This post is going to be about three things: my career, this blog, and my relationship.
I’ve been procrastinating writing this for a little while now, mostly because it’s been difficult for me to imagine opening up honestly on such a public platform. A platform that showcases only the loveliest, curated moments of my life. But it’s Thanksgiving weekend, so what better time is there than now when I have so much to be thankful for? I’m at home at my parents’ house resting, while wrapped up burrito-style in one of my mom’s quilts with coffee in hand, ready to type away.
Let’s start with my career, because it’s had the biggest impact on my well-being and also because it’s the focal point for so many of us in our mid-twenties. A year ago I was in a very stagnant and unhappy place because I hated getting up for work everyday. I would get the Sunday Scaries real bad (when Sunday is ruined because the anxiety of going to work on Monday becomes too strong), and was just generally in a bad mood a lot of the time. The worst part for me was that I wasn’t just complaining and doing nothing about it, I was actually trying really hard to change my situation – and it felt like nothing was working.
I was applying to jobs, networking, joining clubs, attending events, updating my CV, and slowly losing my mind. Nothing seemed to pan out for me, and I started to doubt myself. Did I make the wrong choice when I accepted my entry-level job in the finance industry? Should I have gone to grad school first? But for what? There were parts of the finance industry that I loved, but more and more I was convincing myself that I needed out. That I didn’t belong, and I just needed to catch a break. If I had to choose any point of this story to go back to, it would be then in those moments of doubt. I would send my present-day self back to say “Relax! You’re being impatient, and things are going to work out!”. Hindsight is always 20/20.
What helped me through this tough time was surrounding myself with really strong people, and accepting that it was ok not to have a plan. I am so fortunate to have two incredible mentors, who I came to rely on continually – especially during the few crazy months when things did begin to happen in my career and I had some very difficult decisions to make. How did having mentors help?
- Both of my mentors are far enough along in their careers that they’ve been where I’ve been. They were able to listen to my doubts and fears without judgment, but also without letting me get away with it. They would say “I totally understand, let me tell you about when I was going through X, and then X happened”. But they would also follow up with “Why don’t you try X?” or “I’m glad you’re trying X, but let’s look at it from a different perspective”. My mentors were able to push me forward in places where my friends and family couldn’t. Don’t get me wrong – my friends and family were the BEST support and deserve medals for putting up with me, but my mentors worked in the same field with me and understood where I was coming from. We had regular meetings scheduled, and I had “homework” and assignments I had to complete for them – they kept me accountable. Which leads me to my next point: how did I finally catch my break and leave the job I hated?
- Networking. Ew. I’m sorry, I know that’s not the answer you were looking for but it’s the inevitable reality. Another thing that might make you cringe? I love networking. I’m that annoying person that is happy to walk up to anyone, just to talk and find something that we both have in common. Grooooossssss! Extrovert alert! But one positive point? If you need a buddy to go to networking events with, you can call me up 🙂
One of my mentors set a high expectation for me: I was supposed to network with someone once a week. ONCE A WEEK. I thought I had been doing enough by going to events once or twice a month, and meeting people for coffee a few times in between, but that wasn’t going to cut it. I set up one meaningful coffee date or phone call every single week, I followed up, and the offers eventually came through. Both my mentors also helped find the right people to put me in touch with. Even if no job opportunities came out of the majority of my meetings, I still found value in them. I was learning so much, and in the process I felt reassured, because guess what? We all go through this. We all get stuck in a rut at some point, and luckily other people are happy to help pull you out of it.
- My mentors went to bat for me. They were my biggest champions! When I networked or had interviews with professional colleagues that they knew or could get in touch with, you better believe they talked me up. With that being said, I also had to bring it and live up to the expectations they had set, but they prepared me. They read my cover letters, offered honest critique, taught me how to interview well, made me power-pose, and were generally just the best support I could have asked for.
I went from nothing happening, to having three jobs in the first six months of 2016. And now? I’ve never been happier in my life.
I am engaged with the work that I do, and talk about it excitedly when friends and family ask. 100% of them are surprised – “Wow,” they say, “I don’t remember the last time I heard you talk about work this way!” And that always makes me pause. It’s sad that I was so unhappy for so long. I’ve learned a lot this year, especially about myself.
I don’t want to give you cheesy advice – “It will get better!” or “Everything happens for a reason!”. But I do want to tell you that if you’re feeling stuck, or like you set yourself on the wrong path: this is NORMAL. I think we lose sight of that a little bit, when we’re scrolling through LinkedIn and see that five other people just got promoted, or have the job you want.
If I’m being honest, I didn’t actually have trouble with comparing myself and my career to my friends and coworkers. I’ve always had different interests than my best friends (career-wise), and when I was originally trying to switch jobs, I happened to be on a team of mostly men, who were aiming at different goals than I was. Maybe this helped me a little bit? It’s important advice to remember that you are unique, and your journey is unique, and comparing yourself to anyone else is futile and unhealthy behaviour.
This is advice I wish I had taken when it came to my blog. You may recall that earlier this year I took a break from blogging. I think it was the best and healthiest decision I could have made, and I’m grateful my readers stuck by me 🙂
I began my blog with such high expectations of myself – I wanted tens of thousands of readers and followers, I wanted to post five times a week, I wanted to start a YouTube channel, and I wanted it all overnight. I began looking at bloggers I loved, who found success early on and started comparing myself to them. Why hadn’t my blog gained that much traction yet? Did nobody like what I was posting? My Instagram posts started to deviate away from what I loved posting about and more towards the “peonies and coffee art” type of content (which seems to get so many likes). The more I compared my blog to others, the less happy I became, and the less interest I had in posting.
One small part of this that I’m very proud of, is that I managed to keep my blog intact and totally and completely “me”. I never wrote about or posted content that I didn’t believe in…but because I felt like I wasn’t “successful”, I started to post less. I wondered what the point was. I made the grave mistake of forgetting why I started, and let my envy of others cloud my judgment and get me down.
I’ve always felt secure about the fact that I’ve never really felt the need to compare myself to those around me (despite having high expectations of myself). I learned that lesson early on, and I’ve seen too many people – especially from our generation – get trapped in a vicious cycle of disappointment and FOMO. But there I was, doing exactly that! I was letting my passion project become a source of anxiety. That’s when I knew I had to take a break and re-evaluate.
I asked myself why I loved blogging, and what I wanted to get out of it. What would make me the most happy? And the simple answer is that my blog is a creative outlet for me to express myself and share my honest thoughts. It brings me joy when a reader sends me a message to let me know that they found inspiration in Azim’s photos, or that they loved what I wrote on a certain topic. And that’s enough.
I think I felt like getting more followers, and monetizing the blog is what I should have wanted. I set expectations that weren’t in line with my happiness, and at the end of the day happiness is what I want to think of and feel when I open up Jocelyn Caithness in my browser or on Instagram.
I couldn’t have done any of this without Azim. My relationship is more important to me than anything, and it was more important to me to spend time on it (especially with everything else going on with my career) than on my blog. I hope that’s ok, and I’m glad my readers understand and know that life happens. We stopped doing photoshoots every single weekend, and started going on more dates. We stopped giving up free evenings to plan content and work on Instagram strategies, and just hung out with each other.
I’m still amazed that after 6 years, I am still so crazy over-the-moon about Azim. Our relationship is far, far from perfect – it’s very hard dating someone who has a different background, culturally and religiously. We’ve had bad fights where neither of us wants to make nice, and we can get on each other’s nerves A LOT 🙂 But now more than ever, I feel so appreciative to have someone who makes me smile every single day. I love his weird quirks, our inside jokes, and just truly having a partner in every sense of the word. This blog wouldn’t be what it is without him. Thank you, Azim. I don’t tell you enough how much I appreciate everything you do for me and for this project, which makes me so happy.
And for my readers, who have made it all the way here! Thanks for sticking by 🙂 I know this post was pretty basic – I’m writing about things we all sort of go through – but I wanted to get it out and explain more about the direction this blog has gone in.
Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve been through some hard times in your career, and what you did to get through them! And as always, thank you for reading xox
Photos by Francesco Gallorotti