job moves

why i’m joining the wing.

In order to fill in the blanks in the title of this post, we need go back a few months — and we (well, just me, I guess) need to get pretty honest

I’ve never been that excited about leaving New York City. There, I said it.

I had moments when I first moved here right out of college when the city felt pretty miserable. I hated the subway and the crowds in midtown. I hated when people plowed me down, umbrella-first as they rushed along the sidewalk in the rain. I hated that it sometimes took me 30 minutes to travel less than a mile in a taxi late at night, a taxi that I knew I was only having to pay for because I had chosen to live in a place that I’d been made to believe was perpetually unsafe after 8 PM. I hated all of that.

When we moved to Brooklyn, I found my groove again. As a kid, I’d always dreamed of moving to New York, and finding our little niche here in Cobble Hill finally made me feel like I was the kind of city girl that I’d always wanted to be. Almost immediately, I felt more like myself, and even though I understood that there were realities of living in this city that would make it challenging to do it forever, I pretty much forgot about them.

Matt’s experience was the opposite of mine. He hadn’t grown up with aspirations of moving to a big city (he grew up in a neighborhood with woods and a stream and spent the vast majority of his free time on the soccer field or fly fishing), but when his job led him here, he embraced it pretty quickly. While I was sobbing over subway claustrophobia and stressing about my rent, he was living for New York. He loved the restaurants and the ability to walk everywhere, and since most of his friends moved here after graduation, he had a busy social life immediately. It’s only been in the last year that he’s expressed interest in leaving, and only in the last few months that it’s become a more serious conversation.

The idea of moving away started to get real back in October, when we spent two weeks traveling around northern California. Picking up and moving our lives across the country never seemed like a real option for us since so much of our community is here on the east coast, but our vacation definitely opened our eyes to the possibilities that could await us in other places. I could feel the difference in terms of quality life between New York and the Bay Area, and I found myself growing more receptive to Matt’s comments about life beyond Brooklyn.

Matt didn’t want to start seriously thinking about the move until March, so we kind of sat in that maybe-we-will-maybe-we-won’t mindset for a few months. I’m not great at being in limbo, so this was hard for me… but life basically resumed as normal. Fast forward to March of this year, when things became more challenging.

**Insert movie-style fast forward music here…**

Before I go any further, I want to make it very clear that Matt isn’t asking me to do anything I don’t want to do with this move. Ultimately, if I was fully committed to staying, we wouldn’t be leaving. I have a lot of mixed feelings about moving on from this amazing chapter of our lives, but I also understand that long-term, it’s going to be nearly impossible for us to live the kind of life we want to live here in New York City. It’s a hard reality to accept, but it’s reality. Honestly, I would rather choose to leave now, on our own terms, then a few years down the line when we realize too late that we’ve become uncomfortable in our own lives.

Here’s where it gets tricky: Because Matt’s job is more place-bound than mine, it’s naturally fallen to him to set the pace of this move, so there were days early on when it felt to me like he had all of the control and I had none. Honestly, there are days when I still feel like this, but I’ve learned that all of this is a lot easier to swallow when I realize that my husband is almost as powerless. The mindset needs to be that it’s us against the world — not Alli against Matt. I can express that clearly now, but it was pretty much an emotional roller coaster getting there. Just ask my girlfriends.

I’ve said since October that I was going to continue to live my life in New York as normally as possible, and that I wasn’t going to get too mentally tied up on when we’d pick up and move. For the most part, I think I did this successfully. I planned for the holidays and saw friends and continued to clean my apartment within an inch of its life. It felt like business as usual.

Where I struggled most to keep on keeping on was in my work. While I will be able to continue with most of my existing freelance work in a new city, there are some changes I’ve been wanting to make to my workload that I’m not comfortable making until we move. I’m excited about the chance to do a little professional pivoting and explore new opportunities, but I’m hesitant to do that now. I’d rather make all the transitions at one time. I started to feel really uncomfortable with my lack of control in a situation that was really affecting my work, and there were days that it made me resentful. Sometimes, it felt like I was just kind of standing still, like the only thing that was actually changing for me was that I was burying myself under more and more work.

One of my best friends started working for The Wing a few months ago, and from the beginning, I was fascinated by it. To quote the Web site, The Wing is a “co-working and community designed for women.” It now has three locations here in New York City and is already growing to other cities. Girl power, people. I went to a few events with friends there, but never really considered becoming a member myself, because I was so aware that my time in NYC was ticking. I borrowed some photos of the Brooklyn location from this article in Artnet News so you can see how lovely and inspiring it is.

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When I got back from the Ignite Your Soul Summit a few weeks ago, I was feeling ready to invest back into myself and my work, and I wasn’t quite sure where to start. I’ve always had a bit of a scarcity mentality around money, and I’ve been nervous to spend since I started freelancing, even though I’m now earning as much (sometimes more) as I was in my corporate job. Chris Harder, who spoke at the Summit, really inspired me to think about money in a different way, and to allow myself to celebrate my work by putting the resources I’ve earned back into the “system” so it can ultimately come back to me and empower me to do great things.

I happened to be meeting my friend for breakfast at The Wing the morning after I got back from the Summit, and as I was walking to the Brooklyn location, it hit me:

This is the thing I need to do.

It hit me again when I was sitting in the beautiful waterfront workspace, surrounded by brilliant, independent women doing interesting work and moving forward with their passion projects. It hit me again when the woman at the next table came over and asked me about my planner (you know how I feel about my planner). It hit me again when I couldn’t stop thinking about it when I returned to my home office later that day.

I talked it over with Matt and submitted my membership application the next morning. A few hours later, I learned that I’d been accepted. When we want to, we can work really fast over here.

To be totally fair, I wouldn’t have made the financial commitment to The Wing if they weren’t expanding, and if I didn’t think there might be a chance that I could transition my membership to another location when we do leave New York City. I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a consideration. I’m happy to be investing in myself, but I’ve hardly thrown all caution to the wind.

In the meantime, I have a sneaky suspicion that making this decision for myself is going to be one of the best things I’ve done in the last year or so. Realizing that this kind of community is available for me — down the street, essentially — was a big wake-up call in a time when I’ve felt largely out of control. It’s empowered me to reengage with parts of my life that I’ve kept at arm’s length ever since we started talking about moving away. It’s reminded me that I have a lot to accomplish and create in this transition period, and that I have every right to accomplish it outside of the confines of the home office that I’m now realizing I outgrew a few months ago.

My first day as an official member is Tuesday, and I am literally counting the days until I can spend my time in the beautiful work space in the company of so many incredible women. Making this choice has totally changed my perspective on things, and I can’t wait to see how it serves me as I continue navigating big changes in work and life.

Basically, Wing, I’m really happy you exist. 

Happy weekend-ing, friends. More Wing cheerleading to come, I’m sure.

How do you cope when you’re feeling like you’re in a rut? Tell me in the comments below!

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my would-be milestone (+the giveaway winner!)

First of all, thanks so much to everyone who entered the January giveaway! Based on a random drawing, this month’s winner is KAILA! Congratulations, Kaila! Please send me an e-mail with your mailing address, and I will have your bracelet in the mail by the end of the week. I’m so happy to be able to share my love for The Shine Project with all of my followers. Please be on the lookout for the February giveaway and don’t be shy about entering again!

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Five years ago today, I woke up at 5 AM in my bedroom at my parents’ house in Pennsylvania, put on a skirt and blazer (purchased on a J. Crew Factory shopping spree a few days earlier), and boarded a bus to New York City for my first day in the working world. Having finished up all the credits I needed for graduation a semester early, I’d moved out of my dorm room in Washington, D.C. before the holiday break still jobless, but with the help of a little sorority networking, I’d lined up an interview with my dream company in Manhattan in mid-January. Within a few days, I received the offer (confession: when I got the call, I was watching TV in bed in the afternoon and wearing my bathrobe), and on January 30, my professional life started. All of my friends were a few weeks into their final semester of college — most of them taking as few classes as possible — but my life had totally changed.

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I spent the weekend before my first day of work pretending that I hadn’t decided to graduate early.

At my company, milestones in five-year increments were kind of a big deal. If I’d stayed in my corporate gig, my boss probably would have sent an e-mail to the whole department today, congratulating me on my hard work and sharing a brief history of my time there. In response, I would have received a lot of “great job!” e-mails from my co-workers. It would have felt really, really good. As much as I love working for myself, you just don’t get e-mails like that when you’re out on your own. You just don’t.

I don’t regret my decision to leave my company and change course, but I can’t help but take a moment today to think about what that milestone would have felt like had I decided to stay.

I’m about to sound like such a millennial, but, whatever: five years is a long time. I can count on one hand the number of my friends who are still with the company that hired them today — five years after graduation. It just seems to be a rarity these days for people in their twenties. My former company, though, was the kind of place that inspired a lot of loyalty in its employees — one of my favorite things each year was to watch as people accepted their ten-, twenty-, thirty-, and forty-year milestone awards. It was pretty amazing! By the end of my first year, I had silently challenged myself to stick around for that long, too.

In the end, that wasn’t meant to be (as we all know), but I still feel lucky to have been part of an organization that modeled that kind of commitment and passion. I would have been proud to reach my five-year milestone today, and I’m proud of all of the amazing friends I made there who are reaching their own anniversaries this year.

Instead, I’m working on the couch alongside my mom, who is spending the morning with me before she heads to a meeting in Manhattan. We woke up and started working at 7 with the news on in the background, allowing us to keep up a steady commentary about the scary state of the world as we go about our business. When I feel like I need a break, I’ll go out and complete the first run of my half marathon training for this year, and then I’ll spend the afternoon getting ahead for the rest of the week, since I’ll be in Philadelphia for a project all day tomorrow.

My life is very different now than it would have been if I’d been celebrating that five-year anniversary today, but I’m not sure there’s ever an objectively “better” or “worse” choice in life. This is where I need and want to be at this stage, but I won’t pretend those four-plus years in corporate America didn’t bring incredible value to my career. I’m grateful for each and every chapter.

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lessons from corporate america.

I’ve written here and there about my old corporate gig, and the circumstances that motivated me to leave it behind and go out on my own. If you’re new to the blog, you can check out a piece of that story in my one-month recap — but today, I’d like to focus on the many ways in which those experiences have proven so valuable in my new work.

My low point this last summer was only one piece of my journey in corporate America. Regardless of the frustrations I experienced at my company more recently, it wouldn’t be fair for me to leave out the part where getting hired there almost five years ago was hitting the ultimate jackpot. As a lifelong book lover, I could hardly believe that I would be working right in the middle of the publishing industry. It was an incredible opportunity then, and I am still so grateful for so much of the experience.

The industry was a lot more Corporate (with a capital “C”) than I predicted. When I was in college, I used to declare that I would never end up working for The Man, and ultimately, that’s exactly where I landed. While the corporate environment proved one of the biggest factors in my decision to leave the company, it also gave me a valuable set of professional tools that I firmly believe have given me a leg up in the first few months of my freelance life. I’m sure there are many people that become successful freelancers or who become self-employed without corporate experience, but for me, those five years in a more traditional work environment have been key to my transition.

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My corporate ID badge. This photo was taken on my first day at the office in January 2012 – I was so proud of my new blazer!

Check out this list of lessons from corporate America that have helped me since I’ve been out on my own. I have some great bosses to thank for these, and I hope I can pay it forward myself someday.

  • Follow-up. In my corporate jobs, I learned to make a habit of scheduling out follow-up to all e-mails and phone calls. Most of the time, I would make a note to check back in one week after the original outreach. I’ve continued this practice. I find that editorial contacts are really impressed when I proactively check in about a pitch or question that I’ve submitted. It’s an indication to them that this is my JOB and that I take it seriously.
  • Project tracking. My creative little brain had trouble adjusting to my previous company’s obsession with all things grids and Excel when I first started, but by the time I put in my notice, they had become second nature. I learned that it’s possible to organize pretty much ANYTHING in a grid or chart, and I’ve taken those skills with me. If you’d have told me in college that I would become a writer and rely so heavily on these kinds of systems, I wouldn’t have believed you, but here I am, with my handy little Excel spreadsheet constantly open on my desktop.  It’s really helpful for keeping track of project progress, publication and payment.
  • The art of writing an e-mail. I learned pretty early about the importance of presenting yourself in a highly professional, positive way via e-mail. It was no longer enough to dash off the more casual notes of my college days and hit “send” — I realized that writing a good e-mail was worth a little extra time and care. Now that I call myself a writer, it’s especially critical that my e-mails make a good impression, because they are a piece of my work like anything else.
  • Routine, routine, routine. I’ve found that keeping some level of a routine has been really helpful in transitioning to the working-from-home lifestyle. Since I spent five years in a highly-structured corporate job, I already KNEW how to keep myself to a schedule, and I was ready to keep up with it on Day One of freelancing.

Have you learned anything from your jobs — corporate or otherwise — that you think would help me moving forward? I’d love to keep learning from you, so please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!

***Don’t forget that TODAY is the LAST DAY to enter the November giveaway and get a chance to win the earrings pictured below from The Shine Project. All you have to do to be eligible is post a comment (any comment!) to the giveaway entry here.***

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the last day.

The morning started like this:

me, sitting at my desk, half-dressed, listening to “Brave” by Sara Bareilles on loop, drinking a smoothie, and sobbing as I received encouraging text messages from my parents, all before 7 AM

Four and a half hours later, at 11:30, I packed the last of my things, handed in my company ID badge, and walked out of my office building for the last time.  The tears had started again as I walked toward the subway, and then I looked up and saw this:

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It’s the most beautiful day here in New York, and the first day that really feels like fall– my favorite season.  In that moment, it felt like a small gift from the universe just for me– as if this first day of my new journey was meant to also be completely gorgeous so that I would walk outside and know that I’d made the right decision.

When I started at my job almost five years ago, I was twenty-one years old and making a two-hour commute to New York City from my hometown in Pennsylvania.  I remember so clearly a very dramatic, suburban, wide-eyed thought that I had as I walked up Eighth Avenue on my first day.  “Here I am, in New York!  This is where I’ll make a name for myself.  I’m here to make my fortune!”

There have been moments over the last few weeks since I gave my notice that I wondered if, in doing so, I’d thrown away the opportunity to fulfill that naive twenty-one year old’s city ambitions.  I know that it’s not.  I am entering a transition, and it’s going to be challenging and uncomfortable, and it might stretch me to some of my previous limits, but it will lead me to a place where I can call my own shots as to how I make that name for myself.  I don’t think it’s ever too late to figure out how you really want to live your life.  Circumstances aren’t always right for making massive life changes, and I am grateful that the stars have aligned in my own circumstances to make this possible for me at twenty-five, almost twenty-six years old.  Now, the trick is to let myself feel each and every stage of this transition, so I can get to the other side ready to chase success in my own right and as my best self.

For now, I am going to take myself out to my favorite little French spot on the corner to sit outside on this perfect day with a book, an order of French fries, and a glass of champagne.  Because if there’s any better way to mark such a major milestone, then I don’t know what it is.

 

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i did it.

I can’t believe I’m typing this, but here’s the big news:

I quit my job today.

Wow.  It looks even weirder typed on the screen than it sounds when I say it out loud.

I, constantly overachieving, straight-shot-from-point-A-to-point-B Alli, have done something completely unexpected.  I’ve strayed from the path.

The truth is that, while this may seem like a surprising and plan-deflecting move, it’s really just a return to my original life track.  I was lucky enough to land an awesome internship in book publishing when I was a junior in college, but prior to that, my focus was all writing, all the time.  The publishing internship was intriguing at that time– could I really spend my life surrounded by books?  I fell completely in love with the idea, and before I knew it, it was three weeks after graduation and I was sitting on a bus bound for my first day in the Sales department at a major New York City book publisher.  Now, almost five years later, I know that I lost myself somewhere in the excitement of landing that job.  And if it means taking an unexpected turn to get back to where I want to be, then I need to make that leap.

It’s been a privilege to work where I’ve worked for the last few years.  I learned to interact with lots of different kinds of people, saw the inside of corporate America, and read hundreds of books along the way.  But, it’s important to follow your intuition (I’m a big fan of Jess Lively and her work on this subject), and to know when to take the next step to get where you really want to be.

So, here we are– at the next step!

What’s the plan?  The plan is to write, and to create.  The plan is to learn, and to network with people who are interested in what I can do and what I have to say.  The stars have aligned over the past few weeks and I’ve made some exciting contacts out there in this exciting online world.  I’ve already jumped into some freelance assignments at a few fantastic outlets, and I’m looking forward to building that portfolio.  I’m excited to share my work as I gain momentum!

Thanks for following along as I start down this new path.  It’s never too late to follow your gut instincts, or to try to work your way back to the beginning.

 

 

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