Laura in Dallas, Texas

 

For the first time in my life, I spent New Years in New York. I made the
trek from Texas to interview with an agency in Times Square, and decided to
prolong my visit to see the ball drop. Interesting juxtaposition of events.

When I called my mom from Times Square to let her know I had finished my
interview, she responded, "Oh good, honey. I'm sure you did great
... now HANG UP THAT PHONE! DON'T LET YOUR GUARD DOWN!"

 

I believe she is of the school of thought that I would be greeted in New York with an apple and
a mugging. So, not having anyone to talk to, I went to a Starbucks next door
to debrief and reflect. Overwhelmed by the crowd, yet feeling very much
alone, I relocated to a coffee shop down the street where I could have a
little dessert and write.

 

I passed the Naked Cowboy on the way, which made
me miss Texas, but I also felt oddly at home. Two hours and $18 of
refills later, I was still writing about my trip. Looking around, I seemed
to fit in by appearance, wearing a nice suit and carrying a briefcase, and I
enjoyed playing the part of a professional New Yorker.

Then it hit me - what if it actually happens? I first wondered if I would be
offered the job. Where would I live, how would I afford it, how could I
leave my family and friends? But then my mind wandered to the realization
that I had in a way fulfilled one of my dreams: I had just "auditioned" on
Broadway. Granted it was Broadway the street, not the theater, but I've
always been creative so I can tweak the meaning.

I realized that it was a big win just having that opportunity, and I was a
little in awe of where my life had led me in the past year. So, a day short
of the new year, in the heart of Times Square, I reflected on 2004 and the
events leading me to the big apple.

I began the year interning in public relations. By February, I had gone from
intern to gainfully employed in phase one of my career. Which really meant
that I had gone from making $8/hour to making slightly more than that, but
without the perks of overtime pay. But I loved the work, the various
clients, the relationships with the media.

 

In March I was introduced to
Coffeecrew.com, and by April I had contributed my first article. I was
feeling confident, if not a little cocky, that I was swiftly climbing the
corporate ranks. But by June my ladder got a bit shaky. Actually, I just got
pushed off of it completely. As I experienced the sting of corporate
"restructuring" and unemployment, I began phase two of my career: doubt and
reevaluation.


Phase two starts off scary, but it soons turns into an exhilarating search
for something "more." I decided I had a prime opportunity to venture out
into unkown fields, and I contemplated ministry. I spent the summer
traveling with the youth at my church, retracing my own steps as a youth. I
sweated with the junior high as we painted houses in Dallas, and later
played on the beach in Florida. The junior high students redefined the game
"20 questions" as every rule was questioned, every decision debated. "But
I'm not tired ... why do I have to go to bed now?" They expressed their
displeasure at times, but they also expressed their emotions and hearts
freely, wildly and without hesitation. They taught me the value of a
work-and-play balance.

 

A few weeks later, I experienced culture shock in
another country with the senior high as we built cinder block houses in
Mexico. And finally, I experienced culture shock with college students back
in the states, in the mountains of Appalachia, as we repaired homes and
hearts destroyed by poverty.

It was a journey, but one that let me realize I still had not yet found my
calling. Those young adults with whom I spent my summer challenged me to
want more for my life. They don't see their futures with jaded caution or
doubt - they see "a world full of YES," to quote Chicago. Now enter phase
three: if at first you don't succeed ... So I decided to take another stab
at the corporate world, this time in publishing. It was a change of pace
filled with fascinating coworkers, but it didn't take long to realize what I
really wanted was to find my way back to the communications field. Phase
four: nostalgia.

 

I missed the challenges, the deadlines, even the
uncertainty, and I desperately wanted a job that "mattered." A dear friend
of mine likes to quote Bridget Jones, "shut up, please - I am very busy and
important!" It might sound odd, but how I would love for that to feel true!
I love the comforts of Dallas, knowing that most of my relatives and best
friends are within hours of me. But I also fear that I'm putting my life on
hold. All around me, friends are getting married and having babies, and they
are settling down. But I, a month short of my 25th birthday, have nothing
holding me back. My future is too important to let fear sidetrack me. It
just might be time to pack up from my hometown and venture out, if only for
awhile.

I think back to my mom's comment, "don't let your guard down." And while
it's sound safety advice, I wonder if I don't need to do exactly that and
throw caution the the wind. A part of me wishes I could know what 2005 will
bring, but that would spoil the excitement. Big things are coming our way
this year, but we just might have to get on a plane and chase them. Or they
might be in our own towns, disguised as frightening uncertainties, rather
than amazing possibilities. As frightening as it may be, I intend to catch
up to them and see where they lead.


Laura Coward lives and works in Dallas, Texas as a public-relations expert
and writer. She is a regular visitor to the CoffeeCrew website and now feels
good and ready to speak her mind.