A Career Year

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.”
― Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

It’s not an easy thing to leave a job, especially one you’re finding success in. In recent months I received one raise, negotiated another, and was promoted–all the result of a lot of hard work and a lot of determination. And then, somewhat suddenly, I decided to leave my position.

I’ve mentioned this briefly in previous posts but in a lot of ways, I feel like I need to make up for lost time career-wise. I graduated as the recession was kicking off and was the primary breadwinner while Jeff was still in school. Hindsight being 20/20, I should never have stayed at my first job as long as I did but when you’re in a mindset of just paying the bills, it’s easy to let small setbacks (like not being able to go abroad with your husband to grad school, or having to wait a year for a new visa) add up to big ones. The long term benefit has been an internal commitment to not allow myself to ever get “stuck” in a job again–whether in progress, advancement, money, or learning opportunities. And in spite of a lot of the growth over the past year in particular, I found myself feeling a bit stuck.

Behind the scenes I called 2015-2016 my “Year of Career” due to the amount of work I was putting in. Willingly, might add. Due to my sense of falling inadvertently behind, both I and Jeff (who somewhat shares my feelings, though slightly less so as he spent a year getting a masters degree that paid off in exactly the way we hoped it would; namely, getting us to London) agreed that we’d be willing to burn the candle at both ends for a few years to gain as much experience and as many opportunities as we could. Our end goal is to position ourselves to have a more balanced life, but we were willing to put in the long hours and weekends needed now to get us there.

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It has been an intense year. Coworkers have come and gone, a new mentor entered the picture, projects grew or got smaller unexpected, and I was thrown into [the right kind of] sink or swim projects that allowed me to learn. My instincts were tested, as were values, resilience, and skills. I hired and eventually had to let go of my first assistant, then hire a second one, I put together not just individual marketing campaigns, but got to develop whole top line strategies, I vastly expanded my network of contacts in both the business and creative world, and I had some pretty high highs. I also fell on my face a few times, lost my cool, struggled as my department grew and shrank and grew again, occasionally thrived on the uncertainty, but other times struggled with it.

But in spite of all the bustle, increasingly I recognized that nagging feeling of “stuck-ness.” Some of it was internal, some of it was external, but it was unmistakably the feeling that I once ignored for too long: I had a very strong impression that it was getting time to go. Just as I had really come to the conclusion that I would listen to that feeling and start hustling to make something happen, the universe placed a not insignificant opportunity right in front of me and I decided to grab it with both hands.

My new position contains many elements of my old plus some fresh new challenges and I’m still finding my feet a week and a half in, but tremendously grateful for and enjoying the new work.

However I’m recognizing the need to shake up more than where I work, but how I work. My old position was a crucible in many ways, a major support role in a team relatively small to be in charge of the amount of assets we managed. Everyone wore a lot of hats, I was on at least half dozen projects simultaneously, and our department was involved in every single phase from research before an acquisition all the way through to the final sales. The amount of learning opportunities I had were amazing. But there was a dark side. Because we were a small team, it was nearly impossible to “switch off.” This was not just me, I learned eventually, it was part of the culture that the company developed. For a while, my first whole year there, I didn’t see this as too much of a problem because I was committed to burning the candle at both ends if needed, but nobody can work like that forever before both you and the metaphoric candle burn out.

I came close to burn out more than once in my old position. Emails on the weekends, occasional whole weekends in the office, taking work home with me…it added up. At one point I was having actual nightmares about spreadsheets and waking up in the middle of the night composing tomorrow’s emails in my head. My new company makes a priority of balance and working hard…during work hours. People are expected to go home at reasonable times, not to be available during atypical hours, and to take holidays. I’m only a week and a half in (plus I had a week of break between positions) but it is a bit shocking how much adjustment this mentality is taking. I knew I didn’t like the imbalance I felt previously, I didn’t know how all pervasive it was, and I definitely didn’t appreciate I am going to have to relearn balance–it is NOTHING like riding a bicycle.

But I need to. In many ways, this job represents a step towards that longer term goals: I worked hard for nearly two years so I could work smarter for much longer. There’s still a lot of work to do setting up in my new gig, plus I’m working on some side projects again after they fell (out of necessity) by the wayside, but for the moment at least, I’m seeing how my year of career paid off.

 

Fashion Find: Ragyard

“There is good clothing design on every level today. You can be the chicest thing in the world in a T-shirt and jeans — it’s up to you.”
― Karl Lagerfeld

So you’ve been noticing the (fantastic) trends towards embroidery and embellishment? So you’ve been eyeing those Gucci knits and patched everything floating around your pinterest boards and street style sites alike? So, awash in these musing, you think of your bank account and collapse into hysterical tears?

I’ve got you, kittens.

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Behold Ragyard, a shop I stumbled into by accident in Shoreditch but which also has a Portobello Road outpost. They stock their own pieces featuring embroidery and patchwork in fairly small numbers. Some of their stuff could be outright festival wear but styled right and you’ve got a dead ringer for looks off the runway (or worn by tastemaking editors). Basic research also indicates they occasionally do one-of-a-kind pieces that I want to dive into a bit more.

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The last thing I need is more lazy athleisure wear but the sweatshirts are oddly seductive. I’m currently sitting on my hands and being good, however I’m  curious to see how the tease of these new snake patches is going to play out eventually and so might give in to temptation in the near future.

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Weekend Links

“There’s never enough time to do all the nothing you want.”
― Bill Watterson

Another weekend drawing to a close, darlings, another batch of links to take to you to the bitter end. It’s a short bunch this week but as always worth a read! Share your favorite internet finds in the comments and let me know what you’re getting up to this week.

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Full disclosure, this is a commercial for feminine hygiene products. It is also wicked smart advertising and the comment thread is giving me life. #fulleowyn

This clapback is everything.

History + libraries = SDS clickbait.

My entire Facebook feed of late has been dedicated to the ass-kicking lady athletes in Rio this Olympics, so here’s a timely piece of worthy reading.

This piece on Elle.com on the evolution of street style and how their photographers capture it now is smart and delightful.

Excellent.

I’m incredibly irked that Larry Wilmore’s show has been cancelled, but Jon Stewart’s tribute to his voice says better than any other commentary why it’s important.

Weekend Links

“Without ambition one starts nothing. Without work one finishes nothing. The prize will not be sent to you. You have to win it.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I had this week off on holiday, which is good news because I start the new gig tomorrow. Having some time to rest and recalibrate has been enormously welcome. I spent a couple of days just catching up on sleep, housework, the September issues, news, and friends, then I hit the road and spent a couple of days taking meetings and catching up with fellow freelance types and friends because it’s back to the hustle, kids.

Here are your links, time to gear up for the week!

Source: Buzzfeed News
#girlboss              Source: Buzzfeed News

Oh, good grief

In better news, we all “got this.” I also have the gif saved for future reference.

I’ve been in a bit of a workaholic phase lately and I’m working now to recover from that mindset as I dive into a new job that I’m committed to, but trying to have a better, smarter life balance over all. Caitlin sent me some light reading on the topic.

Hilary Clinton’s merch is on point. I require this notebook, for one.

So, horses are X-Men?

Friend and fellow expat Caitlin (in China) wrote a great post about her shifting relationship with stuff.

These are amazing and I think I need to stock up immediately. Wouldn’t they make fabulous gifts?!

Spot of murder anyone?

I swear, there’s a decent argument that social media is killing the internet

So much want. (h/t Caitlin again)

More expat thoughts from another former expat chum.

Food Find: Hawker House

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.”
― Orson Welles

We happened across Street Feast entirely by accident–specifically we saw a ton of (I assume) event goers decked out in 1940s dress with a military theme apparently heading into a venue once. Then I did some googling out of curiosity. Then I discovered the conglomerate of street food venues scattered throughout the city, one of which was nicely near our apartment. Meet Hawker House!

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In winter the food is indoors and heat lamps keep people cozy, in summer the party moves outside to food trucks.

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Burgers, brisket, tacos, barbecue, Korean food, deserts, Pizza, and mixed grill all mingle happily.

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Hello brisket, my old friend. You have been missed.

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Lipstick Pilgrimage

“All my life I’ve pursued the perfect red.”
—Diana Vreeland

One of the highlights of my trip to New York was the day X and I spent out and about indulging in some beauty therapy of the old school variety: cosmetics. Custom ones at that!

For some context, apart from sharing what is now pushing two decades of inside jokes, adoptive family titles that we take very seriously, university experiences, spiritual journeys, unexpected career paths, and any number of binding overlaps, we also share an unholy love of lipstick. It is a rare text or email chain that does not include a close up image captioned with the make and model of whatever shade we happen to be wearing that day. So obviously, in planning our NYC itinerary, there was one spot we had to go: the Bite Beauty Lip Lab.

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X was in need of a true coral color, I was on the hunt for the perfect blend of berry and fuchsia. Both of us wanted a highly editorial gray/greige shade that we decided to double up on because if you can’t do a custom best friend lippie than what is the point of life, I ask you? X prebooked our appointed (required) and Jeff bowed out to go hang with a university flatmate currently getting a masters at Columbia…and to do some shoe shopping.

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It’s a thing of beauty to be able to mix your own shades and amazing to see the Bite team whip up your requests expertly. I had a bad moment of doubt or two when a seemingly odd color was dropped into my swirling mash of pigment but inevitably it was precisely what the concoction needed. Shut up and let the pros work, C..

The Bite team are fantastically enthusiastically patient, mixing and tweaking and allowing customers apparently unlimited time to stare at their lips in the mirror and waffle on whether you need to go a touch warmer, cooler, redder, bluer, or whatever. It’s a good thing this place is 1) not entirely cheap, and 2) in another country otherwise the amount of my money it would otherwise suck down would be dire indeed.

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It’s not just the colors that are fun, it’s that you can customize everything from the texture to the scent using oils. I went for a creamy semi-gloss for my purple shade, and X and I decided on a matte finish with a unusual mix of oils for our scent to keep it weird, gorgeous, and unique

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If you’re still on the hunt for the perfect red (or gray, or green, or goodness knows what shade) it’s absolutely worth a visit. Plus the tiny thrill of being asked where you got your lipstick and being able to respond that it’s a creation singular to you is not to be discounted. Couture we cannot have, custom we can!

Weekend Links

“The basis of optimism is sheer terror.”
― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

A day early kittens because I’ve got stuff to be getting on with this weekend. I’m on holiday mode this week before I start the new gig, which of course means there’s a lot to do–up to and including blogging more. So here are your links and share your weekend adventures in the comments!

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The photos from this Into The Gloss Top Shelfie are everything.

Friend of the Blog Caitlin gets honest in a personal while professionally minded post.

Friend of the Blog Teri also writes poignantly about a deeply personal loss.

Damn it!

Ah yes, those ugly, undesirable suffragettes. Ironically some of these same kinds of ideas and imagery were thrown around about myself and much better women than I who suggested wearing trousers to church would be appropriate…and the rest, as they say is very well documented history.

Instagram feed of the week: this collection of secondhand and vintage labels!

POTUS for the win.

Where were you for Cargogate 2016? (The author’s follow up to the original story is amazing, who knew the passion people felt for this piece of kit!)

This girl. Just give her the gold, man…

Speaking of, who caught the Rio 2016 Olympic Games opening ceremony? If not, the BBC is here for you.

And finally, so much news this year has been of the Sick, Sad World variety (to quote Kid Fury), so I admit fully to tearing up a bit to see this. Am I a sucker for the social theatre of sport? Sure. Did I need this moment of human optimism? Absolutely.