Tag Archives: career

Silicon Alley

My Manhattan career began at a small yet very chic ad agency on Broadway in NoHo, which was referred to in those days as “Silicon Alley”. You know the type, soaring loft ceilings with the guts of the building displayed like a designer construction site. All of the desks were at off angles and the walls were bright yellow. Everything that wasn’t coated in paint was polished stainless steel. It was all just so shiny. Coming from a sea of grey cubes at Raleigh’s IBM campus, it was like I had stepped into Oz.

We worked eighty-hour weeks, blazing new trails on what was still referred to in some circles as the information super highway. At that time we had both the Chef Boyardee and Jose Cuervo accounts, which meant all of the free canned pasta and tequila you could consume. Most of the food was left over from failed market testing of new recipes like Shrimp Alfredo and the like. Mock if you will but if you’re broke, drunk, and designing at 2 am shrimp in a can doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. The copywriters were always off smoking pot in the stairwells. Our ideas were plastered online and on billboards. We had the flashiest websites and the cleverest taglines. “Cuervo. Make strangers your friends and your friends a lot stranger.” We were living the dream.

For years Mom would refer to this as my “career phase” as if it were something you could take an antibiotic for or at least outgrow in time to make some babies and get that coveted part time gift shop position. At the time she said her biggest failure was raising me to be too independent. I’m not a parent and likely never will be but that seems a little backwards to me. In fact, my independence is the greatest gift she ever gave me. I should thank her for that, but I probably won’t.

On Changing it all at once

I posted several entries this past fall whining about needing to change my life… then I went silent for awhile…and actually changed my life. My job was a nightmare of constant travel and stress which I was allowing to impact my physical and mental health. Yes, I allowed it. There are many out there who can handle this type of work very well, and thrive in it even. I realized that unfortunately I’m not one of those people. I don’t admit defeat easily which is why the last few months have been tough.

Last we left off I think I was winging my way home from my spa vacation. Right after I posted my last post from the airplane something struck me. I realized that I had the ability to control what happened next, and I didn’t have to feel weak or guilty about it. So, I emailed a former colleague who had moved on to a different company and had at one point expressed an interest in bringing me along. I had dismissed the offer at the time because I was fairly new in my current position and was hopeful for a successful long term run there.

Alas, success is a relative term. I thought for awhile what success really looked like to me and somewhere during that flight my definition changed. Maybe it’s an age thing, or I finally just hit the endurance wall, but suddenly my priorities shifted. I weighed the potential career glory, financial rewards, and general reputation within my professional community with all the other things that had started to suffer in the wake of it all. It became achingly clear that my priorities had been skewed when I looked at all I had given up. Physical health, mental health, appearance, relationships, social life, community roots. At the end of the day, the math was obvious. I had to change.

This change needed to go beyond just quitting my job. I had to quit my job *with purpose*. My next move couldn’t just be change for change’s sake. It had to be backed by real lifestyle modifications or else it would be just another flakey job-hop. I would have to pack up and move again, 2 times in 10 months…so there had to be a good reason. The move, while painful, was also symbolic. A clean slate in a semi-new city (I had lived in the area before, so I was close enough to rekindle some old friendships which was a good thing)

But all and all this was a brand new ball game. I took this new position that promises much less travel and a 9-5 (ish) lifestyle. I even got MLK day off…for the first time ever. I’m 3 weeks in and even though those 3 weeks have resulted in 2 business trips, they were much smaller in scale and in the long term will be the exception rather than the rule (I hope).

The first thing I did when I knew I was going to be relocating and starting over was book an appointment with a Dr. who specializes in weight management. She was the first person I visited upon reaching my destination. It was an extreme experience. She put me on (a closely supervised) 800 calorie a day plan. This seems shocking and I guess it kind of is, but I see her once a week for a check up and weigh-in and this is just the first (albeit hard core) phase in a long term approach that will slowly reintroduce me to food over time. (I live mostly on protein shakes and soups in the meantime).  I predict it will take me about a year to lose the 100 pounds I need to lose. 100, really? I let it get that out of control? How does any sane person let that happen? I’ll address that in more detail in the next post. The reality is, even though there were factors working against me, this happened on my watch. I will accept the responsibility of fixing it.

The second thing I did was hire a personal trainer. I’m starting out with 28 sessions at great financial expense, but I know this is what I need in order to be successful. I know that, at first, I must have that structure and accountability in order to set myself up for success.

I’m 3 weeks in to all of this. at my 2 week weigh-in I was down 11.5 pounds. I know this pace will slow over time but I needed to start with a big number to get my head in the right place. I have to limit my workouts to light strength training only for the time being due to the strictness of the 800 calorie regimen.

The third thing I did was start a weekend pottery class. Pottery is something that I have always loved. Not only is it creative but it is in a way very spiritual. Well, that may be a bit of an overstatement but if you take a look at the process from an Eastern point of view, sitting at a potter’s wheel, completely focused on one thing…centering the clay as it spins in a mesmerizing dance, it can be quite a Zen experience. Plus, you get pretty pots when you are done. And you get to meet new people.

The 4th thing I did was reconnect with as many people as possible. This is a bit of a challenge because most socializing happens these days over food and drink, but I have a strategy for this. I will allow myself a single drink and a very restricted meal about once a week. I told my doctor that I was not going to become a hermit just because I need to lose weight, so we developed a plan that allows for the occasional well planned restaurant visit.

Add all of the above to starting a new job and moving into a new apartment and it amounts to a boatload of change all at once. It has been a bit overwhelming but I guess that’s the way I roll, rip off the bandaid fast. I’ve never been good at baby steps. Maybe that will be my next project, but for now I think I have my hands full.

On Becoming Diamond

Tomorrow will be my inaugural flight as a Diamond Medallion Member with Delta Airlines. I’m not sure whether to celebrate or mourn this accomplishment. I’m at the top of the caste and that’s fun and all… I get all sorts of perks such as first class upgrades, going through the pre-check security line (keeping my shoes on, liquids in), etc. but at what cost? In my last post on the mind-body connection I note my new awareness of how my lifestyle is affecting my health. 100% travel, That means every single week I’m on a plane off to somewhere-generally-not-all-that-exciting. I cram my ever-increasing butt into that tiny seat, take a deep breath (and often a Xanax) and off I go. My weekend routine consists of recovery sleep and laundry. I have no consistent social life to speak of. I have no repeatable weekday routine, well…at least not a healthy one. I have nothing but my job and a well-worn hotel blanket to keep me warm at night (and that blanket scares me…blacklight, anyone?)

My health as you already know has taken a nose dive. My travel and work schedule is my reason but not my excuse. Sure, I could get up at 5 am before my workday begins and go to the gym. I could always be prepared for long flights with some sort of healthy packable snack. But the reality is that I’m not ever *really* prepared for all that and, funadamentally, I’m just freaking tired all the time. Too tired to work out, too tired to go out of my way to find healthy food choices, too tired to make an effort to do anything other than the bare minimum to get thorugh the day. This my friends, is no way to live. I know this now and it’s time to make a change.

So, what to do? I have a few options. I can create some sort of structured routine around my travel schedule (this is the current approach….week 2 with mixed success) I can also change my job, either fight internally to get a different schedule or moved to a different role, or change companies altogether. This is a sticky decision and is my current dilemma. In the meantime I cope as well as I can. Socially I have developed a rich and diverse group of “virtual friends”. Some I know in real life, some I only know via anonymous handle. This community is my family. I know that wherever I travel they will be there (Facebook, email, blog, instant message, Skype, Second Life). I have a consistent place to go to interact with them, and I do care deeply for them. Is this odd? I’m not sure but it works for me and I dare to guess I’m not the only one. I suppose in the end we all adapt to our environment one way or another. I have found both good and bad in mine. I will leverage the good and mitigate the bad the best way I know how…and hang on till the tide turns. So, this is a shout-out to my virtual family (you know who you are) I love you and appreciate your support. You are as real to me as if you were sharing my nasty hotel blanket.