Choosing Hope

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” ~Nelson Mandela

About this time last year I was in the midst of an unexpected choice to leave the job I had held for 12 years. I hadn’t sought out this opportunity, but I couldn’t help but feel optimism and hope when the possibility was dangled in front of me. Such a decision could not be made lightly, no matter how sweet. As frustrated as I was in my job, there was still fear in leaving and losing all that was familiar and comfortable in my position there. I could have allowed that fear to paralyze me. I could have simply remained where I was, feeling stuck and frustrated, but I chose differently.

Although my official 1 year anniversary at my current job isn’t until September 1st, today is the anniversary of two out of three interviews. I remember the nervousness I felt going into each interview and the growing excitement I felt over the very real possibility of making a career change. There was a measure of anxiety and sadness mixed with the excitement knowing that I might need to give notice and disappoint my co-workers. Still, the hope and excitement outweighed the potential negatives, and I have never looked back.

I am definitely more comfortable in my “new” job after 11 months, but I am very much aware that there is still, and always, more to learn! Sometimes I feel frustrated that I don’t know everything by now…until I remember that I had 12 years to learn and grow comfortable in my previous job. It isn’t often that I walk into my old stomping grounds, but when I do I am quickly reminded of all of the reasons why leaving was so desirable and easy. I know that I made the right choice at the right time. Is my new job perfect? Of course not! However, I am happy to be where I am now, and I am proud of myself for stepping outside of my comfort zone and fear to make a choice based on hope.

Connection

There must be something in the air today, because I have been feeling rather unexpectedly emotional. It began as I sat at the end of the bar while on my break this morning, when I was approached by three customers within a few minutes of each other. Sincere and warm greetings along with conversation that skimmed just below the surface. Connections. As I sat there eating my lunch, the warmth of the connections that I am making here made me think about the differences between my current and former jobs. Tears threatened. Happy tears that I choked back lest I look foolish or upset about something not there.

Since I worked an early shift this morning and I have a closing shift tomorrow, I stopped back at work this afternoon for my second cup of coffee and had a couple more encounters with regular customers, even though I wasn’t behind the counter. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my new job?

I guess know that I feel things deeply. I think I always have, but there were quite a few years where my ability to feel and care and connect were crippled by depression, insecurities, and emotional wounds. Three years ago the thought of changing jobs would never have seemed possible. While I was capable of being amiable, internally I was reluctant to get involved, to open up, to care too much about others or even myself. I was a different person then, but I am not that person anymore. I am so glad to feel again, to care again, even if deeply. I may not always jump into connection with two feet, but I no longer desire to shy away from it.

Just as a leopard cannot change its spots, an introvert cannot become a permanent extrovert. This is who I am. I am an introvert, but I take great joy in using my gifts and strengths in ways that compliment my personality and nature. I am enjoying the opportunity to be a part of my customers daily routine, and I am thrilled that I am being accepted as part of that routine, and welcomed like a part of a family.

So much has happened in my life over the past three years. I have been changed in some pretty radical ways and couldn’t be happier about it. I almost wouldn’t recognize the me of three years ago, and I suspect not many would. I’ve been on an amazing journey, and I’m far from reaching my final destination.

 

No Regrets

It has been almost two months since I started my new job, and I have to say that I am so glad that I made the change. While I do miss the interaction with some of my former co-workers and customers, I do not miss my old job at all. Change can be a wonderful thing. Scary, too. And even when you are ready and excited for change, there will still be an adjustment period where you have doubts and question yourself. Or at least that has been my experience.

Despite being super excited about my new job, the first month was an internal emotional firestorm. I was happy with my decision, but I’d repeatedly find myself mentally asking myself what I had gotten myself into and wondering if I’d made a terrible mistake. Thankfully, I am no longer asking or wondering such things! Being only two months into the new job, I recognize that I am still learning and growing in my position. Every day I work reminds me of that truth. However, over the past few weeks, I have noticed that I am feeling comfortable in my position, more confident (mostly) and I’m able to relax and be myself (mostly).

My coach/friend popped in one day last week for coffee. He later remarked that he thought I looked quite comfortable and competent. Ha! I’m glad that he thought so, because at that time I had barely started my shift and had walked into chaos. I hadn’t even had time to see what was going on or where things were at, but he couldn’t see panic in my eyes! My husband has sat in the lobby drinking coffee once or twice, and he has made similar comments about how comfortable I appear. A few of my new regular customers have also chatted with me to express their delight in having me there and remarking on my progress. While I may not always feel confident in myself, I appreciate the fact that others see me in a different light, especially those who know me well enough to see past my façade.

No, I don’t regret my decision to leave my comfortable job of 11 years. I don’t miss that job. It is difficult for me to put my thoughts and feelings about it into words. Usually I just end up rambling on without saying much of anything. The old job was crazy a lot of the time, and I was okay with crazy. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it most days, but it was draining. Mentally and physically. It’s only been two months, but I have yet to experience anything even half as close as that here! There have been times that feel crazy to me, because I am new and learning, yet I can still see that this version of crazy actually isn’t so bad. Okay, so maybe there will be some crazy ahead, like possibly next Tuesday for various reasons, but I know I’ll survive and get through the day. I also know that it will get better.

The End of an Age

Today was my final day as an employee of Tim Hortons. Although there were many frustrations within the job over the years, this job was like a secondary family and I enjoyed doing what I did. My biggest issues had little to do with my bosses, franchise owner, and so much more to do with the corporation and the direction it has been taking the company. I understand the concept of a business striving to make profit and grow business. I just have different values and priorities in my life and how I view our customers. This is why, after 11 years of working at this job, I jumped at the opportunity to seek employment at Starbucks.

Everything I see and hear and experience at Starbucks, even before I have worked a shift there, leads me to believe that this job will align more closely with my values. Perfectly? Probably not. However, as a frequent customer at Starbucks, I have already experienced the value this company places on building connections with their guests. I love that! Will the new job be perfect? I know it won’t be, because there will always be difficult customers and pressure to meet performance expectations. What I can say is that there will be a difference between working at Starbucks and working at Tim Hortons, and I find that exciting. My first shift isn’t until Tuesday, so I have the next six days to decompress and relax and simply exist in a temporary job-free existence.

As excited as I am for my new job and as easy as it is to say good-bye to Tim Hortons the company, saying good-bye to my co-workers was not so easy. I have worked with some of these people for my entire 11 years there. While some co-workers have been there for a much shorter period of time, in many ways we are like a family. It was the saying good-bye that was the hardest thing. I won’t miss a great deal of things about the job itself, but I will miss the daily interaction with these people. And the regular customers, too! I was given a lot of hugs today. I also received flowers, balloons, a ceramic travel coffee mug, and a beautifully handmade Wonder Woman card. I cried many tears.

Then I came home, took off my uniform for the final time and had a hot bath. The tears have dried up, I think, and I am good. It feels slightly strange to know that I do not work at Tim Hortons anymore, but I am looking forward to this new chapter in my life. Change, although often uncomfortable, can produce amazingly beautiful results. In the half-proud, half-mocking words of my youngest son, “Aw! Little Angela is all grown up!”

Setting Sail

“a ship is always safe at shore but that is not what it’s built for” ~ Albert Einstein

One week ago, I gave my notice at work. After 11 years at the same job, I will have my last shift next week and will begin a new job early in September. I am super excited about the new job, but I also expect that my final few days at my current job will be bittersweet and emotional. Although I have often joked at work about quitting if we ever began selling French fries or kids’ toys, the truth is that I honestly never expected that I would leave.

I was the ship safe at shore. While there were frequent frustrations at work and my belief in the company had faltered over the past few years, I could not have imagined stepping out of the comfort zone in which I was ensconced. I might have dreamed about changing jobs, but I never truly believed that such an option existed for someone like me. Despite all the changes I had made in my life, big and small, I thought that I was going to be stuck forever. Why would I leave the safety of the shore? How could I leave the shore?

And then I one day I walked into my local Starbucks, like I do rather frequently. The manager “took” my order, but really she knew exactly what I wanted without me having to tell her. She took me off-guard when she leaned over and asked if I had ever considered applying for a job there. She offered to chat with me over coffee, and I took her up on that offer. Listening to her describe the company, its’ mission statement, and the passion they have for customer service, I couldn’t help but feel excitement and hope blossom within me. This opportunity sounded like a perfect fit for who I am and who I want to be as someone who serves the public. The process for applying was explained to me, and I submitted the online application that evening. The next step was to go through 3 interviews: first with that same store manager, secondly with a different store manager, and finally with the district manager. It took a couple of weeks to get through the interviews, and then I finally received word that the job was formally being offered to me. As I had been expecting good news, I was prepared to give my notice the next day, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy, no matter how excited I was.

In a way the timing was absolutely perfect. I gave my notice last Tuesday, and then I was on my little competition holiday. Last Tuesday was an emotional day, so it was rather nice to have be away from work and focused on something non-work related for a few days. I’m enjoying my extra days off, but I believe I am looking at only 4 work days left. Friday, Saturday, Monday and Tuesday. I almost can’t believe that this is all that is left, but I am truly excited about what the future holds. I will miss a great many people though.

When the question of applying at Starbucks was posed, I suddenly realized that I did have a choice. I did have options that I could not see before. I didn’t have to stay at the shore, when I knew deep down inside that I was made for something more. Undoubtedly, I have disappointed quite a few people with my decision, and that pulls at the heart-strings of a people pleaser like me. While I hate to disappoint or let someone down, I have to do what is best for me. This is a big change in my life. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and giving up a fairly consistent schedule, and yet I couldn’t be happier. And you know something, it warmed my heart to hear that many of the Starbucks staff were keenly interested in how my interview process was going and what was happening. Since I have formally accepted the job, I have been congratulated by a couple of baristas, been recognized by baristas who I didn’t think knew who I was, and generally just been made to feel very wanted and welcome…and I haven’t even officially started work there!

Possibility is everywhere, if you are open to it. I could have slammed the door shut as soon as I was asked if I had thought of applying at Starbucks, because why would I leave a comfortably uncomfortable job. And yet, I have made enough changes in my life over the past few years that I have become familiar with believing in myself and the potential within me, even if I still struggle at times. Instead of closing the door, I flung it wide open and made the decision to step on through it. This ship is setting sail.

The Price is Right

“There is a price to pay to make the changes you want in life. There is also a price you’re already paying for staying the way you are. You have to weigh these two prices and decide what to do based on that comparison and no one can do that for you.” -Bill Harris

There are many people who desperately wish for changes in their lives. While I have no stats to draw from, I suspect that a great number of those people seldom see the changes they desire. I’ve been there, done that and worn the T-shirt, but I am no expert on the psychology behind our collective inability to better ourselves. The only experience I have is my own, and that is a topic in which I am an expert!

We are a society that loves the quick, easy and cheap fix. Fast food replaces home-cooked, nutritious meals. Medication replaces exercise and proper nutrition and self-care. Entertainment has become our religion, entertainers and professional athletes our gods. We live life at high-speed. Our sense of worth and purpose often seems to come from a store or with a price tag. Even before I got to work changing my life, our society’s foibles and attitude had me shaking my head and feeling oddly disconnected from my peers. But breaking free of the norms of our society is no easy task.

The good news is, that once you have decided that you can no longer remain as you are, you are one step closer to making the changes you want in life. Sounds so simple, right? Yeah, I know! Even those first steps are painful and difficult…I kind of think that is part of the cost of change. If it was simple and easy, then we would all be walking around changed people! 😉 Seriously though, those first steps can be really tough. Let’s be honest here, we like to be comfortable and change is anything but comfortable. It will hurt. We will feel cheated as we sacrifice our comforts for change. The new standards will chafe and choke. However, if we persevere and keep plodding forward, we will discover that the road becomes a little smoother, a little straighter, and the forecast clears so that we can begin to glimpse our destination, even when we still have miles to go before we get there!

We are all capable of change. We can improve our health, our fitness level. We can eliminate bad habits and implement good ones. Anyone and everyone is capable. The journey won’t look the same for everyone, but you won’t get anywhere unless you begin. For those who see the changes I’ve made and wish that they could do the same…you can! Essentially. Basically. I don’t think we can be carbon copies, but you can lose weight. You can improve your fitness level and your health. You can reduce your need for medication, improve your mental health, and find enjoyment in real food and exercise. You can get stronger, inside and out. You can move from insecurity to self-confidence. You have the potential within you. The only question is are you willing to pay the price to change?

Reoccurring Adjustments

I love words. I love quotes and, in fact, I have a small notebook in which I write down quotes that I find especially meaningful. A few days ago while out driving with my husband, listening to talk radio, I heard someone make a statement that I had to immediately write down, because it was both simple and profound.

“Life is a series of reoccurring adjustments.”

Life is all about change, and isn’t adjustment just another way of saying the same thing?

In our day-to-day living, we face countless opportunities to make a change, or an adjustment, to our diet, our health, our fitness, our attitude, our position, our understanding, our happiness/gratitude/peace/joy, our relationships, and the list goes on. We may not always notice these opportunities. Some are quite blatant about getting in our faces, while other opportunities can be missed as easily as a whisper in the midst of a raucous party. At times we embrace the adjustment willingly, yet resent the intrusion when life wants to topple over our preconceived ideas of how our lives should flow.

One thing I have learned over the past couple of years is that small, reoccurring adjustments, like small steps strung together, can produce the most amazing results. You don’t lose 30 pounds overnight; it takes time, discipline and effort. A beaten down self-esteem doesn’t wake up one morning ready to soar and conquer the world. It takes time, lots of time, and being open to change, taking small steps each day until you feel strong enough to take bigger steps. Athletic records aren’t broken, at least not that I am aware of, by someone who has never spent even a single hour training with purpose. Many years ago, I wandered into a gym and floundered my way through a circuit of machines and exercises. I doubt that I could have squatted the bar that day. That experience could never compare to the past 2 years of working with a personal trainer and the series of adjustments that have shaped me into someone who currently owns a couple of squat records.

I am a thinker. I like to reflect, dwell on, mull things over and twist them around in my head. This is not always a good trait, like when I am struggling with the military press, but sometimes looking back can encourage us to go even further forward. Here are some of my own adjustments from the past few years:

  • breaking my addictions to Diet Coke and Iced Capps
  • losing 30 pounds
  • falling in love with powerlifting
  • giving up on my goal to run a marathon in 2014
  • a stressful kitchen renovation
  • shoulder issues
  • hip issues
  • a disc issue resulting in hip & toe issues
  • a few failed lifts in competitions
  • being asked to do an interview for TV
  • being asked to share a bit of my journey with my church
  • getting contact lenses after wearing glasses for 30 years
  • making a daily list of things that make me happy and/or I am thankful for
  • going without sugars or flours for 30 days
  • making the decision to step down from a leadership position I enjoyed
  • making the decision to even begin working with a personal trainer
  • having a hysterectomy
  • being diagnosed as mildly depressed and coming to accept it and deal with it
  • learning to love drinking water when I used to hate it
  • eliminating (mostly) wheat flour and white sugar from my kitchen
  • listening to my trainer’s recommendation to see a chiropractor, even though I had a strong aversion to the profession from previous experiences
  • opening the door to my heart to be exposed and vulnerable once more, allowing myself to be known and being blessed by the opportunities to know others because of it
  • my baby is graduating this spring
  • running, something I have enjoyed for several years, has been pushed into the back seat and is slowly being pushed right out of the vehicle

Life’s adjustments may not always seem to be good in the moment. There are certainly things on my list that were not comfortable or desirable; however, I know that even the painful, uncomfortable adjustments have purpose, even if we cannot see or feel the benefit for a long time. Whether we like it or not, life is a series of reoccurring adjustments. What makes all the difference is how we respond to them!