope. Or who would help me by participating – whether it’s hashtagging their instagram photos for a photo campaign, or volunteering with a community project I organize, or just sitting and helping me brainstorm ideas. And I know it’s a big ask. I know everyone’s time is so valuable. But we all need help sometimes, and I’m really terrible at asking for it. I’m strong and I want to be able to do it all on my own. And often I think it’s too forward to say, “Hey I want to do xyz will you help?”, despite the fact that if someone came to me and said something similar, I’d probably be super excited (assuming it wasn’t some sort of selling thing). Or I always think, “nobody will say yes. Or they’ll ‘like’ the status but not volunteer”, so what’s the point.
But I need to get over that fear. I need to reach out and ask for help. I may not get tons of help by doing so, but I certainly won’t if I don’t. So I’m starting 2018 with some opportunities, and call outs, for help with Spread Hope Project… projects. Stay tuned!
And on this shortest day of the year, I hope it helps to remember that it literally only gets brighter from here – and I’ll do the same.
Happy Solstice, and Happy Holidays!