At about this time last year, I was in a weird place.
I had given up my title as Miss Washington, moved across the country, and started my first “real” job.
Because I was living so far away from people I knew and loved, I put a lot of value on social media. Partially, because I wanted to prove to people that I was making it “in the big city.” As a result, I threw myself into work, thinking this is the way I become the #girlboss I thought I wanted to be.
In my mind, this looked like a woman who was straight-up killing her career. This meant giving in to Boston’s subtle way of encouraging you to be more assertive and selfish. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing like hard work and dedication. However, I was working for a company that lacked compassion, empathy, and (in my own opinion) purpose.
Soon enough, I felt like I was going through the motions. I was working so hard to prove to myself that I was “slaying the game,” and proving to my community back home that I was still relevant. Maybe it worked for a while, but internally I was worn down and a little lost.
Change came at just the right minute, and this is what it reminded me…
Keep your eyes and your heart open:
When I was given the opportunity to study abroad last June, I basically pounced at the idea. I mean, I had been waiting to visit Italy ever since I saw the Lizzie McGuire movie in fifth grade. In addition, this was an excellent excuse to remove myself from everything toxic in my life. Like most people, I was on a traveler’s high after three weeks in Italy. However, this trip had given me so much more than that.
My main assignment was to fully immerse myself in the culture, get to know the locals, and write a story about one of them. By the end of the trip, I had eaten way too much pasta (or maybe not enough..), found an incredible woman who made me fall in love with language, and learned so much about the world in general. At the conclusion of my trip, I couldn’t help but wonder what else I could see and what else I could learn. I was ready for more. As Coach Taylor would say, clear eyes, full heart, CAN’T LOSE!
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”- Mark Twain
Money really doesn’t buy happiness:
When I returned from Italy, I had a renewed idea of what I wanted in career and how I would get there. However, financially, things were tough. I was now working for minimum wage, while living in one of the most expensive cities in the country (Oh btw- I quit my purposeless job to go to Italy). On top of that, temptations to buy this and splurge on that lurked around every corner. There were several points where I couldn’t help but breakdown. Worrying about money is never fun. Besides, I was always able to afford the essentials. But, what kind of life is it to live paycheck to paycheck? Well, it is a life that taught me that money is far from everything. Living this way for an extended period of time made me more careful with money. This lifestyle made me appreciate the things and the people in my life. It even encouraged me to declutter my closet. If I did spend my money on things other than essentials, it was because the purchase really meant something to me. One of those purchases being my trip to Guatemala. Talk about feeling #blessed.
Find joy in simplicity:
My time in Guatemala was mostly spent in very rural areas, where most people had never heard the names Kim Kardashian or Justin Bieber. This was the kind of place where they never had to worry about what kind of wood they wanted for the cabinets or what Netflix show they would binge on next. In fact, they were lucky if they had more than sticks to hold up the house, let alone a TV to enjoy. Not everyone lived this way, but it wasn’t uncommon for Guatemalans to have very few possessions. Absorbing the scene, I felt sorry for these people. They had been dealt an unfortunate hand, in many regards. But after spending 10 minutes with so many of these people, I realized that they are happy!
One day, I was working on a construction site that had attracted a group of young local boys. To keep them entertained, I pulled a soccer ball out of the van. Sheer elation spread across their faces. Needless to say, we played soccer for hours. There we were, in the middle of nowhere, having the time of our lives.
Everyone has a story to tell:
After returning from Italy, I began my final semester of my master’s program. I was so inspired by my assignment in italy that I wanted to do something similar for my thesis project. For several months, I continued interviewing women from all of the country and the world. (Stay tuned for more!) Every woman lending new and thoughtful insight to the world around us. Each reminding me that there is so much more to a person than what we see on the outside…or nowadays on social media.
Kindness is timeless:
In April, I was invited to help with the first WE Day New York. Never heard of WE? I 10/10 recommend looking them up! I can wait…
Pretty cool, huh? This was another one of those times where I eagerly leapt at the opportunity.
For years, WE has exemplified similar values to those that I try to embody. They promote social justice and encourage social change.
On the morning of WE Day, thousands of empowered youth filed into Radio City Music Hall. The energy was indescribable. Minute after minute, I couldn’t help but be inspired by not only the speakers, but also the audience and the employees. This sensation of encouragement and inspiration felt similar to the days I decided to run for ASB President, challenged myself to 365 days of kindness, and competed for Miss Washington. In many ways, I felt like I was back home.
This last year has been challenging. But, it has also forced me to be reflective and transformative. Each of these experiences reminded me that I still want to be a #girlboss. However, the route now looks a little less selfish and a lot more kind. My new version of a #girlboss includes doing something with meaning. It requires a path that is not only encouraging, but also allows me to be an encourager.
I guess it is true what they say. Sometimes we need to lose ourselves, to truly find where we need be.
6 thoughts on “What This Year Has Taught Me ”
Nice to see you back on blogging, Kailee! You have so much to share. Keep on writing.
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Thank you! I appreciate it.
Kailee Dunn, you are a remarkable young woman. As an old gal here, I’m inspired by your words and glad to have you amongst us on this planet.
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Thank you Janice!
Beautiful story. Your grandmother would have been so proud of your adventures and lifestyle change. She was one of the kindest people I ever knew.
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You have no idea how much this means to me.