pollen

i’m sitting on the front porch and everything around me is dusted with a light yellow film of pollen.  springtime in north carolina.  even buckley is looking a little chalky.

it’s funny how getting out of a miserable situation makes the need to write so much less.  a former english teacher of mine from high school used to say “when the pain gets too much , you reach for the pen”.  since my last day at aveda on february 1st, there’s been little pain.  

my days are largely my own, dictated mainly by meetings i set.  buckley has become my shadow, never more than a few feet away (mostly adorable, sometimes crazy making). i can do laundry, make lunch in my own kitchen, and take breaks in my sun filled yard.  i’m working hard on a project that challenges my brain with people i trust.  i’m making more money than i was at insidetrack.  even though the project is temporary and the stress of finding another project this fall makes my stomach do flips, the drastic change in stress level, quality of life, and overall happiness is ten times worth it.  i’ve stopped biting my nails, which is pretty incredible after decades of mindless chewing.

my former students at aveda still keep in touch with me.  one passed away a few weeks ago – which was incredibly difficult.  i’ve gone to movies with a few of them, met one for coffee yesterday, and am heading to a graduates apartment shortly for a trim.

life is good on stuart drive.  just in time for spring…

leaps & nets

my last day at aveda is friday – this friday.  due to a lot of networking, my trademark persistence, and a little help from my grandmother and her fellow angels, i have multiple gigs lined up.  paying gigs! 

on monday night, i got a call from the director of hr at insidetrack.  the very same man who told me, after repeated conversations, that i couldn’t work remotely for insidetrack, offered me a 4 week, 40-hour per week, contract to coach on a struggling team.  i’ll be working as a consultant.  i’ll be working from home.  my work starts on monday.  hello universe, i hear you.

i was offered, and accepted, an opportunity to co-facilitate a full day training for 60 north carolina community college administrators on 2/28 in raleigh with a fellow former insidetracker.

looks like the big contract with martha will come through and start before the end of the month.  i may be swimming in work and exhausted by the time march rolls around, but i’ll be happy.  i’ll be doing good work with good people, work that matters, work that pays well, and work to which i’ll be proud to attach my name.  

as i prepare to leave, my students are getting clingy.  they’re coming by more often.  they’re giving me the sad eyes on the salon floor.  they’re telling their teachers – who are telling me – that once i leave – there will be no one else they can talk to.  staff members are pulling me aside, asking me how they can leave too.  i’m thinking about writing a letter – a long one – to the owner of the company about what he can help change to make this better for the students who are paying his bills.  being in ohio, i don’t think he understands how this school is run.  the best example i can give of how initiatives are carried out is this: at the leadership meeting in ohio, there was talk of everyone knowing the mission.  great!  i loved this idea and had been hoping that we’d bring more mission stuff into our days.  how it was carried out?  an announcement that everyone had to memorize the mission, that we’d be reciting it daily as a pledge, and that there would be random pop quizzes to see who knew it and who didn’t.  that’s it.  there was no connection to how we live our lives, how we operate at work and the mission of aveda.  the owner said, “everyone should know the mission”.  this is how the leadership at the school responds.  there is no “why” behind any directive.  it’s “do this because i said so”.  i can’t believe i lasted 5 months!

i’m looking forward to words filling this blog about something other than my miserable job.  i’m looking forward to being a better wife, pet owner, and generally happier human.  i’m looking forward to getting my health back – to exercising and knocking off the stress and unhappiness pounds that have crept on.   martha told me that if i leap, a net would appear.

and how.

notice.

yesterday, after a lot of hemming and hawing and what the hell am i doing, i sent my boss a resignation letter.  my last day at aveda will be friday, march 1st.  no, the consulting gigs aren’t funded yet and no, i don’t have anything else lined up.  maybe i’m brave, maybe a little stupid, but mostly i’m choosing my health and the health of my marriage over stability. i’ve been so unhappy that all i can talk about it how unhappy i am.  i haven’t been the kind of wife or friend i want to be.  my shoulders are constantly tense, i get sick halfway through the last day of my weekend thinking about going back.  time to go.  time to job hunt.  time to find something i love to do before i grow a human in this body.  carpe fucking diem.  here i go.

quiet.

we just said goodbye to meghan’s mom and stepdad after a wonderful, 5 day, visit.  we’ve never hosted linda and sam before, so it was such fun to not only host them, but just get to hang out with them a lot.  they’re incredibly easy house guests and tackled putting plywood in our attic, cutting down two rotten trees with chainsaws, and assembling our housewarming gift – a beautiful gas grill.  they’re two of the most generous people i know and, with them gone 30 minutes, i miss them already. 

the house is really quiet now.  i forget how much i love a busy home.  the christmas tree is at the curb, the stockings are back in the attic, but we’re leaving the christmas cards up for a while because they make us happy.  

18 days until my dad and michele get here.  something to look forward to as i head back into the storage closet for another week of hitting refresh on my e-mail, hoping we get the consulting project(s) signed.  it’s hard to believe that people go their whole careers, or even just years at a time, with this feeling of post-weekend dread.  this feeling of literally counting down the hours before one can be home again.  a while ago, i took all my aveda colleagues and students off of my personal facebook page after i got a “gentle reminder” from one of the managers that i might not want to use profanity on my page when i have graduates as friends.  so, i made a professional page and transferred both students and colleagues over there.  the difference between my personal newsfeed and the aveda newsfeed are insane.  personal feed: articles from NPR, gun control petitions, recipes for organic/healthy meals.  aveda news feed: kim kardashian is pregnant, you can pry my gun from my cold, dead, hands, and coupons for walmart.  

here’s the thing – my colleagues at aveda are, for the most part, loving and kind folks.  it’s just not the place i thought it was and it’s time to leave before i start getting rusty.  

think good thoughts, think good thoughts, think good thoughts. 

good.

multiple good things happened yesterday amidst the crazy in connecticut:

1. i discovered how much support i have in jessica – the director of the school.  i have a student, n., who is a pretty gruff character.  she’s had a tough life and you know it when you meet her.  of course, she’s one of my dear ones.  n. was incredibly nervous to cut hair and to leave the safety of ms. cheryl’s classroom for the salon floor.  ms. cheryl, if i haven’t told you about her, is one of the best educators i’ve ever met.  she, herself, has crawled out of an incredibly tough life to do what she calls her dream job.  she loves these students fiercely and they love her.  n. loved ms. cheryl and last week she came into my office, crying, not feeling like she had the confidence to do a short hair cut.  i said, “i’ll be your model!  chop off my mullet!”  she said that would make her feel better and she went back confidently to the salon floor to let her instructor know that she’d found a model she was comfortable with in me.  the instructor called me saying “she’s not ready to do your hair – she has other stuff to do”.  I said okay, then checked back a couple days later to see if n. could cut my hair yet.  the instructor said “you don’t want her to do that, her skills aren’t where they need to be”.  of course, i protested and said “she’s a student!  let her learn on me.  i know it won’t be perfect but she’s got to learn somehow”.  i was still met with resistance so i gave up.  this was saturday.  n. hasn’t been in school this entire week.  no one could reach her.  yesterday i rallied together ms. cheryl and jessica, told them what was going on.  then, n. finally called me back.  we talked for 25 minutes, i took a ton of notes, and due to the magic of coaching, she’ll be back in school on tuesday.  after i sent the notes to jessica and ms. cheryl, jessica came into my office, high fived me, and told me what an incredible job i’d done.  she sees the dysfunction on the salon floor and says she’s taking calculated steps to change things.  that was a conversation i’d never had with her before and it gives me hope that real change may be coming for our students.

2. i’ve been hounding one of our retail guys about finishing up the ONE semester he has left until he gets his BA in business.  he’s a sweet guy – spent 7 years in the army and was always told to get a business degree so that’s what he decided to do, but it’s not his passion.  he told me that he intended to leave the BA (again, ONE semester before finishing) and start a BA in astronomy.  needless to say i’ve been on his ass about it since he told me of his plans a few weeks ago.  there have been several pro/con lists made under my watchful eye.  yesterday he told me that he bought back his books and is going to finish his BA in business before deciding what his next step will be.  bam.  coaching, yo.

3. my student who brought her husband in to meet me told me on my way to the car last night that i am the only reason she’s made it this far in school.

4. s., one of my other dearest students, had her first walk in client yesterday.  she did so well and was so proud of herself!  

5.  i was offered another consulting gig.  this time with another former colleague from insidetrack who is in the proposal stages of a project with the north carolina community colleges.  it would be a little less money, but not much.  it feels pretty incredible to have options as i swing to my next branch in this career.  

so, yes, good things happened yesterday, and i hugged meghan a little tighter when i got home.

oy.

i still haven’t heard anything about the consulting gig but as you can imagine, i’m a nervous wreck.  things keep happening at work to show me clearly that a quick exit is an excellent idea.  ultimately, it’s the culture of “discipline over development” and my boss’ propensity for what liz called “lampshading” – trying to dim my brightness.  

yesterday, my boss kept talking about what a strong team we are and how she’s proud of the work we’re doing.  she’s begun planning for the future with this team, in which i’m a key player.  i knew i had to tell her about the possibility of the new job last night because she was getting so excited about the future.

at first, she was completely supportive – said that she’s so glad i told her, that of course i should take the job and that she’d be praying for me that i get it.  i was surprised and excited by her reaction.  then, came the lampshade.  she said that she was jealous – that if offered that kind of job she’d totally take it and that – wait for it – “honestly emily, you and i are basically the same except that i’m older and black”.  essentially, she told me that she’s as qualified as i am to lead the development of this coaching project.  really?  in what world is she living?  she worked as a trainer at IBM for most of her career.  i have spent the last seven years of my career as an educational consultant/coach/and leadership developer.  i was so stunned that i just stared back at her as she went back to the prayers she’d be sending up that i get this job.  

today, we had a conference call – the first one since i started in august – with the head office in columbus.  it took an hour and went no where.  the ceo clearly had his own agenda although he was asking for input. i could see two staff members who have been here a long time (9 and 3 years respectively) becoming increasingly frustrated.  after the call i asked them to go for a walk with me so i could figure out what in particular they were frustrated about.  they both said, “after this call, nothing will change.  we’ll go back to the way things were until the next thing”.  they reported that over the years this company has lost dozens of incredible people because no one knows how incredible they are, no one is fighting to keep them, and they see no reason to stay.  there are no performance reviews, no formal path through professional development.  there are no measurable goals or data on anything.  so, people come here, they spin their wheels for a few years, and leave.  it’s so sad.  i asked the staff member who has been here 9 years why she stays.  she said “honestly, i don’t know where else i can go.  this is all i’ve done in my career.  i try not to think about it too much because i start worrying i’ve wasted the last 9 years of my life.”  HOW SAD.  this is someone who is dedicated, smart, and hard-working.  she says that she tries not to think about how undervalued or unappreciated she is.  jeebus.  then, the manager i’m walking with says “i’ve been told not to be the squeaky wheel so i’ve just learned to keep my mouth shut”.  this manager, in 3 years, has never had a formal performance review.  she’s an achiever, so i can imagine that the absence of concrete goals has been killing her slowly.  i told both of them, when we got back to the office, that this conversation isn’t over.  frankly, it’s my goal to coach them both up and out asap.  how’s that for measurable?  

when i leave, i intend to write a letter to the director of hr that she can pass on to whomever she sees fit.  it will be written as a consultant, offering my suggestions on how to make that school truly great.  it’s almost as if i’ve been under cover since august, just waiting on my next opportunity to change things for the better.  

opportunity.

on saturday, i had lunch with one of my former client champions.  she was the vp of student engagement and retention strategies for the parent company of the school we were contracted to coach for.  i worked with her for 3+ years and she’s incredible.  when she got laid off due to cutbacks, she started her own consulting firm.  she finds out next week if she gets a major contract she’s bid on.  if so, she wants to take me on as a leading consultant on the project.  this would be full time consulting work for six months.  i’d be making double what i’m making now, and a bit more than what i was making at insidetrack.  it would only be a six month contract, but i’d be doing work i love and be able to work completely from home.   if the contract comes through, i’ll tell ya’ll about it.  until then, it’s so perfect i don’t want to jinx it.  send good thoughts my way this week, por favor!