I think a lot about what my days looked like at the beginning of the pandemic. I may be a glutton for punishment, but the more that I reflect, the clearer I can see forward.
Imagine this, I spent about 75% of my time in my car once the lockdown in Seattle lifted. A few months prior, I was laid off from my job (another story for another time) and my son and husband were home full-time because of daycare and office closures. The four walls we lovingly built were closing in around me and I felt trapped. Once daycare opened back up with a shortened schedule and temperature checks and health reports, I’d drop my son off to school and stay in my car to “work” most of the day.
I’d park at Kerry Park – yes, that Frasier view of the Seattle skyline – and would blankly stare to the city for answers. I was unmoored. My identity as a career-driven person came to a screeching halt, and while I was seemingly ok with that, the transition is always hard. The career I’d spent two decades building wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. I didn’t want to build communications plans, pitch press for coverage, schedule social media posts. These roles had been a cornerstone of my life, a way to prove to my son that his mom could be a badass in the boardroom and tuck him in at night. My trademark was that I could put my son to sleep by the glow of my iPhone as I laid on his floor answering emails. I had no idea what to do next, but the only thing I could muster up the courage to do was take in the Kerry Park view.
For anyone who has worked with me, you know that I carry a small notebook with me at all times – I rarely leave home without it. It was a vessel for the day’s meeting notes, to-do lists and brainstorming sessions. One day at Kerry Park, I brought a few of my old notebooks with me to flip through, hoping for some answers. The ones from a few years prior had no surprises, but did have emails and phone numbers of people that I needed to reach out to for job prospects. When I opened the blue one I was currently using, I noticed a different trend. The to-do lists were replaced with scribbles of feelings. The meeting notes were subbed out for essays. There was no strategic insight in my new notebook – just my own thoughts.
Over time, in that same car parked in that same spot, I started writing and listening to more podcasts from authors and researchers that I loved, swapping them out from the business podcasts I used to devour on my 2-hour long daily commutes. By hearing other’s fresh perspective, I started to gain my own. I loved the impromptu conversations that Kelly Corrigan Wonders could have on Tell Me More, or that Kate Bowler could both hold space for healing and laugh at her own intricacies on Everything Happens. I dug in deep with Luvvie’s podcast and The Nod with Brittany Luse and Eric Eddings (check out their new podcast For Colored Nerds).
I saw my own friends and heroes start podcasts, like Jodi Ann Burey’s Black Cancer.
The common theme: as much prep and research that they’ve done, the gem of every episode was in the quiet stillness as they were processing something unplanned, unscripted. I started to think about my own story becoming a bit more that way, and finally started to write it down.
Spoiler alert: I finally stopped taking most of my meetings and writing from the car at some point. I can’t remember exactly when, and I still go back from time to time, like when I’m taking interviews about motherhood or family life or processing loss.. But those days when the world seemed to slow down and I was secluded within a different four walls are still precious to me. It started me down the path of writing more, working on a memoir (eeks!), connecting with new writing friends around the country, and pivoting my business to be more about telling my stories and helping others do the same.
I know that there was so much grief and uncertainty in all of our lives, especially in the early pandemic days. I experienced it too. I’m also seeing there was so much personal gain for me, something that may never happened because I wasn’t able to make myself be still for a moment and think.