It was about two years ago that I was in the one of the most stressful and anxiety-ridden chapters of my life.
Coming full circle from running my own business to then writing stories and interviewing people who were building and scaling their own companies, I found myself questioning whether I ever really knew what I was doing in the three years I spent building my agency.
Day in and day out, I was in a hamster wheel of running to and from meetings, managing interns, and doing everything I thought I was supposed to as an adult in the working world.
I was tired, I was irritable, and I held most of that on the inside and put on a “professional” facade to get through the weeks. My partner, family, and friends who saw what was going on underneath got much less than they deserved at the time.
You can predict how this is going to end as I eventually buckled under the pressure and had to hit a reset button, seeking out mental health and work stress resources to understand how I got here and why I kept repeating these cycles of stress and anxiety.
This also lead me to listening to podcasts like How I Built This and Getting Curious for the first time alongside watching copious amounts of Drag Race, Queer Eye, and Frasier.
The cocktail of a fictional radio-show host and real-life stories from all walks of life eventually helped me get to the other side of my sunken place and eventually move forward.
With no experience in audio or recording, I decided I wanted to share my own experiences and have conversations like the people I was listening to during my morning and evening commute.
With the encouragement of some friends and 45 takes later, I recorded an intro on my phone and published it.
Then it sat for months because I was still too conscious to continue.
It’s strange to be in the marketing profession where your livelihood depends on promoting, informing, and grabbing attention from a diverse audience on a regular basis and then be paralyzed when you do all of these things for yourself and not for other people.
Eventually I picked it up again and with ten episode ideas mapped out, I recorded new ones every other week and reached the 9th episode within a few months.
I did what anyone would probably do each time an episode went live and I shared it across my network, I refreshed the downloads page every minute, I was on high alert for DMs, likes, comments, shares. The numbers weren’t growing exponentially, but every few months I’d get a comment or a message from someone I knew who shared that an episode resonated with them — I knew during these moments that I had accomplished what I had set out to do.
Success in your mind is often different from what it looks like in real life, and it typically never feels the way you expect it to either. I’m learning that lesson everyday a little more.
Fast forward two years and two seasons later and my hobby project served as the body of work that I needed to make a case for a different type of storytelling coming from a university.
This opportunity coincided with a desire from academic leaders at UC Irvine for a project to shine a light on the myriad stories that represent the 30,000+ students at one of the largest public universities in Southern California. Driven by the Division of Undergraduate Education’s Associate Dean of Student Success, Jonathan Alexander who is also an esteemed faculty member, I was put into a position to build something new and from the ground up.
Though I was in the room now where these conversations and decisions were being made, my inclination to be behind the scenes arose again and were it not for some helpful nudges from colleagues to challenge me to continue advocating for myself, I’d likely be editing this newly launched podcast instead of also co-hosting it.
For the first time in a long time, I feel like a portion of what I do can be outwardly visible, shared, and hopefully create unique opportunities where an alum, staff, faculty, and student can have candid conversations where we can show a little more of the tarnish that makes us who we are.
There’s a lot to be said about the usual story format where the hard parts are glossed over in a sentence or too, but now more than ever, there needs to be space for humans to be humans and to share experiences that can connect us rather than divide us.
For anyone who made it to the end of this article, thanks for reading, and I hope you can find some encouragement that no matter where you find yourself in your career, your hobbies, or your journey, that it’s never too late to try something different. Even if you’re not good at it in the beginning, no one’s keeping score anyway, so go forth and take a chance on yourself.