Failure after Transformation

Failure after transformation is all but easy. I cannot tell you how many times I have read about embracing failure and how it will lead to success. To be quite honest it’s currently leading me to stagnant growth or lack there of. It’s the start of a new year- 2020 and I spent my entire New Years Eve applying to jobs. Today, I woke up this morning to a denial email (from an application I sent on 12/18) and felt defeated. Let me sum up a back story so we can fully digest my situation.

2018-2019 pre-transformation

Annapolis, MD. USA- alley near the state house

I travelled the ’World’ solo from September 2018 until September 2019. I saw places and met people that changed me entirely- for the better! Before this trip I was working a normal corporate sales job in Annapolis, MD. I lived alone in my own ‘luxury’ apartment because having granite, gas appliances, and a secure building were important to me. From the outside, I was happy and fulfilled, and I was …until I wasn’t.

I had everything I had wanted including freedom, friends, and time. Then I lost it, my steady 9-6 job was no longer enjoyable… and never ended by 6. Those long hours weren’t bad, the toxic environment was. I had 5 managers in less than 2 years. There wasn’t an opportunity to establish myself while trying to stay afloat while other people were transitioning in and out. I NEEDED balance. Everyday was groundhog day; I couldn’t fathom living that way anymore. I was investing tons of time and effort but often felt like I was just treading water. I got burnt out. Yet, again, I had every’thing’ I could want except now I was missing freedom and time. I checked off 5 of the 10 reasons Forbes recognizes Great Employees Quitting. (1,2,4,5,8)

I lost the balance of spontaneity that comes with freedom and time. That’s when I decided to quit that life and travel before starting over.

Quitting my job to travel

“Top 10 reasons good employees leave good corporations… Toxic environments” There are tons of articles supporting these paraphrased quotes. It’s crazy to expect employees to stay with a company as dynamics change, and unfortunately speaking up doesn’t always translate properly. I loved my job and my company… but after lots of changes (2 positions- directly affecting me replaced 5 times in just under 2 years). I saw healthy and I saw unhealthy. I saw respect and disrespect. And I didn’t like how I was treated or who I was becoming.

“Good talent leaves companies who disrespect them”

Inc. Magazine

When you speak up and nothing changes, you have to make the change.. first I tried changing my own communication, speaking with the specific people directly about issues, having team meetings… etc. In the end, the environment would always cycle back to toxic without the presence of a higher up. It was like working for Jekyll and Hyde depending on if our manager was in the office or not. Unfortunately it wasn’t just me who was aware and suffering from it- there were often complaints from customers, too. When nothing seemed to change in the corporation even with the immense feedback, I left. I do not regret that choice one bit.

Transformation is easy

I wasn’t expecting to find anything specific from traveling… although I knew it would be a teacher, as it has always been. You see, I’ve traveled my whole life and each experience taught me something and changed me slightly. Solo travel in countries with ENTIRELY different cultures was much more than a quick lesson and much more than a slight change. My 4 months of travel through Asia were the most transformative experiences in my year of travel… that, and a weekend in Dana Point, CA.  

This was the perfect time for me to go. I realized my job was not fulfilling as it once was- due to the factors above. And I knew I wanted to soon buy a home and settle down, so it was now or never. I started to plan out the American Road trip portion to finish my 50, gave my new manager (yes, another one) a 6 week notice, got rid of most of my ‘things’, packed the rest, and stayed just long enough to attend my friends wedding. From there I hit the road.

Failure after Transformation

My very transformative year finished as I finished my 3rd drive across America; returning through Canada. I came back knowing I’d be living at my dad’s house while I prepared to move somewhere new- across the country even. After deciding I’d stay in America, I figured I’d just apply to a few companies and jump back into the real world- bringing my new perspective with me. This would include finding a career path that would truly give me purpose. It’s been 4 months.

Those 4 months in Asia were inspiring and these last 4 months are everything but. I’m truly questioning all the ‘wisdom’ I gained and who I’ve become. Are we meant to serve a purpose? Or are we all just running in a rat race to survive comfortably until we die? How depressing… I’m not sure it’s healthy to self- diagnose (who said I was healthy?), those times of positive change were in sunny climates and I’m currently enduring a dark winter in Maryland where the sun sets by 5pm and I only go outside once a week; is this seasonal depression? SAD? Write me a prescription for sun and throw me back into the woods to connect!

The plan

Upon returning, I was set on moving to Denver. I went to Denver and scouted out apartments, and then I couldn’t find purposeful work. I should mention, I gained more than a new perspective from travel. My entire lifestyle has changed. I got flexible- I became more lenient on where I would live- so long as I could find the type of work I felt was worthy of my time and skills. Did I just say that? Yeah, so I built up a ton of confidence by traveling solo, and I recognize the values I bring to a company because I’ve heard it from my customers. So where has this left me? Jobless.

The more I talk about what I want to do, or the kind of company I want to work for… I’m looking at you B Corp’s, the more I hear society doubting my future. I’m wondering if the gap year is just praised, but never truly valued by corporations. Like HR posts great copy but behind those words they really are just biased to their own lifestyle, whatever it may be. For me, I intend on devoting a ton of time to work and therefore to be truly fulfilling it has to align with my values.

a look of failure after transformation from travel. Siegessäule, Berlin, Germany

Finding motivation to get back on the wheel

I have been researching companies all over the United States and I work in sales and marketing- so the industries are endless. I’ve also been reading articles about changes in the USA workplace, companies finally valuing their talent over their product. I read company values/culture pages regularly and many of the places I apply to talk about the importance of unlimited PTO, sabbaticals, and flexible telecommuting options. I pick them not for more time off, I pick them because they claim to understand how a gap in work to travel would substitute additional education and add values by soft skills. They are literally talking about how important it is for their employees to take time to disconnect and recharge, some even offer monthly stipends for massages or out-of-work hobbies!

Every role I apply to, I am qualified for: with education, experience, and proven results. I write a brand new cover letter to each company. I’m not mad I’m not getting the jobs, I’m mad I’m not getting the opportunity to interview. I continue to receive the generic email saying: “Thank you for applying… Unfortunately…” FAILURE. What gives? I know I am picky… but by now I should’ve interviewed with more companies than I have. Am I suppose to find momentum from these emails? Does Failure actually give you the resilience necessary for success? The companies that do interview me say I’m a great candidate and the one I went the furthest with had no constructive feedback to help me in my continued search. What gives? Failure after transformation needs guidance.

The conundrum

I’m thinking I’m better off moving where I want to play (hike, socialize, climb).. and working only to sustain that lifestyle. AKA I’m backtracking… will I just join the rat race again? Will I turn into a robot with no spontaneity again? I’ve debated 2 options: making the move to Denver, after more consideration I have concluded again- I want to be in Colorado, before the job; OR live the vanlife. The only other place I’d consider planting roots is the PNWonderland (had to), of the two stationary options, Denver makes the most sense for me.

As I edit this for SEO in 2021, I wanted to update you and say- COVID happened, and I jumped on a quick job and moved to Knoxville (low cost of living) because it was a seasonal quick fix. I am again, in this boat but having much more interviews. Also my values particularly as it pertains to sustainability does make fining companies that align harder, but I am much more hopeful. And after working (temporarily) for one that did not- I will not settle.

Failure after Transformation is devastating

This is not my first ‘new’ start. I have started over before. In my childhood I moved every 2 years. I was constantly starting over. Transformation and change are easy, it’s the failure that is hard. I didn’t fail as a new student. Making new friends was easy- I was a kid, I was resilient. That was the time I was capable of failure. I also started over in 2016 after ending an engagement. At the time I had moved with my fiancé and we were living in Charleston. And while I had a job and friends, this was a time I needed family- and family also needed me for other reasons. That’s when I moved back to Maryland and found myself working and living in Annapolis.

At the time, leaving the life I had envisioned with a man I loved felt like failure. I felt as if I was failing to live up to his expectations and my families’ because I didn’t want to commit to his lifestyle. Ok, now I am using the word lifestyle to cover up his addiction. He was (is?) an alcoholic and I started seeing this unravel and had to leave. It wasn’t a life I wanted. Often times I wonder how many of us are happy, really, or if we just ‘feel’ happy based on what society tells us should be fulfilling. Perhaps it’s a common thought among marketing/sales personnel. We do use psychology to seal the deal.

Failure after Transformation builds resilience

Perhaps it’s true. I definitely transformed while in that relationship. I made some tough decisions. Inevitably it failed and I had to humbly go home. I honestly felt like such a failure in those months of starting over. We are constantly changing. That relationship taught me lessons, I grew. Then I lived with my mom temporarily and established myself as single. It was all stressful in the moment and seemed so BIG. In hindsight, it was the best thing I ever did. It got me to the place I am today. It taught me that I could start over again if I ever needed to and nothing is permanent if I don’t want it to be. We are never stuck.

Even editing this in 2021, I look back at the point in 2020 that I wrote this and think of how different my life and mindset were. Every failure has taught me a lesson. I came back to say, they’re right… unfortunately. While it feels tough, failure does build you. It’s not all that bad, even if I sometimes get inside my head and think it’s the end of the world. Nothing evolves without failure.

Failure after transformation or transformation from failure?

Between job searching, applications, and the few and far between interviews… I connect to friends and family, take Skillshare classes, listen to podcasts, read a ton, and connect with nature- I hike a lot! I’m also constantly volunteering my time to clean our planet, to impact the environment, and to influence those around me to make their own positive changes.

This is my purpose.

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