3 lessons I learned on my 3,000-mile commute

Laid-off creative director Kate Kemp accepts a new job across the country, and learns a few lessons on her 3,000-mile commute from New York to Seattle. This is the 11th in a 13-part series.

By Kate Kemp, Monster contributor

It was stupid early in the morning. Like, too-early-to-deal-with-making-coffee early. And, even if I could’ve scraped enough energy together to brew some for the road, it wouldn’t have mattered. The movers had stuffed our kitchen gear into a jam-packed moving truck days before and headed out of Brooklyn toward Seattle: The city of my new employer.

As I walked toward our rented minivan with my dog, Chapo, sleepily pit-patting behind me, I thought about how crazy the previous 70 days had been. I could still remember exactly how I felt stepping onto the swarming street in front of my Manhattan agency for the last time, severance paperwork in hand. After that awful post-layoff moment, it took a little time to get my portfolio and my head together. I hadn’t wanted to believe the people who told me everything would work out for the best, but, considering I was officially on my way to a promising new job in a beautiful new city, I couldn’t say they were wrong.

I scooped Chapo up with both arms and helped him settle onto a palette my boyfriend had made him behind the driver’s seat. Over the next 3,000 miles, my dog would cuddle with his favorite stuffed toy while I’d consume approximately 5 million calories in truck stop junk food, drink a silo’s worth of coffee and get reminders of three important lessons on the road.

1. CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF (AND YOUR DOG)

The week before I left, I said goodbye to all the amazing friends I’d made in New York over coffees, cocktails and tattoo needles. I also binged on bagels, dollar slice pizza and all the other foods I knew I wouldn’t get in Seattle. What I did NOT do was the important adult stuff everyone SHOULD do before they head across the country.

Some advice for those who haven’t hit the road for a new job yet: Go see all your doctors and beauty care peeps and, while you’re at your final appointments, ask your current service providers to recommend people in your new location so you don’t have to desperately search for someone once you get there. Also, if you have a Chapo equivalent, make sure you you take him to the vet for a final checkup and to get any records you may need.

Truth is, you can’t plan for everything. There was no way for me to predict that Chapo would get sick in the middle of snowy South Dakota or that we’d drive to three different vets before we’d find one that treated dogs instead of emus. At some point you’re going to say “I CAN’T BELIEVE I FORGOT TO [something yell-worthy]!” And that’s OK. You’ll be fine.

So, while you can’t plan for everything, you should probably plan further than a bagel order.

2. GET OUT AND CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE

In New York, I found it surprisingly easy to make excuses to stay home. I was no stranger to 12-hour work days, so time spent off the clock was typically spent playing Fallout 4 or lying on my couch. I convinced myself that, more than anything, I needed rest. But, as I explored new cities, truck stops and monuments across the country, I remembered how energizing it can be to see new things.

Once we were a half-day out of Manhattan, everything looked different. No more crazy cab drivers. No more oozing throngs of tourists. Just the road, the sky and thousands of miles ahead of us. As we drove through mountains and trees toward the sun, I started to breathe deeper.

Had I remained stuck on finding a job in New York, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to explore. Thankfully, I did get to travel across the country and, along the way, meet a crazy waitress who yelled at her customers, used a special appearance from a pen-stealing junkie to get my money back from a seedy motel (don’t ask), and see a tribute to rock and roll made entirely out of corn. These are the kinds of stories you get to tell forever. They’re way more entertaining than stories that start with, “So, I was lying on the couch all weekend and …”

The thing is, getting out of your city (and your head) is far more energizing than a weekend on the couch.

3. FIND A LITTLE JOY EVERY DAY

Although I am most definitely an adult woman, I still watch cartoons every day and will always laugh at a well-timed fart joke. However, because I’d been so stressed while trying to find a new job, I’d lost a lot of my “laugh at the little things” mojo. After the layoff, everything got super serious. Even after the relief of getting a new job, I’d still been forced to say goodbye to things I didn’t want to pack and friends I didn’t want to leave. And, because of that tension, my inner child curled up in a fetal position and waited for the storm to pass.

The more state lines we crossed, the more I started to feel like myself again. I knew I had seven days on the road and seven days in Seattle before my first official day of work. There were no clients or new colleagues to impress. So, when we saw the billboard for the Jolly Green Giant statue, I turned into a five-year-old kid and excitedly begged for a detour so we could see it. The result? A photograph of pure, unfiltered joy and a reminder that, when you open your eyes, you can find happiness damn near anywhere. I say, embrace your own definition of joy and don’t worry about impressing anyone but yourself.

After our week on the road, we finally made it to Seattle.

Until the moment I turned the key into the lock of my new apartment, relocating from New York to Washington for a new job hadn’t seemed real. Even as I opened the door and stepped inside the place I’d now call home, part of me expected a TV crew to appear from a dark corner, shout “CONGRATULATIONS! You’re on our brand new show, 77 DAYS OF STRESS!”, then tell me the whole thing was one big, sick joke.

Luckily, my boyfriend, dog and I were the only people in the apartment. And my road trip reminders to take care the adult stuff, get out of my own head and find joy in the little things were the only thoughts in my head as I collapsed onto my freshly inflated air mattress. It was time to start a new adventure … right after my nap.

Read Part 1: Why it’s OK to cry into a hot dog after you’re let go

Read Part 2: This is what it’s like to wake up unemployed

Read Part 3: Playing ‘Fallout 4’ helped me with my job search

Read Part 4: WARNING: Portfolio revamp may cause existential crisis

Read Part 5: Unemployed? Hire anxiety and depression as your personal assistants

Read Part 6: The art of investigating interviewers

Read Part 7: The path to enlightenment is… unclear

Read Part 8: This four-word rule is your ticket to employment

Read Part 9: When landing a new gig means landing in a new city

Read Part 10: This might just be the most important lesson in job searching

Kate Kemp is currently the Group Creative Director at HackerAgency in Seattle.


Originally published at www.monster.com.

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