Leaving home as the price of growth

Four months ago, I changed agencies. I left Mindshare, and moved twenty blocks north to a different company, Merkle. Circumstances were changing at Mindshare, in a way no-one on my team, or at the agency, could control, and I wasn’t sure there was going to be a place for me when the dust settled. I chose to instead go on to a new adventure, at a new agency, one with a heavier focus on data, on ad tech, an agency who focuses on the kind of direct response marketing I have been doing for my entire professional career.

I hadn’t had any significant contact with my Mindshare team since leaving in August, beyond a few short messages in email or LinkedIn, until Friday. That was when the team held a reunion. We were a fairly tight-knit account team, all 100% assigned to work on the same client, all with a strong team spirit as a result. So when a dozen of us met up at a bar downtown, it was hugs and squeals and happiness all around. Many of my old teammates have been reassigned to new accounts at our old agency; some, like me, took it as an impetus to leave Mindshare and move on for new experiences at other agencies.

I hadn’t realized, until that reunion, how much I missed my old team. I have been so focused on this new job for the past four months, on learning my team, the client, the work, that I hadn’t thought much about the job I’d left behind. But being there, with my people, for almost five hours on a Friday, brought me more joy than I had expected. I missed them so much, for so many reasons, and there they were: the people who made coming to work a joy and a pleasure for almost three years.

Saturday, I woke up, and immediately thought, “I want to go home”. Because I do. I want to be able to go back to my old job. The problem is that my old job, and my team, do not exist anymore. The band has broken up, everyone has moved on. This is why I moved on, too, to an agency where my particular skillset would be of more use, and where I believed I would be able to learn so much more than I could have had I stayed. It isn’t that I rationally want to go back to doing the work I did a year ago, but rather, that I had such an emotional attachment to that job that I am thinking of it as a sort of “home” that I had to leave.

I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple days, the idea of “leaving home”. And I realized I left so I could continue to grow professionally. I left because I wanted to learn more and do more. I left because I wanted to learn to lead in a different context, and because I wanted to learn to work on different accounts. I left for a dozen perfectly good professional reasons, all of which have been proven as I’ve stretched to fit the new role I’ve taken over.

The reason this resonates so much with me is because it isn’t the first time I’ve left home: I left British Columbia a decade ago and have been writing about how much I miss it ever since. I also knew, at the time, that I needed to leave if I ever wanted to move forward with a real, legitimate career path in the agency world. I knew I needed to move to Los Angeles so I could continue to grow as a person. (It just happened that I also needed to leave so I could find my husband less than two years later, but that’s besides the point). I had to leave Vancouver so I could grow up.

A decade later, I am a grown-up, but I’m still growing as a person. I’m still learning things, both big and small. And this week, what I’ve learned is that throughout life, one creates new new places called “home”. And leaving the place you call “home” is sometimes the price you pay to be able to grow.

So I’ve had the opportunity to grow in the last four months, and for that, I’m grateful. And I can hope that someday, I have another team like the one I had at Mindshare. And in the meantime, I can keep leveraging the opportunity for personal and professional growth, and make myself better at what I do.

EDIT: Hilariously enough, WordPress found a few “related posts” below from nine years ago when I left Tribal/DDB to move over to IMS. Also the decision I had to make at the time to move forward, back when I was a senior associate moving on up to manager. Even though it has literally required therapy to recover from IMS, that job made my career.

A decade is everything and nothing

It’s weird being back on the Westside, back in the 310. I am retracing the same streets and paths that I did a decade ago, and it’s strange. It’s a decade since I lived here, ten years since I moved from Vancouver, and it feels like forever and yet not long enough. I’ve had so much happen that it feels like longer than a decade, and yet, I think, how can my life have changed this much in ten years?

Stranger still is how little L.A. has changed. I’m used to the warp-speed gentrification of Brooklyn, and the unrecognizable change of Vancouver. Vancouver has changed twice as much in a decade as Los Angeles has. And that’s what makes it stranger, because when I go home to BC, I have to accept that time has passed. I’m here, and it’s like driving through my own memories, because so much is exactly the same. I drive through Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Rey, and it’s like no time has passed at all. Except for the fact that I am no longer twenty-six, that is.

Still, I am amazed how much has changed in my life in the last decade. I came to the States alone from Vancouver in 2004, with literally only what I could cram into a Saturn coupe and a few hundred dollars in savings. Ten years later, I come to California on business trips from Brooklyn, where my husband and son are waiting for me in a co-op we actually own.

Ten years ago, I was a party girl rampaging West L.A., trying to handle my own darkness and my own fear. My blog entries from a decade ago tell how I was using a string of dates and drunken nights out to distract from my own sadness and despair over my father’s first stroke. I was trying to quell my own insecurities and fears, my fear of failure, my fear of loneliness, all of it, in a haze of glitter and parties and cocktails. It would be two years until met my husband at Bar Sinister, and yet, given how many Saturday’s I spent at Miss Kitty’s, it’s surprising I didn’t run into him sooner.

The gap between then and now seems so far, even though my hotel tonight is literally a half-mile away from where I lived in Venice. It is Paul and Ben and our life as a family. It is my career, and the growth from an entry level job I couldn’t handle, to a leadership job I do well. It is the distance from L.A. To Brooklyn, and the realization of how much I love Brooklyn (Which I do. I love Brooklyn like I loved Vancouver.). It is going from throwing crazy house parties to being a community leader throwing camp weekends. It is the difference between twenty-six and thirty-six.

I sit here, and I wish I had had more faith ten years ago that all these amazing things were going to happen to me. I don’t wish I had been able to see the future, just that I had believed that it would be a good future a little more. I believe most people get less naive and more cynical with age. I’m the other way around: I’ve become less cynical.

Still, being back, I do want to think a little more about the girl I was when I lived here. About all the things I ran from, or tried to forget. About all the mistakes I knew I was making. And then I need to credit myself with more accomplishments made in the last decade.

I go home in the morning, back to my men. It’s time to return to being thirty-six in the 718.

we are the woodsy family

You know those families that go out into the woods for fun as a vacation? We’ve become those wholesome people. We just did two weekends of camping in a row: one with the Scouts, and then another at Frost Valley YMCA, a camp up in the Catskills. At the first, we slept in a small tent all together. At the second, we slept in something more akin to a retro hotel room. I may be Wilderness Mommy, but I do enjoy sleeping on a mattress Ina warm room.

I take a lot of pride in the camping trips I run with the Otters. I have built so much of that group, and I’m never prouder of the accomplishment than I am at camp. Seeing two dozen happy kids (27 Otters total, including my own) engaged in free play, who have all totally forgotten that screens even exist, is amazing. I love seeing my own son tearing around a campsite with his buddies, too, being a forest creature, Ben is so happy at camp, and I’m so happy I was able to be part of building the Scout group that gives him that experience.

And this camp, we also accomplished a lot. We learned songs! We reviewed lashing skills and the. built obstacle courses using sticks and rope! We practiced skits! We sang more songs! We washed dishes! We made wind chimes! We had a tug of war! We hiked for miles and cooked hot dogs over a fire and had a feast at dinner. It was, without question, our Best Camp Ever, with a solid mix of structured activities and free run-around-in-forest time.

High points included:

– the “camp den” names. I divide the kids up into “camp dens” at camp, since there’s rarely even distribution from their regular dens. They then get to name themselves. That’s how we ended up with the Warriors (an all girl den of second graders), the Rock-Climbing Corvettes (they couldn’t decide between Rock Climbers and Corvettes), the Legal Eagles (who all got disbarred and became the Illegal Eagles) and the Zombie Den (the littles kids, who I guess like zombies). All awesome names. Good work, kids.

– chore time! This is not a highlight for the kids. This is a highlight for me as a leader to see six year olds washing dishes with minimal complaint. When the Zombie Den was on dishwashing, one little boy looked up at me at the last meal and remarked, “Even the littlest kids can do the biggest work”. Parents whose kids learned how to wash dishes? YOU’RE WELCOME

– community time! To heck with my son hanging out with his friend, I want to go to camp to hang out with MY friends. I like all the parents I get to camp with, so going to camp is fun for me as an individual, not just as a mother.

-hike time! I hiked two and a half miles. Ben and Paul hiked almost FOUR. Ben apparently sang camp songs with a buddy for the back half of that hike, too (I was leading the rest of the short hike group back to camp). My kid loves hiking. I’m so proud.

So that was the weekend of then17th to 19th. This weekend, we re-packed up our warm clothes and headed to Frost Valley. This is a summer camp in the Catskills built on an old family estate. We stayed in a hotel style room, but we could have stayed in cabins or, had we been a group, a lodge. The place is huge, and full of activities: climbing wall, archery, hiking, pond discovery (aka Lets catch Salamanders), zip lines, open spaces for games, and a dining hall with board games after supper. This was a special Halloween theme weekend, so there was also a Halloween party for the little kids on the Saturday night (My son wore his Yoda ears with jeans and a T-shirt. He is SO his father’s kid).

Unlike the weekend before, this was just us at camp. There were other families like us, but really, this was our time together. I’ve been on the road so much lately that I just wanted to spend the time with Paul and Ben. And this is now What We Do as a family: we go on hikes, and then come home to drink herbal tea and play board games. There was no TV in the room, there was no set schedule or place to be outside of mealtimes, there was just us, in the mountains, for a weekend. (of course, Ben and I watched the latest episode of Top Chef Boston on the way home. I’m not that anti-screen)

I feel like I should balance this out somewhere with a weekend of debauchery: drinking and bar hopping in the East Village, going to a speakeasy on a Saturday night, going to a dance party somewhere (shouldnt Bootie be back by now?). But although I have Halloween partying this Friday, I can’t stay out late like I used to. It’s either stay out late with my friends or spend the time with my son. It’s either go out into Manhattan on a Saturday, or spend that evening decompressing at home with my husband. If I’m out late, it throws off the next day, and those days belong to the little boy I don’t see for more than a few minutes in the mornings and evenings from Monday to Friday.

And hence the sheer simplicity of going out into the forest as a family, and being all wholesome about it. When I’m in a camp environment, I don’t think about the rest of my existence: I am very much in the moment. And when I’m there with Paul and Ben, that’s a moment I’m in with them. And that’s something I can carry with me, even when I’m away from them, even when I’m caught up in the million tasks that make up my day.

Moving Stress

I’m in the middle of two major life changes right now. First of all, I started a new job last week, at a new agency.  Second of all, as I write this, I’m surrounded by green bins.  In NYC, you can actually rent big plastic bins instead of buying boxes – so much more eco friendly – so we didn’t have to spend our usual $200 on boxes at Box City or similar.  (Actually, I think the LA move was $350 on moving supplies alone, but that apartment was also 400sq feet bigger than our Brooklyn home)

I thought I could pull all this off because I have two major support systems.  First of all is my husband, who, as the work-at-home-on-flex-hours parent, has been handling childcare & house fixing. Paul’s been over at the new house, painting and fixing things and preparing for move in.  He’s taking Ben to Pittsburgh to stay with my in-laws until next week so Ben will stop trying to pack himself in a box, and so we have a weekend without our child to unpack and settle in (and re-build his bed).  Paul is, as everyone knows, an amazing husband who is flat-out awesome 365 days a year.  

The other reason I thought I could pull this off is that I am a Taskmistress.  Over last few years, I’ve become much more organized than I ever thought possible.  Now, I leverage my new favorite toy, ToDoIst to map out everything in my personal life using GTD principles.  So I thought that if I could just map everything out, one step at a time, I’d be able to stay on the path & not crack from stress.

But this weekend, I’m finding out that isn’t the case.  I never managed to grip the moving process well enough to figure out what to pack and when.  Like the kitchen: I cook so much, when do I pack it all?  I’ve spent weeks re-organizing files in the office so we could pack up what I refer to as “Paul’s lair”, and I have been going through my clothes and general Things I Own to try and cull down the amount of stuff to go.  But I never mapped out “on day -5, pack books, on day -4 pack the pantry, etc”. 

As a result, it’s now day -3 and I’ve been paralysed to move because of the sheer size of the task.  Looking at the sheer amount of stuff to be packed, I’m tempted to get overwhelmed and go hide somewhere and hope it goes away.  I’ve packed up half the kitchen so far, including packing my canning supplies and zillion mason jars, putting my frequent-use pantry items in a clear bin for easy finding next week, and packing my Small Appliance Farm* up in the rented bins with extra clothes to pad them in there.*   But I haven’t packed the pantry, or my pots and pans, or any dishes yet, and although I was greatly inspired by this blog entry on pre-move cooking, I’m still slow to pack my cooking tools because I have DRAWERS full of CSA produce that needs to get processed.

This is classic project paralysis: when I find myself unable to move because I haven’t broken down the project into easily manageable steps that I can handle mentally as well as physically.  I know from reading The Now Habit that procrastination is often a result of failure to understand the next steps, and I use that as a project standard when doing weekly reviews.  If there’s a project I’ve been procrastinating, I understand that it is because I need a clearly defined set of two or three steps to kick it off and see the path.  For this move, I didn’t isolate those steps, and now it’s an overwhelming situation.

The other mental block is having to pack clothes for next week – which ties back into the new job.  I”ve been stress eating lately, and have gained back five or six pounds.  This means I now hate my clothes because I feel like nothing looks good on me right now.  So I have to pick out the clothes that do still look good so I can make a good impression at the new job.  I don’t want everyone’s first impression of me to be to think I’m frumpy. So I am trying to pull out things that work on the body I have, for the season I’m in, that are not plain and boring.  Until I can ramp up and roll on my own merits as a boss, I still feel I need to make a good first impression with clothes.  (At Mindshare, I blended in, but I also didn’t care because I had made my reputation there, and everyone respected me no matter what.) This is probably overly self-conscious of me…but it’s tough, being new kid in school, even at an agency where everyone seems to be a recent hire because of the fast growth rate.  

Fortunately, I have my friends coming over today!  My old friend Kelly is in town visiting from LA, and my dear friend Wendy is coming down from the Upper East Side (you KNOW your friends love you when they visit Brooklyn from North Manhattan on a regular basis).  We will all get time to hang out, eat dinner, drink wine, catch up – and I will have four extra hands to help me shove stuff into boxes – I mean bins – 

Now that I write all this out, I’m feeling better.  I find blogging is not only my way of one-way communication, but also my way of explaining things to myself.  Having to explain things to you, my friends who are bothering to read this far, often helps me sort out my thoughts in the same way talking them through would.  Next steps are to pack clothes for the next four days, and then use everything else to pad out all my kitchen gear.

*The Small Appliance Farm:

  1. Kitchenaid mixer
  2. Cuisinart food processor
  3. Hamilton-Beech blender
  4. Ninja stick blender, and a mini-food-processor that goes with said stick blender
  5. Hamilton-Beech full size juicer
  6. a combination toaster oven/toaster that does neither job well,
  7. Rice maker
  8. Crock-Pot (aka Working Mom’s Best Friend)
  9. Series of Food Cutting Tools: spiral cutter, mandoline slicer and my beloved Nicer Dicer.

i survived survival school

I spent Saturday up in the Hudson Valley, practicing surviving in the woods. As a Canadian, I feel like surviving wilderness is one of those things I should be able to do. Doesn’t anyone else remember that one lost in the woods video that was actually part of the elementary school curriculum? The one that taught children how to survive in the woods overnight? (And that was before reading Lost in the Barrens as part of the Requisite Farley Mowat Reading in seventh grade). I tell my Scout colleagues and parents that I’m Canadian, and that seems to automatically better qualify me for my job as leader of a troop of 5 – 7 year olds just as much as my decade with Girl Guides does.

However, this doesn’t mean I would actually survive in the woods. I am a city kid. But I spent my formative years in cities that had major wilderness culture going on in them, and therefore, assume that I am also at least partially a wilderness person. Hence: taking survival school this weekend, JUST TO BE SURE. After all, I had a Groupon for it, and it was a chance to practice and learn some skills for the woods. And it was a chance to learn some skills to teach the kids, to be better at my Other Job as Otter Leader.

And survival school turned out to be awesome! I took it under the tutelage of Destination Backcountry Adventures, whose company founder and leader absolutely loved the outdoors. Being outside with someone who really believes that nature is something you can work with, a place we belong in, makes a huge difference. We had two teams of four people, and each team were given our Survival Scenarios, the story of why we were lost in the woods, and why we only had (in my team’s case) a bag full of odds and ends to survive with. We then had to go practice the skills we learned in class and demonstrate that we would last a few days out in the woods.

My team had what I called the ‘Drunken Dumbass’ scenario: amateur campers who didn’t register at the trailhead, didn’t camp at the legal campsite, and after some bourbon, pass out in their tent next to a river. Cue the flash flood. Gear gets lost, someone’s ankle gets broken, and they’re lost in the Adirondacks without much of anything. The rangers have evacuated everyone who registered at the trail head, but not these people. We had to pretend we were in it for a few days, and that we would have to prepare accordingly.

First step: rescue. The guy on our team tied clothes up in the trees, in a set of 3 to indicate an emergency. Next step: shelter. We built a debris hut, a skill I already had from taking the Scouts to an Urban Park Rangers program last year. We incorporated a sheet of plastic that was in our Miscellaneous Survival bag. Third step: fresh water. There was a nearby pond, easily found because of the frogs croaking in it. Fourth step: fire. We set up our fire ring with tinder, and put out a bunch of twigs to dry on a sunny rock so we would have flammable wood to get it going. And that was the morning session. In the afternoon, we practiced Fire Without Matches, Orienteering with a Map and Compass, and Eating Frog Eggs (I didn’t try them, but a few people did sample the frog eggs that said frog pond was full of).

The skills themselves were great, but it was the mentality of survival, of not letting a fear of the unknown take over, that I learned the most about this weekend. I learned about prioritizing when in a survival situation, about accounting for basic human needs: shelter, water, and hope for rescue. I also learned a lot about backpacking, and how to make a backpacking trip better. It was a great trip, and a great experience. I’m really glad I went.

But OMG, I was so tired after Saturday! We spent the day scrambling up and down a ridge in Fahnestock State Park, bushwhacking through off-trail terrain. I went up and down that damn ridge multiple times. My legs yesterday felt like I’d done a CrossFit workout. I was actually so tired on Sunday that I HAD TO REST part of the day, which is not something I enjoy taking time to do. (I like to GTD on weekends, dammit). But it felt good – all the scratches and cuts, sunburn and bruises, feel good – like I’ve been doing something real. It’s good to be outdoors. It was good to be in the woods. It wasn’t the coastal rainforest I’m used to, but it was still forest.

Now that I”ve recovered though, it’s time to prepare for Passover! Tonight is our family Seder dinner; tomorrow is community Seder at the synagogue. Tonight, I’m making lamb, the leftovers of which will go to Philadelphia with us this weekend so Ben and I have a protein to eat while the rest of Paul’s family eats ham at Easter. And I only have two days of work this week because I am taking the rest of the week off for Spring Break with my son: Mama-Ben Adventure Camp! I am SO excited about spending two days with the kiddo, doing things in New York City we don’t always have time to do.

Surviving done; outdoors appreciated. It’s time to get back to city life, and time to get to work.

March 10th, 2014: spring!

20140311-205229.jpgIt’s another beautiful day today, so here’s the view from my bedroom window, at left, looking across to other homes on the next block over.

It feels like spring today: the air is soft. Walking home last night, I could just pick up on the smell of the park, with all the grass exposed again after a month under snow. It smells like spring is coming. I missed this moment, in L.A., where there were no seasons. I missed the moment just when a northern city starts to see spring appear.

It is so nice out there that I actually walked to Staples and back to pick up construction paper for the Scout opening craft tomorrow. It’s just nice to be outside again, in soft, cool air, instead of the OMG face melting cold that we’ve had this winter. It’s nice to walk for pleasure again, and be able to smell the grass and leaves that have been under the snow for months.

Finally, I finished CrossFit Foundations this morning. I’m now clear to actually start taking classes. This mornings mini-WOD was really tough, and I still hurt from it (that, and learning “the clean” weightlifting technique), but I am probably going to go back and keep training. This is the kind of muscle building training I was looking for, that I knew I needed in order to shift my fat/muscle ratios.

And since I’m blogging again, I may as well start writing up more of my diet and exercise in my blog posts:

Sleep: 5h, which is pretty terrible. Need to get to sleep earlier tonight.

Exercise: WOD was AMRAPs, with a partner. We took turns doing a 130m sprint, followed by 12 wall balls (squat and medicine ball throw). I did four rounds, and I know I maxed out on effort, so go me.


Breakfast: eggs with cabbage/broccoli/carrot shred mix; paleo banana bread with grass-fed butter
Post-Workout: plantain grain free tortilla with half a chicken breast
Lunch: chicken salad (paleo mayo, curry powder, apple, celery, collards, the rest of the chicken breast) and garbage soup (beef broth, turnips, yam, carrot), with three quarters of an apple. Ended up eating the salad at lunch and the soup and apple with a few almonds after getting back from meetings at 3.

(Also, I brought two servings of soup to work which I am reheating in a mini-crock-pot at my desk because I am THAT BROOKLYN)

Dinner: Cowboy chili (made with stew beef and butternut squash) with spinach and avocado, a few lamb meatballs, and a plantain tortilla with avocado.

Evening snack: another apple and some raw almonds. I am not supposed to be eating evening snacks, since it’s teaching my body to rely on more glucose after dinner when I’m supposed to be winding down, but I was desperate for energy so I could get back up and work my “second shift” (finish work for the day & prep for tomorrow’s Scout meeting) I was exhausted when I got home, and had to take a half hour nap before I was able to get up and function again, and then I just wanted that apple because I desperately wanted the fruit sugar to jumpstart my body again when I woke up.

And now, it’s time to go work that “second shift”: finish the work I didn’t get to complete because I had to leave early for a parent teacher conference. Prepare for Scouts tomorrow, by preparing the opening craft/activity and revisiting marching band commands for parade practice. Tidy the kitchen and set up meals for tomorrow (Paul is back at work, since he had to take the afternoon off to keep an eye on Ben, who had a half day due to parent teacher conferences. Therefore, I want to do something nice to help him, which will consist of kitchen cleanup)

But first, I’m going to drink a cup of tea and chill out for a few minutes. It’s spring. I’m going to open a window and enjoy that for a few more minutes.

from santa monica to the sunshine coast


And now, ten years later, here I am with a child of my own, and another troop of six and seven year olds to spend time with. A decade has passed, and I still feel the same way about being a leader: that I’m lucky if I’m able to give these kids great memories, that I’m lucky to see them experience joy in Scouting. But most of all, I’m on the motherhood journey that I realized, as a Brownie leader, that I might someday travel on.

Originally posted on Jillian's Blog:

In the course of a week, I have gone from Los Angeles to Sechelt. That’s the most extreme contrast I can think of inside of a week, inside the boundaries of my known world of the West Coast.

I sneaked out of the campsite last night while the kids were asleep and went down to the beach to make phone calls. I finally connected with the girl at the house in Los Angeles I want to live in. I’ve been overstressed since Thursday night with regards to the whole roomate and housing issue.

I’m better now though, because I’m going to be living at this Mar Vista house, which is right around the corner from my adopted aunt in Westlake Village. It’s also less than three miles from my office in Venice Beach. And it’s in a house, with a yard – which is something I really like the idea…

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