2017: A Year in Review (Updated)
I spent almost 5 years at GE and during that time I was a big fan of Beth Comstock. She was in marketing (also my field), had come from NBC (which was my dream job at the time), and was the only female executive at GE. She was so incredibly smart and articulate while being incredibly relatable. Even my male colleagues joined my mantra of “What Would Beth Do?”. We liked to call her Beth even though we could only dream of being on a first name basis with her.
Last week, one of those former colleagues tweeted a story about Beth. I was surprised to see she had been let go of GE. I was following all the fallout of GE’s recent troubles, but I did not quite realize Beth was part of the body count.
I left GE awhile ago and didn’t realize how much the culture had negatively affected me until I left. In this profile of Beth it’s interesting to see how she’s beginning to shed her GE-ness. As I’ve moved on in my career, Beth is learning to move forward in hers and she’s only becoming more relatable.
From figuring out what to do with her time to realizing her identity apart from her career, it’s interesting to see her experience mirror the one I wrote about as part of my 2017 reflections. (I should note that my unemployment story is not about losing my job at GE).
I encourage you to read the profile on Beth and read my original post below.
Original post (February 3, 2018 7:49pm) :
So 2017. Good times, huh? It was a very rough year for me and I know many people were happy to say good riddance.
I spent much of the year without a job and I hated every minute of it. Trying to understand people that call it “Funemployment” is like trying to understand people who voted for Trump. I really do want to understand their point of view so we can connect on a human to human level, but also what alternate reality are they living in and are they on drugs?
Unemployment is a dark and lonely place. Of course with any hard time, I easily discovered who truly had my back. I am forever grateful for those that stood by me and didn’t judge me as harshly as I was judging myself.
I didn’t really ever want to talk about the fact that I was unemployed but it was the elephant in the room when it wasn’t discussed. I had just enough confidence to know that if an interview didn’t go well or if I didn’t even get the interview to begin with, that it wasn’t a reflection of who I was as a person. But when someone asked “How the job search was going?” or “How did the interview go?” my inner voice was smashed like a bug and I felt like every detail of my entire existence was bared for public evaluation.
There were many days when I could barely get out of bed. Except I always did because I can’t stand not washing my hair, wearing dirty underwear, and going to bed in an unmade bed (I promise I'm actually fun in real life). There were many days where I simply moved from my bed to the couch and stayed there until it was an acceptable time to go back to my bed and fall asleep. Those were the days I questioned everything in my life. How did I end up here? Maybe I wasn’t as smart as I thought I was. Were those good grades and career accolades just a mirage? Was I truly a terrible person and I just hadn't figured it out yet?
Ultimately I knew that this was just the Universe’s way of setting me on a new direction. I knew I would get a job and everything would work out. It always does. This was not happening to me but for me. But I was terrified of this reset. How long would it last? Where was the bottom?
Needless to say my unemployment was very frugal. While I kept getting the advice that I should use this down time to travel and have an adventure it just seemed incredibly naive. The cost of a plane ticket or hotel was just going to cut into my savings that I was so desperate to keep from zeroing out. Could I really show up to a friend’s or family member’s house to move in with them because I had absolutely nothing in my bank account?
Don't worry though. I did eventually find a new job. And as much I just want to tell 2017 to get the fuck out, I also wouldn't have had it any other way.
Side note: They say everything happens for a reason and I say that’s just bullshit. There are terrible, tragic things that happen to people all the time that have nothing to do with their character, overall or in the moment, or a life lesson they needed to learn. No one goes their entire life experiencing only positive things. I didn’t need to lose my job so that I could learn a specific lesson. But I did lose my job. And I did change along the way. Please note the nuance in case you’re ever in a position to go all Nancy Kerrigan and wail "Why me?!" (for the record I'm totally Team Nancy and fun fact I took skating lessons at the same rink so in the theory of Celebrity Relativity that practically makes me an Olympian too).
If I wasn’t unemployed for as long as I was, I wouldn’t have spent countless hours scrolling through social media to pass time and I’m fairly certain I never would have started listening to podcasts. But I did have time. I had a lot of time. It's quite possible I've listened to every Crooked Media podcast and may or may not have purchased some merch.
I logged back into Twitter for the first time in forever. I started following politicians and activists. I watched Lauren Duca’s inspiring face-off against Tucker Carlson where I was in awe to see a Teen Vogue writer not backing down so that her own voice could be heard while simultaneously speaking up for women everywhere.
I witnessed woman after woman speaking up for what they believed in regardless if they were experts in that area. Seeing #reclaimingmytime or #shepersisted trending on Twitter, watching Chelsea Handler turn her Netflix show into basically a Politics 101 course so that she herself could learn more (and ultimately ditching her show to become an actual Activist), and listening to Brittany Packnett on Pod Save the People ooze with intelligence and grace.
And it dawned on me.
I too have a voice that should be respected. It doesn’t need to be agreed with, but it shouldn’t be interrupted, talked-over, or mansplained. I do not need to have all the answers and all the receipts to back up my point. I know I’m not the only woman who thought I needed to be an expert in something in order to state my opinion. If people can’t respect my voice it says more about their character than it does about mine.
It's crazy to write this now and admit I didn't know this before 2017, but I definitely did not.
So this is the theme of what I’m taking into 2018: using my voice. I’m tired of trying to live up to other people’s expectations of what my life should look like, what my smile should look like, or even what my writing should look like. I get to define my life's goals, what happiness looks like, and what I want to write about and the length of my posts. One month in and I can already feel the energy changing. It's the year of Time's Up and the celebration of Female Anger! 2018 is not going to be just any other year.
I'd like to wrap up this post with some incredible advice from Ava DuVernay (which I would love to magically turn into a smoothy bowl so I can devour it and let osmosis infuse it into every single one of my cells:
"So often we're trying to climb this fake ladder that leads nowhere for us. It's somebody else's ladder going to wherever they constructed it. Stay centered. I really think that's the key. It's not strategy, it's not networking. It's not trying to get someone's card, asking people out for coffee, being at the cocktail party, doing the panels. It's joy. You have to find joy in the work. Because when the joy is embedded, your best work will happen."
Bring it 2018. It's gonna be one wild ride.
Photo from PicJumbo