Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Life Is Not a Journey, It's an Adventure

Life is a funny bastard. It's just donned on me in this past year.

I was always the girl who had a mapped out trajectory for my life. 5 years, 10 years, 15 years. I was researching college in junior high, I was looking up average salaries for my career in high school, by the time I finished six internships and Hofstra University graduation rolled around, I had landed my "dream job". Everything went perfectly according to plan.

It's the age old story - that hard workin' determined gal gets everything she's wanted for years, and whoops! Ends up loathing every aspect of it. The reality FAR from matches the fantasy in your head. What to do with life now?

One year later I look at where I am sitting and the adventure I've been on, how drastically a human life can change in 12 months.

I was working as an entry-level (aka slave) Publicist at MS&L Worldwide. One of the top PR firms in....the world. I skipped along to work in Times Square, 52nd & Broadway. And by skipped I really mean paid $400/mo in train tickets and took the commuter train, subway, and walked 4 blocks totaling almost 2 hours each way. I was living with my boyfriend and his family in Oceanside, Long Island - which was only supposed to be a transitional few months between graduation and me finding a place - but not so. I had to spend so much money on trains to commute while also paying my boyfriend's parents rent - it was impossible to save.

I had an impressively large office. And by office I mean cubicle. My large cubicle was marked by balloons when I first started as the cube-farm was so expansive when you looked out yonder there was just no knowing which box belonged to you. I worked on the PR for Febreze. Dabbled in a little Swiffer. And towards the end of my time there, was added onto the Brother team. Brother....famous for their sewing machines. We did the PR for so many well-known businesses. Heineken!! Charmin! Mr. Clean! Outback Steakhouse! Best Buy! Ferrero Roche Chocolates! Don't let these big brand names glamour a vampire. Because ultimately they do the same thing. Suck the blood out of you until your body is pale and lifeless.

It was a joke as far as my daily tasks in the office. I was the data-entry, excel-wizard, fed-ex mail, conference room and company car booker, meeting note taker, order the food, stuff these envelopes, put together this package....I often sat wondering "Why did I work so hard to get here? My skills are being completely wasted" I was taking 10 steps backwards.

Now I will say I got to criss-cross the country on business trips, promoting Febreze at different events. However after the 5th trip, this one seemingly "saving grace" starts to suck as well. You're away from the ones you love - the ones that you actually WANT to spend time with when the work day is over, and more importantly, and this fact is often overlooked..........ummm you're WORKING the whole time. Hello. It's cruel. Hey - look at this intriguing city you're in! Now go into a building all day and work, and when you're finished fly away. See ya!

I was completely lost with what direction to take. I had virtually endless possibilities and I was continuously frying my brain trying to grasp the overwhelming reality that I had to select a SINGLE next step before I could really leave. Another job in the city? Moving closer to home and getting a job in Boston? Moving to Asia for a year to teach english, see the world, and take time off? Transfer to MS&L's Los Angeles office in California? I even considered moving to Austin, Texas.

Staying true to my indecisive-self, I pursued ALL of them equally. I posted my resume on Monster, I applied for jobs in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Austin, and Asia. I figured what is meant to be will be - whatever bites first or seems promising right now is where I will go. I did this for 3 months. I sent out HUNDREDS of applications, I would literally spend my 8 hour day at work scowering online listings.

Randomly one day during my incessant online job-searching while at MS&L I decided to take a look at jobs in New Hampshire - HOME. I had ruled it out completely at first because I figured PR has to be in the city. To my surprise I found a small handful of listings....only two in my hometown - Nashua, NH. My hometown. I painfully struggled with this, because if you knew the Tasha who left her hometown 5 years prior to move to New York you'd meet a girl who condemned people who stayed in their hometown their whole life - so cliche, boring and expected, who sped out of there at 100mph never to look back, who couldn't wait to leave and experience something MUCH more fulfilling, exciting, and worth one's time. And everyone at home saw me as the city girl, the traveler, the adventurer, the one people "lived vicariously through". However, it became more and more apparent to much as I tried to keep myself in denial and uphold my 'free spirit' reputation, every time I went home to visit for a long weekend, I was secretly envious. Of everything. The polar opposite - the relaxed friendly people. The slow pace. The NO TAX on goods. The emphasis on relationships and quality time with people you care about. I saw it in a completely different light - an oasis that offered a great quality of life.

The first job I applied for was my new #1 hope - even more than Asia! To be the Public Relations Director for THE CITY OF NASHUA - working in the Mayor's office. Promoting my own hometown to people. Imagine? What a homecoming that would be.

The second job I applied for simply because it was the only other PR job listed and I couldn't put all my eggs in one basket. It was a newly created position - the position of PR/Marketing Coordinator for a growing branch of doctor's offices throughout southern New Hampshire - Orthopedic Surgeons to be exact. I've done entertainment, music, consumer, business to was the unknown and the new frontier. Why not?

The Orthopedic Center (that's the official name) got back to me and asked for an interview. I drove up to New Hampshire to interview, having absolutely no idea what to expect, just glad SOMEONE had finally expressed interest in me. I walked into a CADILLAC of a building, so incredibly posh and fancy. Fancier than my office in Times Square. But most importantly, by the end of that interview, I wanted the job more than anything - mostly due to the two people who interviewed me - Head honco #1 and Head honcho #2, otherwise known as Therrin and Janet. They were.....unreal. For the first 45 minutes we talked about favorite movies, concerts, family, hobbies, and what qualities we like in people we work with. Therrin told me straight up that family and friends come first, and work is something we all have to do to pay bills. How bluntly truthful! TELL ME MORE I thought to myself. Janet told me plentyyyy more - 17 days vacation to start, 9-5pm work hours, all of the efforts to retain employees, to keep everyone happy and unified and balanced, turn over rate is ZERO. Ummm. Count. Me. IN.

Not to mention the actual position afforded me absolute freedom and absolute responsibility. They were done dealing with a sub-par PR agency, creative consultants, with the rest of the PR/Mktg opportunities dispersed randomly among all the managers who did everything last minute and half-heartedly. They needed someone to come in, take all of the PR/Marketing responsibilities from all of those different places, and streamline it, focus on it, and build on it. With a budget of $100,000/year.

They wanted a follow-up interview! To my delight they were gracious enough to make it a conference call so I wouldn't need to drive back up from New York. On the call they told me I was their "Numero Uno" (VERBATIM) and they just needed to check my references. I GOT THE JOB!!!! Not to mention making almost DOUBLE WHAT I WAS MAKING in Times Square! They offered me above the salary range I requested to show their commitment to my new position, and to show their "appreciation for my enthusiasm." It seems my enthusiasm in life has scored me many a point. I'll never forget at the end of that call they said "Are you really sure you want to move back here?" Not one ounce of me hestiated. "Absolutely. I'm ready." I later found out they had over 80 applicants for my position.

Figures the Mayor's office called me some time later and said they wished they received my resume earlier - they had already committed to someone, but thought I would have been an "outstanding candidate" - so much so that they wanted me to meet with the President of the Chamber of Commerce to speak about other opportunities for me in town. Lucky enough for me I was able to say THANK YOU much, but I've accepted another job anyways.

MONTHS AND MONTHS of applying, searching, figuring, hearing nothing, dreaming about Asia - and in the span of THREE WEEKS last August, I get a response, interview, get a job, quit MS&L, and make moving arrangements....for myself AND my boyfriend who agreed to move WITH ME. I gave MS&L one week of notice.

I'm still sitting in a cublicle technically. However this cubicle has never felt like a cage. And in fact, I would sit on the floor in the corner as long as I'm on premises and employed by this place. I'd sit at a picnic table, I'd sit on the roof, I'd sit in the waiting room with patients. Where I sit is really the last thing I care about, because I love my work, I love the people, and I love coming in every single day. I drive 20 minutes from the flippin' HOUSE that my boyfriend and I bought 5 months ago thanks to a terrible economy, an $8,000 first-time-homebuyers tax credit, and my mom. I live near my family. And I live near a farm stand - we're talking walking distance. I am THE (singular) publicist not for household air freshener, but for 14 surgeons. Doctors. Who fix people. I'm not micro-managed....I'm set free to "do what I do" and I check in weekly with Janet. Therrin is what I like to call a grown up child. The man who is the head of this business plants fake fart machines at people's desks. He sends me emails with a subject line of "WTF?"...."Did you send that check out yet?". He crumples up ideas I've had on paper and throws it at my head. He even made me sit in his office for 25 minutes one day to play "Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?" cards with him. He eats peanut butter and jelly, pudding packs, and string cheese for lunch. He says "chop chop" to hurry people along. And best of all, when I try to tell him where I am and what I'm doing via text, he texts back and says "I don't care." HA! Can anyone illustrate a better boss to me please?????

With my free time (*GASP* YUPPP I have some of that now!) I've started up my photography business and freelance design. I'm back somewhere familiar - but in a completely unfamiliar way. On my own, at my own home, meeting all new people, all new relationships, it's re-discovering the old and adding on so much new. It's not your location in the world that creates adventure, it's you. It's taken some time to recognize you can be a lot of things at once. It's alright. I can own a home and have a great job and be grounded - and still be a traveler, a free spirit, a creative person who always looks for the deeper layer. I surf, I paint, I photograph, I create, I spontaneously drive, I travel, I read, I listen to music, I cook, I clean, I pay bills, I mow the's all part of the adventure.

What's my trajectory now you ask? What's my 5 year - 10 year - 15 year - plan?

I have no clue. And I like it that way.

(those muffins are still RIDIC the next day)


Tina Fabiano™ said...

I feel like a stalker.

What an AWESOME post. Absolutely fantastic. You just made me feel so at ease about everything I've ever worried about regarding "going back."

I know what you mean about the struggle of leaving versus the fear of coming back. I've had that same relationship with Tewksbury for my entire life. But when I am home, I get that weird feeling in the pit of my stomach that I'll be back, I just don't know when.

I could gush about this post all day. I think you just summed up the fears of every 20-something and illustrated how with the right formula, you really can be happy anywhere!

TashaMarie said...


#1 I still can't flippin' believe you are from Tewksbury, hello, what? 20 minutes away from Nashua? And we cross paths in New York and on the internet. My whole family is from Mass - Billerica, Haverhill, Dracut. Lots living in NH now - Brookline, Hollis, Hudson, and I'm in Litchfield. My little bro is at school in Lowell.

#2 When you come back to the 'Bury we have a lot to accomplish. We need to talk for hours over some alcoholic beverages. And we need to bake you a batch of raspberry lemon muffins. My gut is telling me we have so much in common, it might actually be frightening.

#3 11 months to go???? Damn.

Mom said...

I am your numero uno STALKER!
I love reading your posts. I love the way you look at life & of course I love you! You know who I am...

Jessica J. said...

Oh my gosh, I stumbled across your blog from the MAC comic book Halloween photos but just kept reading out of interest and then read this. It's as if I typed this out, except I'm still in the cubicle at the job I can't stand I've worked for since I was 14 (I'm 24 now). I busted my ass so hard in high school and college to become a book editor and now that I am an asst editor in a city I can't stand, all I want to do is quit, move back home near my friends and family and live my life. I'm working on it so hard right now but seriously, thank you for this post because it reignited my fire!

TashaMarie said...

JESSICA J - you just literally made my day. I'm so happy you can relate to my LIFE'S STORYLINE ;-) And even happier that it's ignited a fire under your butt!

JTA said...

Hey I just stumbled upon this blog entry and read the whole thing. I was trying to find out what other people are saying about the culture at MS&L. I may have an opportunity to work there doing social media projects, but coming from a corporate nonprofit setting, I'm hesitant because I'm afraid I will be hit with dissatisfaction with the bureaucracy. As a budding online marketer I am really looking for a job setting where I can grow and be poured into, having my strengths and talent actually be called upon and challenged. Can you give me an idea of what other people within MS&L were saying? Do you think you just had a bad manager or was there feelings of resentment across the board at your particular location?