The thing no one wants to talk about

I walked into the grief counselor’s office and sat down awkwardly on the couch across from her. I stared at her for what felt like five minutes, before she asked me what brought me in. I told her about the loss of my father. She waited for me to say more before she asked me to tell her about my dad. I didn’t get more than a sentence or two out before I started crying. “I didn’t think I was going to cry,” I said as I accepted the Kleenex box from her. I told her about my father’s work ethic and how he taught me to work hard and be nice. I told her about the daily phone calls I’d get from him, about how they were always less than five minutes and about how he just wanted to check in and say he loved me. I told her about summers in the pool, family vacations to the beach, and the endless athletic events he took me to. The more I talked the more I cried.

When I stopped talking she let me collect myself. She smiled softly at me and said, “you’re sad.”

I don’t know why this made me feel better, but it did. Because you know what, I am sad. Sometimes we get so busy with daily commitments and responsibilities, that we don’t allow ourselves to feel what we’re feeling. I am no expert on the topic, but I think it would be helpful if we all talked openly and honestly about how we are doing and didn’t just say “fine” when someone asked. It’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to not be okay.

In an effort to “practice what I preach,” I wrote this blog post. I started typing this and erased it about 12 times before I let myself finish it. It is hard to talk about loss and it is even harder to talk about addressing it. But you know what? This is real. This isn’t a Instagram portrayal of life, where you see only the highlights. This is messy and honest.

As I got up to leave the appointment, the grief counselor asked me what I wanted to accomplish. She explained that sometimes people come in knowing what they want to accomplish. I told her that I wasn’t sure and I just felt like talking about my dad and what I was feeling. That is how I am approaching this post. I wanted to talk about my experience with grief and how I think we should be more open about it. I am not writing to give advice on what you should do in a similar situation (because let’s be honest, I don’t know what I am doing anymore than anyone else), but if by chance you are going through something similar, I hope  this made you feel a little less alone.

xoxo,

CC

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Am I laughing or crying

“Going from crying to laughing that fast and hard happens maybe five times in your life and that extreme right turn is the reason why we are alive, and I believe it extends our life by many years.” –Amy Poehler

The past seven months have been filled with some of the happiest and saddest moments of my life. My father passed away in November. I’ve felt the ebb and flow of grief. Some days it is sharp and I am filled with a deep sense of sadness, mixed with anger. Other days it’s softer and I’m filled with sweet memories.

In April, I got engaged to a man who is everything I could ever want in a life partner. He’s adventurous, kind, funny, patient, and much more. I am loved and the type of happy that is felt when you can fully be yourself. He’s been by my side during the good and bad days, and has allowed me to feel whatever I feel.

Although the past seven months have been difficult, I also know I’m extremely blessed to have the support system of family and friends that I do. I think Amy Poehler says it best when she talks about this abrubt shift from sadness to happiness, “Going from crying to laughing that fast and hard happens maybe five times in your life and that extreme right turn is the reason why we are alive, and I believe it extends our life by many years.”

I’m learning to be patient with myself, let myself feel what I feel, and embrace both of these emotions. Thanks for following along with me.

Xoxo,

CC

Writing about loss is hard, but this is a start

I previously said that writing is “my thing.” Writing is how I process something and writing is how I heal. I sit down with a notebook and pen or a laptop and cup of coffee and write. But lately that hasn’t been the case. Notebooks gather dust on a bookshelf and my laptop sits unopened, a protest of sorts. C5ANFS4K5J.jpg

I haven’t had the words. How can I write about something that I am feeling so deeply? How can I express that while I am making a conscious effort to be present, I still think about my dad every day? I still don’t have all the words, but I can feel them coming back to me, a little each day.

Oddly enough, I started feeling like writing again when I heard Wesley Schultz, the lead singer of The Lumineers, talk about losing his father. He describes the time that passed after his dad died as a blur and although he knew his father was gone, it didn’t really hit him until a few months later. He couldn’t find any of his black socks and he knew his dad still had clothes in his drawers so he went to grab some in a rush and pulled out a pistol. He thought he knew everything about his dad and at that exact moment he realized his dad was really gone because he couldn’t ask him anymore questions, like why he owned a gun.

I feel the same way. I miss my dad all the time, but I miss him the most when I desperately want to talk to him or ask him for advice. He gave the best advice and always made me feel better. I miss him each day it gets warmer outside and stays light longer because I know he loved this time of year. Mostly, I miss being able to tell him how much I love him. Although I have a feeling he knows that.

Writing about loss is hard, but this is a start.

Too soon

I’ve avoided writing because writing makes it real, but more than that, writing is such a small act that will never properly explain the person you are and the difference you have made in my life and the lives of those around you. But, as you knew all too well, writing is what I do.

Too soon. Those are the words that come to mind when I think about the dad-shaped hole in my heart and life. You were taken too soon.

When someone is taken from you suddenly and unexpectedly, you think about the last time you talked and the last time you saw the person. For me, it was a phone call the day before you died and it was to tell you Happy Birthday and I love you. I mailed a card to you the same day, a card you will never open and a card I haven’t had the heart to open myself.

My silent hope is that with every time that we talked and spent time together you also heard the words that were there but not necessarily spoken – thank you for shaping and molding me into the person I am today, I am so proud of you, you have always been my hero, I will never outgrow the need for your advice, support, and tea recipe when I am sick, and I’ll love you forever.

For now, those are the words I have.

Love,

Your little girl

Why I was scared to take the plunge and why I’m glad I did

Whew. I’ve been in my new position for about a month and am happy to share that it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. I reread my post I wrote in early January (you can read it here) about the career change and it’s almost comical to me how nervous I was.

To recap, I left my position as a newspaper reporter – something I’ve been for the past three years – to accept a position in communications for a non-profit organization.

I won’t sugar coat it – I was scared. But I was scared for the wrong reasons. I was scared I would be unhappy; I was scared I would not be good at the new job and I was scared I would regret my decision.

After I thought about it, that scared feeling or uncertainty was for all the wrong reasons. I realized that I was scared I would be unhappy because I was comfortable in my job and familiar with what I was doing. I was scared I wouldn’t be good at the new job because I was good at my job as a reporter. I was scared I would regret the decision because staying in a situation is easier than making a change.

The reasons weren’t enough to stay and I am so glad that I took a chance on a new career. My new experience has been overwhelmingly positive and I thought I would share – in the event someone else is going through a similar situation – what can happen when you do take the plunge.

  1. You are treated as an equal
    I was never treated like a new employee. Yes, I had training, but my colleagues immediately treated me like an equal. They never once treated me like the new person who doesn’t know anything.
  2. Your ideas are valued
    On my second day, there was a large editing project. I expected to go into the conference room and see the process and then go back to my office to finish some training. They asked me to stay and help edit the proofs and give my feedback about what could be done to make it better. I gave some ideas and didn’t know if anything would come from it. They ended up making every change I suggested.
  3. You can have work-life balance
    This is something that I haven’t had for the past three years. Once I accepted the new job I realized that I was working each night until 7 or 8 p.m. and each Saturday until noon. I get to leave my job at the end of the day and actually leave work at work. I do not work or check emails on the weekend. This is new to me and I see now just how drastically important it is to have this balance.
  4. You will be challenged to be better
    In my position, I am very much part of a team. We constantly bounce ideas of each other and ask for opinions to make each project that we do that much more successful. The projects that I’ve done so far have been successful because of the help of the team. They have challenged me to do my best and be creative.

As you can see, it has been a positive experience for me so far. I am sure that there will be challenging days, but I already know after a month that I made the right decision. What about you? Have you made a similar decision or are you thinking about doing so? What was your experience?

What happens when you quit a job you like

I haven’t written about this yet because I wanted to give myself time to feel feelings and get some perspective on the topic, but I’ve come to the conclusion that this is going to be as good as it gets for the time being when it comes to perspective.

I recently accepted a job in another industry. I won’t go in to too much detail about the decision to leave my job, but what I will say is that the new position offers a little more opportunity for professional growth.

What made the decision even harder is that I really do like my job. I get to interview people and write articles for publication every day. In fact, it’s all I have known for the past four years. Since graduation, I have written for three different newspapers in two different states.

On Monday, I will start my job as a communications coordinator for a nonprofit organization. I will still get to write and interview people, but it will definitely be a new pace.

Although I am excited for the new opportunity, I definitely will miss being a reporter. I thought I would share some of the things that can happen when you give two weeks notice.

1) You will feel guilty

I understand that each situation is different and some people will not experience this, but in my case, I definitely experienced this one. Actual thoughts I had before quitting included: “this is awful,” “I could vomit,” “what if they hate me,” and “I’m going to let everyone down.”

I had to have a little pep talk with myself and remind myself that, it’s not personal. If you work hard, give proper notice, let them know you appreciate everything, then there is no reason to feel guilty.

2) It will be awkward

Everyone talks about giving two weeks notice and beginning the new opportunity. No one seems to talk about the two weeks you’re left working a job that you are about to leave. You have to be around co-workers who know you’re leaving and even if they are nice and encouraging, it can be an awkward situation.

I was talking with a friend and she reminded me that I was probably acting awkward myself, which was only feeding an already awkward situation. The next day I came in with a new attitude and it was way less awkward.

3) It’s normal to question yourself

Quitting a job, especially one you like, for a new opportunity can be intimidating. It comes down to a comfort thing. A job you know and like is comfortable and it can be hard to leave that.

I questioned whether I was making the right decision at least 12 times, but when I looked a the big picture and what I thought would be best for my career, I knew I was making the right decision.

4) Remember,  mother knows best

When you are feeling unsure about the subject, ask for advice. I did just that. My mother gave me some great advice when she reminded me that I’m not married to my job. Changing careers is normal and I won’t be the last to leave the company. Yes, it can be uncomfortable, but it is a natural part of business.

I have one more week of work before I start the new job. I am sure I will continue to add to this list and write more about the new job in the future.

What about you? Have you experienced something similar or did you have a different experience?

Work-life balance and learning to adult

Sometimes work consumes my life. I wake up at 6:30 a.m., travel for work, interview sources and take photographs and then travel home to write for a few hours. I repeat this throughout the week and sometimes even continue this Saturday morning to meet a deadline.

It really hit me that this was becoming a routine when I caught up with a friend over coffee. We each talked about what was new and as I was talking I realized everything I had to report was about work.

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I don’t usually realize that this is happening until I go to write the title and date on an article and it’s almost a new month. Time is flying by and it’s because I am letting my life revolve so heavily around work.

I’ve decided to make a conscious effort to have more of a work-life balance and because I’m sure I’m not alone in this, I thought I would write about it here.

Extra hours don’t always mean better work

Trust me I understand working at home after work. I do it more often than I should, but I’ve found that my work isn’t necessarily any better. In fact, I usually have to edit it or add something else the next morning. I took an honest look at the work I was doing and once I realized the extra hours weren’t really doing me any favors, I decided to put more effort in getting things done during the day.

Break the iPhone habit

Are you constantly checking your phone for calls or emails from work? I know I sometimes am. I hate the feeling when I am checking my work email for the 10th time and don’t even mean to be. If you can, pick a time in the evening where you won’t check on work. I personally try to avoid looking at my email after 6 p.m.

Make your schedule work for you

I find that I am more productive in the morning. I can’t back this up with stats or scientific facts, but I can tell you I feel more focused in the morning. I try to do everything I can in that time period and leave some smaller assignments for the afternoon. By doing this, I feel more productive and find myself procrastinating less by looking at a cat video or a clip from last nights Dancing With the Stars episode.

Find out what you can do to leave work at work

Do yoga. Hang out with friends. Play with your pet. Do something that you like. I was seriously concerned when all I had to talk about was work. I took a look at my past month and realized I hadn’t been hiking or to yoga class, which are two things that I enjoy that help me clear my mind.

Organize. Organize. Organize. 

I spent an hour the other day organizing my desk and my work bag. Again, I don’t have scientific facts to back this up, but it made my work week better. By taking some extra time to organize instead of throwing it all in a pile on top of my desk, I was able to focus my time on what needed to be done, not searching for that one paper that should be in that one folder.

While I’m all for women kicking ass in the work world, I know that I personally don’t want my career to be all that defines me. When people ask me what I’ve been up to, I would like to have something more interesting to say than “oh, I’ve been working a lot.” And while these might not apply to everyone in their careers, I hope that it helps.

Now when people ask me what I’ve been up to, I can tell them about some of the other things I’ve been doing besides work.

What about you? Do these apply to you? Do you have anything to add? Teach me your ways.

Girl about town: revisited

It’s been more than one year since I shared some things I have learned since I moved from my hometown to a big city. I wish I could say that I’m an expert by now, but I am still learning.

Here’s a look at some of the other things I’ve learned along the way.

1)    It’s okay to do things alone

In the past two weeks I hiked at a state forest, visited a farmer’s market and went to the movies by myself. I’ve quickly learned that sometimes if you wait for someone to join, you might be waiting for a while especially with busy schedules. There is nothing, I repeat NOTHING, wrong with doing something alone. I used to feel strange going to the movies alone; I was convinced that people were wondering why I was alone and then I realized I don’t care and neither does anyone else.

2)    Dating is not for the faint-hearted

After several less-than stellar first dates I have to ask, are these guys for real? Like, is there a hidden camera somewhere with a host about to jump out and say “Gotcha” because I’m not impressed. Did I ever tell you the one where the guy walks in with a  “shut up and make me a f*cking sandwich” T-shirt? Or how about the one where the guy shows up high and proceeds to eat a plate full of cheese fries? These are all things that have me screaming, no thanks.

3)    AAA is worth every penny

I have to drive around the state each month and in the last two months I have had to replace three tires. One of my tires blew out while I was driving and I had to pull over to a random side road and tell the operator that I was 15 miles outside the nearest town on such and such highway past some county road in an area surrounded by trees. I was genuinely surprised when they found me only 30 minutes later after that description.

4)    Adulting can be boring

I used to imagine post grad life as this glamorous and exciting thing that would be filled with non-stop activities, novel-writing and parties. And it can be. But a majority of the time is spent doing the small everyday activities like grabbing a cup of coffee, working, reading a new book, exercising and making dinner.

5)    Making friends after college is hard

No really. College is good atmosphere to make friends because you’re surrounded by people who have similar interests. After college you have to go out of your way to meet new people. Sometimes work is that place, but since a majority of my coworkers work out-of-state I quickly learned that I wouldn’t be grabbing happy hour drinks after work. I have learned that if I want to make quality friends I have to seek them out and participate in activities that I’m interested in, like a small group or volunteer effort.

Field-Trip Tuesday: Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library

Who says adults can’t go on field trips? Because most of my time is spent traveling in a car for work, I try to make the most of that time. When I drive through towns that have a tourist attraction, local restaurant or museum, I try to make at least one stop.

Recently I visited the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library in Indianapolis. And there was something magical about it. Works from the late writer and Indianapolis native were on display, but more than that the library is a cultural and educational resource that helps fight censorship and support language arts.

Those able to visit should do so as the curator gives complimentary tours. For those unable to see it in person, I’ll share some photos I took.

When walking in to the library, I was greeted by the typewriter Vonnegut actually used in the 1970s and the phrase “we are dancing animals.”

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Several of the author’s drawings are also on display around the library.

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After walking around listening to videos about the author and reading some of the rejection letters Vonnegut received, I reached my favorite part of the library.

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Visitors can sit over and type on the same model of typewriter that the author used next to the same style of lamp he used. I sunk down into the chair, typed my own message and sat there for a moment. It’s easy to see why many people enjoy visiting this library, especially this room.

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After that I walked around a little longer, I purchased a collection of his graduation speeches titled “If this isn’t nice, what is,” and then went back to work (so it goes). I highly suggest people visit it if they are able.