By now, the 12 of you who read this blog have heard about my next career steps. But just in case there is a 13th or 14th person who hasn’t been texted, emailed or joined me for coffee or wine over the past few weeks – here is your update.

I’m no longer at Localytics. I’m doing some marketing consulting right now as I re-energize, explore and figure out my next career steps. In particular, I’m excited to be working with the awesome people at One Mighty Roar on all things marketing. If your company needs help with content strategy, messaging or anything else (I’m well-rounded) – reach out! If I’m not a fit for a project I’ll try to introduce you to someone who is.

This “timeout” and period of self-exploration is by far the most genuine thing I’ve ever done. I haven’t asked myself the right questions and acted on those answers in quite a long time. I am incredibly grateful to live in a world and have a skill-set that allows me to take some time while I do that.

I wish that I had more amazing enlightenment to share as a result of all of this, but it’s only the beginning. For the sake of being transparent and useful, here are some thoughts and realizations I have so far:

1) I’m exhausted.

Once I actually stopped to breath for two seconds I realized exactly how fried I am. It sounds silly and entitled to admit that. I’m 26. How am I tired already? Call it a 20-something crisis, but here’s what I think: I’m really lucky to have had so many opportunities, but I pursued those opportunities a little too seriously. I’ve chosen to be a really driven person my whole life. I’ve also put myself in situations that are inherently fast-paced and stressful: restaurants, startups, the city etc. Now it has all caught up with me.

This is my life:

Elementary and Middle School: I was intensely committed to whatever sport I was doing (gymnastics, synchronized swimming etc) at the time. All of my non-school time went to these things.

High School: I was aggressive about extracurricular activities (editor of the school newspaper, captain of the swim team, youth group, volunteering) and getting good grades. I also starting working when I was 16 as a freelance writer for the Buffalo News and as a server.

College: I worked hard to get good grades and do internships. Since internships for marketing and PR students are typically unpaid, I worked a lot as a server and barista too. To this day, I still remember heading out to work one afternoon sophomore year and seeing my friend’s away message. It read, “Homework done – Relaxing!” I thought to myself, “I never do that. The work is never over for me.” Then I went to work.

Post College: After college, I jumped right into the agency world (intense) and from there right into the startup world (super intense). I’ve spent most weekends working on the companies themselves or doing stuff like guest blogging to continue to further my career. My parents say I need a hobby or a pet. Or a baby. Of course.

Believe it or not I don’t actually think I’m more “all over the place” compared to other people my age. I think we all have things we can work on and I think there’s always “stuff” to figure out. The secret is probably developing the ability to compartmentalize and focus, but not to the point where you stuff things down and ignore them for the sake of your job. Regardless of whether or not these assumptions are correct, I’ve had some ups and downs.

To truly embrace this “relaxation” time, I’m going to make a list of non-career things I would like to do. There are side projects, books, blog posts and workout classes I’m eager to try. All in all, I obviously don’t think hard work or discipline is a bad thing, but I definitely think there have been times where I worked hard and not smart, had trouble saying no and taught people how to treat me by neglecting to set boundaries. By fighting for this time off, I’m setting them now.

2) It’s important to read people and know who to trust.

There are people who love you for you, people who like you for what you can do for them and then there are people who just don’t care whatsoever. You need to keep your eyes open and recognize where someone is coming from. Sometimes family, true friendship and real love cross your career path. But when business and money are involved, it’s naive to assume this cross-over is the default. Watch out for yourself and for those people who love you for you.

3) I’m surprised how many people in my life love me regardless of what kind of job I have.

I can be a career-driven, busy and distant asshole. I’m working on that. For someone as absurdly ambitious as myself, I was surprised how many people I had in my corner no matter what I choose to do next career-wise. “Lucky” and “Grateful” don’t even begin to describe my feelings about this.

4) It’s important to have a financial cushion.

It’s important to save money and establish whatever kind of financial cushion you can, no matter how small. It gives you more freedom should you find yourself in a situation like mine.

Saving money was not easy for me. First of all, marketing is the type of career where you don’t start out making a lot of money. I also have student loans and rent is pricy in Boston. I didn’t save any money for a while.

I also hate being on a budget.  I just really like Lululemon, Starbucks, wine and the Whole Foods salad bar. It’s the little things 🙂 But having money in my checking account makes that cash mentally available to spend on unnecessary things. Recognizing this behavior about two years ago, I now have money automatically deducted from my paychecks and put into other savings. Bills are on auto-pay. Money left over is only spent after the “Is this a want or is this a need?” mental discussion. Being stingy isn’t always fun, but looking back I’m glad I have taken control of my finances and done this. It gives me a little bit of freedom not to rush into my next full-time role without really thinking about what I am doing.

5) This is really true:

“When you grow up you tend to get told the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” – Steve Jobs

Those are the biggest things I’ve learned so far. So… *sips my wine* what’s new with you? What are you learning?

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