Through and through, I am a creature of habit. My planner is the most important purchase of the year and I thrive off my Sunday night organization session where I outline my upcoming week in multi-colored pens. I have certain habits for grocery shopping and laundry and when I like to study foreign languages.
These routines, much like running and writing, keep me grounded and focused. But at some point, routines can become too much. It isn’t until you’ve stepped outside of yourself for a day or a week that you notice how much you’ve missed. You know that feeling of taking a long weekend trip? Suddenly, Saturday seems to last forever as you forget about buying bananas and bread and focus on enjoying wherever you are.
All this is to say that while I appreciate some of the structures I’ve given my life, I can’t help but wonder what’s just outside the box. The new idea for Sunday blog posts is to write about one experience I had in the previous week that was out of routine, that wasn’t predictable, that made me think a little differently about myself and the world I live in.
Challenge 15: Quit My Job
Taking a job at the American Heart Association | American Stroke Association (AHA) in August 2016 was stepping into a world unknown. All my prior experiences had expiration dates. I knew I was only working at summer camp for the, well, summer. I knew that internship ran from March to August. I would stop writing for the school newspaper when I graduated. I understood that. That made sense.
Then I was hired by the AHA and I suddenly realized that this could be where I worked forever. Pending I didn’t leave or mess up in a colossal way, I could be here for the rest of my life.
That wasn’t a scary thought though. There was something wildly exciting about it. There was something fresh and new about my first “potentially forever, real, full-time job.” For a while, I remember even being fascinated by the simple fact that there were thousands of other people across the country who also had an email address that ended in @heart.org. I had so many colleagues I would never meet.
And then there were the colleagues I would meet – the 30-40 or so other individuals who called the New York City office their home. I quickly realized the stretch of my new employer. The people I shared the kitchen with worked in research and multi-cultural initiatives and advocacy and quality improvement and youth market and development and communications and… And I wanted to be a part of it all.
My first day of work was on August 22nd, 2016. I made it my goal to sit down and meet everyone in the organization – whether that was over tea or lunch or a walk around the block – by Thanksgiving. That’s how I met my team.
A few days into my tenure at AHA, we received an email about an incredible new partnership that was to have an extraordinary impact on our region and the larger picture of health. Immediately, the “reply alls” came. There were “wows” and “congratulations” and “this is awesome” flying through my inbox faster than I could put faces to names.
Now, it should be no surprise that I’m a big fan of email organization. I have folders for different tasks and projects, a folder for our internal staff communication, and so on. The day that partnership email came out, I created the “remember why you do it” mailbox folder.
My “Remember Why You Do It” folder became the holding ground for emails about promotions, new babies, big mission moments for AHA, successful events, and so on. I saved the story of a man saving his colleague with hands only CPR in that folder.
Remember why you do it. When we took a staff photo together on Veteran’s Day to show our thanks to those who served, I filed it to Remember Why You Do It. When new staff came on and old staff left, we shared thankfulness and congratulations and fun memories. Remember why you do it.
I always imagined that I might hit a time where I needed reminded. I assumed there would be long days or stressful weeks where I turned back to that email folder of positivity to remind me why. (I have a similar folder on my personal computer for The Smile Project). But the why was never found in an email thread. The why was found in the people I met and worked with every day. The why was the people I love who have experienced the grief and loss that comes from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
It was the colleague who – at a young age – has suffered multiple heart attacks. It was the colleague who nearly lost her husband. It was colleague whose mother passed away from heart disease. It was me, sitting on a hotel bed a few miles from our Dallas headquarters, getting word from my mother that my grandma had a stroke.
The American Heart Association | American Stroke Association is an incredible nonprofit that does truly amazing work across the country and world. I feel very fortunate to have started my professional career with them.
All that said, my last day is May 31st. Those who follow The Smile Project social media are aware that I will be traveling this summer to share Happiness and facilitate Random Acts of Kindness. I couldn’t be more excited for the next adventure, yet part of the leaving feels bittersweet.
In my plan to “do something that shakes things up every week” this definitely takes the cake as the most life changing thus far. But I can’t help but believe this is going to be the start of something beautiful.