For the first time in a long time, I feel good about the direction God is leading my life in terms of my career. To be honest, I’ve fought it for a long time and for the most part kept what I do a bit private, for the obvious reasons of professionalism, but what I am about to share needs to be written down, not only to help myself understand God’s plan but also to help and inspire others. Right now, with a new year looming, I am reflecting on the growth I’ve made in my life and I am happy with it. This year has not been easy. It was filled with a lot of changes, some that I feared initially, but I am so excited for what’s to come, more so than previous years. The title of this post is called “Why I jumped off the Career Assembly Line.” I picked up a book recently, at Urban Outfitters (they have an eclectic book collection), and read a passage that talked about Assembly Lines in terms of your career.
Assembly lines, if you’re not familiar with the term, is a process by which things are progressively made in parts or work stations that add on to a sequence until the final assembly is produced. It reminds me of the car company, Ford, which built their cars using the assembly line in the early 1900s. One station was in charge of putting the wheels on the car, the next station was in charge of placing the doors on the car, and so on and so on until finally, the car was complete. But the idea here is that the process is monotonous, ongoing, and straightforward. No change can happen or else the car won’t be identical to the others. The same can be said for my life (career-wise), until I decided I didn’t want to be on the assembly line anymore.
The first time I made a drastic choice in my career, and decided I would jump off of the assembly line, commenced while I was in college. I started school as a journalism major and by my sophomore year switched to pursue a pre-law/political science degree. It was a huge decision, one that I still question, although I know why I did it. Journalism was my passion. I love to write; I can’t shake that trait about me, it’s a God-given gift but my family wanted me to pursue a more stable career, so they told me, I should become a lawyer. I listened to them. I wanted to please them and so I did just that. I spent the rest of my college career, writing legal briefs, studying constitutional law in the library, and constantly on Lexis Nexis researching. As intriguing as the legal system was, I knew it was not for me. I didn’t get excited; I got anxiety. Literal anxiety. Now, as I reflect, I think it was a mix of knowing I was doing something unaligned with my purpose and being stressed by the course load.
My turning point came around the time when I started looking to pursue law school. I started visiting legal college advisors for some advice and direction on my decision to go to Law School. One said, “Law school is for people who’s really passionate about the law, why do you want to go to law school?” I gave a politically correct answer to save face, but deep down in my soul, I knew I was being fake. I wasn’t passionate about going to law school or the legal system, I was just trying to please the ones I loved most. One time I was asked this same question by another legal college advisor and I told her I wanted to help women as a lawyer. She followed up by saying “You do know you can help women without going to law school right? Besides, what do you do now to help women? Your resume shows you haven’t done anything since last year, while you were still in college.” She called me out and she was right. That day on the train ride home, I was excited that this woman had the balls to call me on my bluff because I knew, my life would change. I could do many great things in my career without going to law school, but how would I break the news to my family?
Would you believe I still pursued law school after that conversation with my advisor and despite my convictions? I went to Kaplan, studied for the LSAT, took the LSAT, got a terrible score on the LSAT, and applied to Law School. When the rejection letters came rolling in, I wasn’t sad, I was excited. I placed those letters on my wall. I was free! Do you know how much anxiety I had during the whole application process for law school? I knew in my hearts of hearts law school was not for me, so this was a relief. At least I tried right? This was my opportunity to jump off the law school assembly line and I did. People still tell me from time to time, you would have been a great lawyer or question if I will try again, but at this point in my life, I stand by my decision. God is preparing me for something great and sometimes it doesn’t have to be in the form of what society defines success as, i.e. doctors, lawyers, and engineers.
Jumping off the assembly line allowed me to breathe again, but it also left me vulnerable. So let me go back to the time after I graduated from college, so you can get a better understanding of my career trajectory. While a senior in college, I applied for Teach for America and got very far in the process but I believe after the final rounds of interviews, I was told I didn’t get in. It wasn’t too much of a disappointment though. I just knew that’s not what God wanted me to do and I was okay with that. I probably used the opportunity as a safety net so I would have some kind of security after graduating college anyway. I spent my summer after college jobless, applying daily but having no luck. Despite it all, I decided I would give all of my worries to God. I watched as some of my friends worried, stressed and cried over life not being the way they imagined it to be after graduation and not finding jobs and although I would be lying if I didn’t say it bothered me that I was unemployed with only $0.32 cents in my bank account, I had enough faith in God to know he would work on my behalf and work he did.
I started working for a software company by September, only 4-months after graduating, and fortunately have been working for that company ever since (but in different capacities of course). Again, the journey was not easy but I am blessed to work for someone who sees success for my life. What many people don’t know is that I started out as a receptionist. Not even 3-months on the job I received the title of Administrative Assistant, about 1.5 years later I became an Executive Assistant and then one day out of nowhere the CEO of the company wanted me to work for him. It was the shock of my life and a total honor at the same time. But I was deathly afraid to take on that position, like borderline sick to my stomach. He was a big Wall Street executive, and I was afraid I would mess up. Afraid he would hate me. I was so freaking scared. Why me? There are so many other people more capable than me. I wasn’t ready, but he knew I was. That fear couldn’t last long; in my job, there’s very little room for error, and I have to be on point at all times. The day I took the position, he wanted to have a meeting with me so we could chat. I got to work extra early that day and I used my chalkboard wall (we had a cool office) to write down all of the things I needed to know in order to take on such a position. We talked about many things and he assured me I would be fine. Sure enough, I was. I did what I had to do, he did what he had to do and we kind of just clicked. He’s a bit introverted and a work-a-holic, and I’m the same way so it just made sense. Working for him, was non-stop. My days went by fast because I was always doing something. There’s never a dull day with this man. When he sold the company this year, he didn’t have to take me with him to the new company he would work for, but he did. I am blessed beyond measure. One of the most pivotal things that this situation has taught me was confidence and humility. Even when you think people aren’t looking or noticing your efforts they are. Humble yourself. No job is too small. Luke 16:10 says “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.” This verse speaks to me because we all have to start somewhere. So many people in my generation, think success just comes and get frustrated when it doesn’t happen by a certain age or when they thought it would, but where’s the hard work? Where’s the long hours and dedication? We have to always remain humble and blessed by our situation and work hard to make it better. Unfortunately, that was a lesson I didn’t always know but God showed me along the way.
Despite all the strides I was making at work, I still wasn’t content. Something in me didn’t feel complete. I knew in my heart I didn’t want to be an assistant forever, but what did I want to be? This finally leads me to discuss a little something called purpose. In 2012, my mom invited me to a SistaFriendz brunch which first opened my eyes to this idea of purpose. Purpose is the very thing you are put on this earth to do. Think about how paramount that is. Each and every one of our lives have a purpose. When I started to think about this on a grander scale, I realized that I was not following my purpose. There was nothing in my life, besides going to work and coming home, and doing it all over again, that was giving me any purpose. I was miserable at this point in my life. Miserable! I started to think about my passions, the things I loved to do, my interests, my dream jobs and I would either write them down or pursue them.
One of the first things I pursued at the end of 2012 was Reserved. Reserved is a women’s organization that I partnered with my Dad and a bunch of amazing young ladies to build. The opportunity allowed us to help and inspire other women. But what I didn’t realize was how much this venture would help and inspire me. It allowed me to grow in so many ways. I realized having your own organization is a lot of work. At times I was overwhelmed and didn’t want to do it anymore and other times, I would get so excited by what this organization had the potential to be. Yet, when I was feeling defeated by the lack of growth and vision that I had for Reserved, that was not coming to pass, I took a break from it. The pressure was getting too overwhelming. So I started to venture into other things.
One day around the 2013 holidays I asked God to allow me to travel. Everyone around me was doing great things with their lives, moving into apartments, buying homes, and cars, and I knew I wasn’t really ready for those things as yet, but I was ready to travel. I wanted a change in my life. Everything was beginning to feel too monotonous. The assembly line of life was getting the best of me and I was feeling stuck. I prayed and I cried that day and four months after that prayer, I was on a plane to Europe, visiting six countries in two weeks with my friends. A few months after the trip, I started a travel blog which was my heaven-sent gift from God. Being able to write is a passion in itself, but writing about my travel experiences and people actually caring was a blessing. Around this same time, I started a fellowship with Travel Noire, which further ignited my passion for travel. As a follow up of my travel blog, I relaunched my LifestyleByKy blog (which you are probably reading now). I absolutely love blogging, connecting with people, being transparent and essentially having people come up to me saying they relate to whatever it is that I am talking about. I can’t explain the feeling but it feels amazing. I love meeting new friends from blogger communities or supporting fellow bloggers by sharing their articles or commenting on their stuff. God was and is beginning to show me, what jumping off the assembly line is like and I love every second of it.
But it wasn’t until this year that things began to get real for me. It started around June when I went to the American Black Film Festival (ABFF). My friend kept inviting me every single year, but I didn’t know what it was and had no interest in the film industry. This year, things changed. I was producing my own documentary on someone’s life and needed inspiration. When I went to ABFF I got more than anything I expected. I listened as Mara Brock Akil and Salim Akil, as well as Janine Sherman and Chris Spencer talked about their start in the entertainment business, as mere assistants. They worked their way up and now they’re running their own successful shows. I became inspired by their trajectories, inspired by their stories, inspired by their comradery. Mara told the audience, if you want to write you must go to LA, so I went to LA (2-weeks after that) to get a feel for the city and I fell in love. I could totally live there, but could I write for TV or Hollywood? I went back to NYC and left the idea on the table (I’ll write more about this in an upcoming post).
The overall point of this very long blog entry is simple. You have one life to live, so live it the best way you know how to. I see so many people who are so miserable with what they do because they’ve allowed others to dictate their lives. I realized this was happening to me early on and I had to put an end to it. That’s never okay. Whatever I do with my career, will be my decision. The journey to success is a long one. Someone told me recently, “The race is not to the swift or strong but to those who endure to the end.” Sometimes the best thing we can do is simply enjoy the journey. The journey is so precious and filled with so many surprises. The growth in you is the most gratifying prize. I can say with certainty, I am nothing like the meek 22-year old I used to be. I am someone who has tried many things, traveled the world, and I’ve tapped into many passions that will ultimately make me successful but I am also aware that the road to success won’t be straight and narrow. The goal here is for you guys to realize that if you’re on an assembly line in terms of your career and you’re not happy then consider jumping off and fast. Although I am still trying to figure out my life and career, and although I decided to take the creative route, which is the harder route essentially, I do it for my happiness. I do it because life is short and is such an incredible gift so I want to make sure that I take advantage of it. I do it because I don’t want to wake up one day with what if’s, so I am proactively turning those what if’s into it’s already been done. That’s the vision I see for my life and I hope you’re also encouraged by this and start the journey yourself. It’s never too early or too late to discover what you love and who you want to become.