The Self-Help Files: Roadtrip Nation

Got another unexpected self-help read in recently. Last time Kirsten came to visit me, she brought me a book she received as a graduation gift called “Roadtrip Nation: A Guide to Discovering Your Path in Life.” It’s a really quick and easy read, so I pretty much finished it in a day and I really enjoyed it.

Basically, these two guys decided when they were in college back in the early 2000s that they didn’t want to follow the paths they had set out on, but they weren’t sure where they wanted to end up. So they went on a road trip to interview successful people all over the country. Leaders in huge businesses like Starbucks, Apple, Barnes & Noble and more.

The idea was really cool and I loved the layout of the book. It’s set up with first-person accounts from the subjects of the interviews about their “roads” to success, as unorthodox as many of them were, as well as humorous anecdotes from the authors about their mishaps experience traveling the country in a massive RV. Each “chapter,” so to speak, offers some great snippets of advice, and at the end of the book is more practical information about how to figure out your own path to success.

A lot of the information in the book was pretty reassuring for me. It reinforced that there is no one way to get what you want, that you have to make your own path work for you. That if something isn’t working for you, you need to do something about it. That it’s about happiness more than it is about following convention.

It also gave a lot of really practical advice for networking and making connections, which I think I am going to start trying more of.

Even being a couple years out of college already, I found this book interesting and useful, so I’d recommend it to soon-to-be and recent college grads looking for some direction!

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It Takes Guts to Show Up for Life

When my roommate gave me “The Heroine’s Bookshelf” for my birthday, I was intrigued by it and excited to check it out, but I had no idea what to expect. When I dove into it, what I found was the reflections of a woman on the lessons she learned from some of the most beloved books by female authors, mixed in with the histories of the authors themselves and how those backgrounds influenced their works.

Some of the books were ones I haven’t read (yet), such as “Gone With The Wind.” (It’s been on my bookshelf since I was like nine…I’ll get to it eventually.) And others are some of my all-time favorites, such as “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Jane Eyre,” and “Little Women.”

I appreciated Erin Blakemore’s ability to weave the histories of the authors with the stories of the heroines, all while giving her personal experiences with the books and the lessons she learned from them.

From the books I have read, I think she really pulled out accurate life lessons from them. For example, we learned about compassion from Scout Finch, simplicity from Laura Ingalls, and steadfastness from Jane Eyre.

But as I approached the end of the book the other night, I found myself dog-earring one page in particular. In reference to Jo March of “Little Women,” Blakemore writes the following:

Ambition is a heroine’s trait only when it adds to life instead of detracting from it. Louisa [May Alcott] would be proud and happy to see that a modern woman can choose any avenue for her life’s work, that our road is easier than the one she trod so resolutely and so ruefully. But fewer obstacles doesn’t mean fewer obligations. Though we have it relatively easy, we still face the challenges of being taken seriously, of proving that our efforts have some meaning and worth. It takes guts to show up for life, to tackle what we are handed. And it takes even more strength and courage not to confuse self-sacrifice with self-sustenance.

I couldn’t help but reread those last two sentences over and over again.

It takes guts to show up for life. What a powerful statement. Life is a funny thing. It’s forced upon us in a lot of ways. We’re dealt good and bad cards. We can either just float through life taking what’s handed to us without asking questions, or we can truly show up. Be present. Be active. Have the guts to show up and participate in our own lives. Tackle what we are handed.

Things are going to be hard every once in a while. They’re going to suck. But if we truly show up for our lives and tackle them head on, we’ll be better off for it in the end.

I think that’s what I’ve been trying to vocalize for myself the past couple of months, but I didn’t know how. I wasn’t showing up for my life. I sure as hell wasn’t standing up for my life. I was just letting things get thrown at me without tackling them. Now, I’m taking it all on. I have guts. I’m showing up. I’m shuffling the cards I’ve been dealt and I’m making the best hand I can out of it. I’m growing and I’m learning. And every day is a struggle in some way, but I’m really making a true effort to show up every single day.

But as Blakemore reminded me, “A heroine’s work — growth, self-definition, barrier-smashing — is never really done.”

I wasn’t expecting to file this read under The Self-Help Files, but I don’t think I have a choice now.

I’ll leave you now with one last passage from this chapter:

Let us heed Louisa’s warning and do as Jo does, taking up the work that’s right for us instead of that which we feel obligated to pursue…

Here’s to showing up for life, to having the guts to do what is right for you, and to learning lessons from the heroines we’ve been blessed to have in our lives, both real and fictional.

Those “You Can’t Pass That Up!” Opportunities

I knew this week was going to be really pivotal for me. My first week of “funemployment,” my first week of freelancing, my first week of full-time job searching. It could have been either really inspirational or really disheartening. Luckily, it’s turned out to be a pretty good week.

The freelance project I started last week was completed ahead of schedule, payment has been released to me, and the client has proposed an on-going agreement with me for some more editing and writing with him.

The job searching has been good too. I had my friend Mary “grade” my résumé for me, because she’s known as a bit of a résumé guru in her circle. (She approved! Whew! I loved my latest iteration of it, so I was hoping it would get the same reaction from someone else!) I’ve applied for several jobs. Bookmarked a bunch of others that I need to work on.

And then yesterday afternoon, one of the dream jobs was posted. An editorial assistant position with a major travel magazine in NYC. And this morning? The EVEN BIGGER dream job. An editorial assistant position with another major travel magazine, the one I’ve dreamed of working for since at least 2008, in Washington, D.C.

It showed up on one of my daily job site checks, and I gasped. My roommate asked what was wrong. I said, “Nothing! The job! It’s here! I need it!” Or something along those lines. But when I went to the company’s website, it wasn’t there yet. WHAT?! COME ON! DON’T TEASE ME! I was freaking out.

So I forgot about it for a while. Kristin and I went to Georgetown to try on her bridesmaid dress options for her friend’s wedding, and then to meet her brother and his girlfriend for lunch. We got back and the first thing I did was check on the website again. IT WAS POSTED! YES! VICTORY!

I immediately copied and pasted my résumé into the form (although it’s not as impressive in plain-text, booooo) and poured my heart and soul into the cover letter. And held my breath and had Kristin cheering me on, playing some anthems for me on her computer as I hit submit.

When the dream jobs come up on the job board, you can’t pass ’em up. You can’t delay. You’ve just gotta do it. And hopefully my urgency to submit this application will help show my true passion for this opportunity. But if not, no harm done, right? It’s always worth a shot when the right chance comes up.

It was Wayne Gretzky who said, “You miss 100% of the chances you never take.” (Look, roomie! A hockey reference!) So I took the chance, we’ll see if it works out!! Wish me luck! Meanwhile, I’ll be checking the status of the application every day until the posting disappears…