It was my first full day in Paris. My cousin Neni and I walked along the Seine, talking and catching up. We reflected on our family and our shared history. I asked her about her graduate studies, her time as an Au Pair and English teacher in Switzerland. She asked me about my career, my life in DC, and what I loved about London and Paris so far. On our way to the D’Orsay, we stopped by Le Frégate for a glass of champagne before heading to the Museum. She asked me about my career. “I know you work in social media but I feel like that isn’t all you do,” she said, which made me feel good because I struggle with not “just” being a social media manager.
“So what’s your career like?”
It was a loaded question. Many of you know I was removed from my last full time job almost a year ago, and I have been consulting and contracting for the last 10 months. I have had PLENTY of obstacles and challenges.
Explaining what I do was the easy part. I explained that while I have done a lot of social media management and strategy, I am also trained to do and have done media relations, email marketing, and digital content strategy, including blogging and writing for the web. I told her I started out in corporate public relations then pivoted to online advocacy and social media training. I also told her that I wouldn’t mind going back to media outreach and strategy.
“Wow, Loryn,” she said. “That’s really cool. You’ve done a lot of great things with your career.”
I took a long sip of my rosé, the best rosé I had ever had. Then, I took a deep breath. The next words to come out of my mouth shocked me.
“Thanks, Neni. You know, I’ve had a lot of ups and downs and my career path has not been a straight or smooth one. But girl, I wouldn’t change a thing. Like, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
I took another pause. “Wait, did I say that? How much champagne did I just drink?”
My cousin laughed and said, “Loryn, you haven’t even drank half of that glass. You meant what you said.”
She’s right. I said what I said. For the first time, right there in Paris along the River Seine, I came to see my career in a new way, a real way. I stopped focusing on my failures for a moment and instead, felt gratitude for all of the varied experiences I’ve had, many I would never want to give up.
My eyes welled up with tears for at least the third time on this trip. I was so used to seeing the times I have failed and the times I have been rejected as the things that defined me, that defined my career. I came all the way to Paris, sat in a cafe along the Seine, and realized how untrue and how cruel I was being to myself.
The truth is, I wouldn’t change anything. The truth is, not every failure is all my fault. The truth is, I am a talented, passionate communicator with a way with words and a penchant for justice. Nothing will change that, and it is all very true even without a fancy title or a huge promotion.
I’m enough, just as I am. My career path hasn’t been perfect, but it is mine. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
I was back in London, in a charming mini-loft style hotel room. While video chatting with my husband, I took the time to scroll through Facebook, mostly to catch myself up on the topics du jour. As I scrolled, I learned that yet another 40 Under 40 list was released and many of my colleagues were selected.
Here’s the thing: 30 Under 30 and 40 Under 40 lists have always depressed me just a little bit. I am never selected and often I feel like my work and my contributions go completely unnoticed. I am on no one’s shortlist of Black or Millennial Excellence. I have never won an award for my work, have never been anyone’s keynote speaker. I have never been referred to as a “rising star.” And whenever these lists are released, I often feel a way about being ignored again.
But this time, something new and different happened:
I literally did not give two sh*ts about not being on this list. I sat there, waiting for the envy and the disappointment to come, and those assholes never showed up.
I felt happy and content with myself in a way I hadn’t in a very, very long time. I didn’t need the validation.
Right there, in a little hotel in Kensington Garden Square, I was comfortable with myself, happy with my journey, and not comparing myself to anyone. I said “F*ck them lists, I’m a rockstar,” took a bite of the macarons I had brought back from Paris, leaned back in my chair, and closed Facebook.
I have experienced job rejection over and over again in the last 10 months, which has almost felt like 10 years. I have watched as others have gotten opportunities handed to them that I have had to beg for. I’ve had to mute and unfollow people when the sadness got to me.
But now, I realize I don’t have to do that anymore.
They say traveling to other countries opens your eyes, but for me, it did more than that. It changed me, and it changed my whole perspective on my career experience. It may never be easy, but I am grateful to London and Paris for showing me there was another way to approach where I’ve been, and where I am going. I left knowing that through it all, I’d do it all again.
My future has never looked brighter than it does right now.