The Moments That Defined My Decade: Lymphoma, Love, Laid Off

December 31, 2009

To close out the first decade on this new millennium, I took the challenge from My Brown Baby, to write five defining moments of the last ten years. Here goes

"Welcome to the Atlanta Daily World"

I started this decade as a freshman in high school, sure I wanted to be a lawyer or a math teacher during the day and radio dj at night (even had my name . . .Lady Cha Cha which my dad still calls me:). Then I joined my school newspaper staff junior year, because I liked writing and they had long lunches. That summer I did a program with 30 students throughout Atlanta to intern at different companies.

I wanted a law firm.
I got assigned to the local Black newspaper.

After getting over the disappointment, I looked up and was home. From calling companies to place ads to writing local arts stories, I was doing something I could see myself doing for the rest of my life.

I also learned you can't wait for opportunity to knock. I saw Andrew Young and Jackie Reed walking by our office outside, in town for the BET road tour. I ran outside and took photos with my disposable camera, and smiled bright the next week, when those pictures made the front page.

"You have Hodgkin's Lymphoma"
I have been saying I'm going to Howard U. since 8th grade. And I finally made it to my top school, with two of my best friends in 2003. I joined the newspaper staff after emailing the EIC the summer before, too naive to know no freshman were on staff. Sophomore year began, and one of my best friends back home lost her mom to Breast cancer. I came home feeling the weight of life and death. That Christmas break, at my grandmother's urging I finally checked out a little bump in my groin.

And after a biopsy, I got big news. Being diagnosed with cancer at 19, rocked my little world. As my classmates returned for the second semester, my parents drove me up to get my stuff and come home for treatment. Thankfully, after chemo, radiation and a new bald head, nine months later I was cleared to return to school. Even now, I don't enjoy returning to those memories, though it definitely made me stronger. And this decade I am pushing myself to share my story.

Empire State of Mind
I returned to college knowing intimately how short life really is, which gave me an ongoing boost to live it to the fullest. That spring I was back on track to graduate on time and was awaiting word about a magazine internship. I got the email I had been waiting for. I was accepted into Asme and had gotten my first choice of Essence Magazine. I cried. Almost a year to the day I had lost my hair, here I was about to go to New York. God is good. The next day was our magazine conference and I walked up to Essence EIC Angela Burt Murray to tell her I was coming to her magazine. She welcomed me and said with a smile, "Be ready to work hard."

And she was right. I had the time of my life and it was hell adjusting back to college life. I was in NY every chance I got, and a position opened up on their website staff right before I graduated. Four days after hearing Oprah speak to the graduating class of 2007 at Howard, I was at my desk at Essence, after finding my first apartment the night before.

Love Comes Along

I fell in love this year. Hard. And I am still getting my bearings. That balance of building something beautiful while not losing yourself is a work in progress. I had a moment a few months back, where I was feeling down, and looked to my boyfriend to fill me up.
It scared me. And I had a wake up call, that it will still always be my job to be my best friend. No one will ever treat me as good as I can treat myself. And I have worked on keeping my relationship with myself the strongest. It made me better. It made us better. And I am so enjoying the ride. We just celebrated nine months of officially going steady and went to see "Princess and the Frog." Love ya Tiana, but the real thing is so much better than a fairytale.

The Next Level
This year alone has been a defining one filled with firsts. I lost my grandmother this summer. And along with getting my first job this decade, this year I got laid off for the first time. It was a turning point in my life as I felt myself get off cruise control and return to the driver's seat of my life. I had my dream job at 24, so it was time for new dreams and new goals. And I know exactly where I want to go next. Though I still miss my grandmom, I have the greatest peace I have ever known. And I definitely did not get here alone. I have had amazing mentors in my corner and parents who really make me believe I can move mountains. Here's to a fab 2010 and beyond!!

Laid Life Benefits . . .Perky

December 18, 2009

If you have to be laid off, let it be from a large company with great benefits!

Along with a decent severance to keep me afloat for a few months, I received outplacement services courtesy of my former employer.

I finally made it to the orientation program yesterday, and wish I had went earlier!

The company provides one month of one-on-one career coaching for a month, and six months of access to their career seminars, and offices you can use as needed, with printers, copiers and a 212 phone. oh my.

Working from home is great, but I do miss a fax, printer and copier at my disposal. I attended my orientation with one of my fav former coworkers, Bridgette, and two women who worked in HR at the company. There stories were especially touching . . . and shocking. Both had wind of layoffs as there department prepared, but werent aware of their own pending cuts. One even was stuffing the folders given to each laid off person, a folder she ended up getting herself. ouch. When she asked her boss, why she would be asked to do that knowing she would be cut, she was told to keep her from being suspicious of being left out . . .

After a great session, I hurried over to meet a friend of a friend's little cousin, who was a college student in town from Chicago with dreams of going in to magazines.

There is nothing like looking into the bright, hopeful eyes of someone you once were, to make you smile and realize how far you have come. She asked me about my time as a intern in the city and going from intern to editor. I told her stories of my time, and more importantly my strategy to getting hired, and being positive opportunities would come. I got up this morning looking for a picture for a blanket I want to make my mom, and stumbled on pictures from that summer (included some in this post). I smiled clicking through, knowing dreams really do come true. And it aint over yet!

About that interview

December 16, 2009

Then she looked around, picked up her flat iron and begin pressing her hair, with its blond ends and black roots. She heard footsteps from behind on the wooden floor, and quickly tucked her iron under the desk and straigtened up. The moment calmed my nerves, as another exec came to bring me back for the interview.

First up, they told me the job had shifted some from the posting I saw on Mediabistro. The added duties were even more in my lane, and I felt myself getting excited. Instead of a list of questions, after giving them copies of my resume, I was given the floor to tell them about me, and make it sound good. They shared more of the daily duties of the job, something I could definitely see myself doing with my days and thriving in.

Before I knew it, I was shaking hands and back on the streets of NY. Smiling. Not sure how they felt about me, but satisfied with my performance.

And then I felt the hunger pains from not eating breakfast (Staples became my friend that morning). I headed over to the BF's place for leftovers from the great Sunday dinner we whipped up. Cooking together is the ultimate win-win. Fun and frugal.

That night I got my socialite on, hitting an alumni party for former employees at my old job, and then the cocktail party for A Belle in Brooklyn. It was great to see old and new faces at both! That's me and Elaine at Belle's event, where she thanked me for inviting her to my bookclub meeting her first weekend in NY - where she met her best friend in New York till this day. Just a testament to being good to others and it comes right back.

And things just kept on getting interesting. Tuesday I saw another voicemail on my phone. Again I had missed a call from the company!! I know, i know.

I called back and was informed I was one of four finalists for the job, and needed to complete an edit test in 24 hours to possibly make it to the next round of two people, one to be picked for the job. I was ready for the test and she sent it over.

It was . . .intense. I started my research and then it was time to head to a CNN networking reception with exes and journalists of color.

I got there and was excited to see a mentor/homie who had helped show me the ropes in NY. We caught up and she told me she had been on an interview the day before, and gave a description of the job . . .and I named the company. Yep, she had interviewed for the same position and also was a final four. We both felt good that if we didnt get it, we hoped the other did.

After meeting amazing folks at CNN, I headed home. It was time to get to work on the edit test. I overthunk some parts and made it a little harder for myself than i had to, but today, as the deadline neared, I hit send and felt good. We shall see . . .

Interview Prep

December 13, 2009

So, Im going on my first post-laid interview tomorrow.

An interview that almost didnt happen.

In a dream in the wee morning hours of Thursday morning, a friend told me he would come by since I didnt check my voicemails. I humphed and rolled over. Woke up around 4 am and grabbed my phone.

Three messages.

There was a cousin of a friend asking if I had time to check over his resume. A sweet mom VM.

And then there was one from Tuesday, as a woman with a fun British accent invited me to come interview for a job I saw on mediabistro. I smiled, then cringed. It was two days later, the day she wanted to start interviewing folks and I was kicking myself for just hearing her message.

Later that morning, once a decent hour arrived, I called her office. It took 15 minutes to get to her extension as the company's automatic receptionist asked me to press in letters on the phone - letters totally different on a Blackberry. Finally I got her extension! . . . and the voicemail picked up. I left a message. And in the mean time dusted off the job description and email I sent to her weeks earlier, to see what exactly I was asking to do. I smiled and started researching the company and ideas for how I would execute, if offered the position.

I havent applied for many fulltime jobs, as I'm not in a rush to take on someone else's dream and only applying for jobs I want to spend my days doing. But I have been wanting to interview, just to stay sharp and see if I got "it."

She called back and invitied me in tomorrow. Bring resumes and clips.

So outside the mental prep with resumes and research, its the image plan.

What to wear? And for a hair hopper like me, how to style these tresses?

Im going for exciting earrings, and trading the wild wet and wavy for a slicked back ponytail. Black tights and black skirt and top.

Ill be back with full details!

Happy Holidays

December 11, 2009

Excuse the hiatus! I went on a 10 day trip home to Atlanta followed by a little soul searching. The feedback has been great for the blog as friends and strangers alike share their like of the concept. Thanks much!

But then I had my doubts.

A) I didnt want to seem ungrateful of the phenomenal opportunity I had at my first job. I got my dream job at 23! And I had a great run. I am also never one to wallow, so when the pink slip came, I was already mentally on to the next phase of my life (my futuristic aquarius ways)

B) I didnt want to be branded as the laid off girl, or to wrap my identity in what could be a temporary thing. But after tweaking the header to reflect that fact we are making the most of a situatuion we didnt choose, I am ready to move full speed blogging, and boy do I have stories.

So "home" in Atlanta was many things. Great to see the family! Crazy hosting a princess slumber party for my ten year old sister and her 10 year old friends! Kicked myself for booking a trip sooo lonnng! By day five, i was ready to get back to Harlem. . .

It was the first time I visited Atlanta, and didn't have serious thoughts on moving back sooner than later.

It was the first time I felt like a visitor in a place that much of my mail still goes to.

It was the first time my mother had news on me she felt needed a press release for.

"So, what should I tell people?" she asked reluctantly when talking about me being laid off.

I laughed. "The truth mom, the truth." I was laid off. A fact Im not embarrassed about. Im still me. Im doing fine financially and doing some consulting that brings in steady checks, alongside severance.

And finding a speech I shared at a youth program in the city the year before made me smile. The theme was Solid as a Rock, and I talked about my then job and though cool, I couldnt build my foundation on something that could be taken away. I couldnt wrap my identity in something not eternal. because if taken away, I still had to be me. Not any less cool. God has such a sense of humor.

So Im back for daily updates on the laid life (including my first job interview next week, the first in more than a year) and nudging the BF to share more of his stories . . . while I was eating hot wings and watching cable in Atlanta, he was hitting up the Fela premiere dapping Jay-Z and Questlove, Im not jealous . . .really.

And speaking of Jay-Z, I blame his wifey Beyonce for the grown poses my lil sis and co had at the party!!!!