Fancy meeting me here

There is nothing new I can say about COVID19. It sucks. It has changed the world in unprecedented ways, etc. What is new is the fact that this crisis has brought me closer to me.

On a normal day, my meeting and casual check-ins were dominated by business updates. Achievements, projects, challenges, team news, work. Work always came first. I would talk a little about my kids and family. But my high points were those sweet business updates.

Then COVID19 happened. Work moved home with me, and as the crisis progressed, I shifted to overdrive. An incredible self-imposed pressure to perform at a higher level took over. The need to be on all the time, show I was pulling my weight, stay ahead, way ahead! I was on the fast lane to crashing and burning.

The next stage was accepting that running in high gear is as unhealthy at home as it is in the office. I started devoting time to my hobbies, playing with my kids, doing other things. Have you noticed the many visible stars in the night sky? Chasing toddlers with a camera counts as cardio. Going for walks and sitting down to write is a great practice.

The brain is funny, it learns quickly. I noticed a shift in my check-in responses. I started sharing things I am learning about myself. I learned for example that I needed this break as I was losing myself to my job.

Here is what’s happening: I am reconnecting to my passions, the ones outside the shadows of my work. I am exploring the creativity my kids spark in me. I am using the pronoun I with comfort. I had taken the “there is no I in team” mantra to an extreme, to the point that using the pronoun I made me feel guilty and self-centered. Now it dawns on me, my profession and title were drowning me. My idea of the perfect leader, marketer, and a working mom who sits pretty and leads a balanced life, were informed by outdated and pervasive paradigms.

What’s so bad about that? Nothing. Being a kick-ass marketer is nothing to be ashamed of. Feeling proud of my work, loving the people I work with, enjoying our contributions and impact, are all noble things to celebrate; yet not the things that should define me.

I was walking a dangerous road, the one that requires constant highs, which in my case come from achievement. I have an insatiable fire in my belly, one that asks for more work, more output, more check marks. Give me a challenge, tell me it can’t be done, that fire burns! Be critical, I can handle it, it fuels the fire. But then I learned a painful lesson, disapproval not directly tied to my performance made me crumble; it lit a different fire, one of self-doubt, shame, and despair.

Then what? How do you fight a fire? With fire. I worked even harder. Made longer lists. Tried to take on more. I ceased to exist, got diluted in an endless quest to prove my ability and worth.

Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean I don’t care. I care plenty, but in a much healthier way. I needed a reality check. I needed to remember who I am at my core, what I love, what I like, what I can do. I needed to experiment highs independent from the ones that come with achievement. I needed to meet me again.

Guess what?

I am doing a podcast with no audience; I love it!

I started an Instagram account not a lot of people follow; I love it!

I am writing silly songs, only one is a hit, my 3 toddlers jam to it; what a success!

My pictures have gotten better, my mom and mother-in-law love them; superstar!

My astrophotography is whatever comes before amateur level; I am proud!

Have you met yourself lately? What has this time revealed to you?

Soon, work will move back to its usual location. How will you continue to apply the learnings from this season? I am thinking about ways in which I will protect my newly found freedom, and keep the fire of this relationship with myself burning.

Karol Hernandez

Amateur photographer, podcaster, songwriter, unlikely influencer, astronomer.


↓ The aforementioned podcast. Enjoy!

If I were a fish No Banker's Hours

If you were a fish you would fear whales too. My 5 year old shares a very reasonable fear.
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