I Ended Up Butt Naked on Stage at a Conference

“Hi, I’m the VP of Learning for a Fortune 500 company.” 

“Hi, I sit on the executive board for XYZ organization”. 

“Hi, I am the 2018 Recipient of XYZ award.”

There was a point in my life that I was consumed by titles. I attended all the local networking events, spoke at national conferences and sat on executive panels. (Well, I still do all of those things but hear me out…)

In 2016, I was scheduled to sit on a leadership panel. I had all of my talking points prepared, business cards ready and a brand new Calvin Klein skirt suit. I was going to kill it! As I was driving to the event, I received a call from my boss. She informed me that the company decided to restructure and my department had been eliminated….effective immediately. Wait, what? As I waited to hear how my position would be rolled into a different department and what my new title and responsibilities would be…deep down..I knew it was over. And it was. 

An hour later, I sat on stage stripped of the title ,that I felt at the time, landed me as a panelist on that very stage. I had never felt so naked. I was seated in the third seat and was sweating bullets as I heard the first two panelists introduce themselves with their fancy titles. When it was my turn, for the first time in my life I choked. “Hi, ummm…uhh, I’m Kisha.” 

There was a collective gasp followed by pure, absolute silence. My heart was pounding and a lone cricket in the back of the auditorium made his presence known. I had shamed my ancestors, I’d never work in this city again….well, in my mind that’s what was happening. In real life, the program proceeded without incident and I was met with the usual “Great job!” “Let’s do lunch soon” and the obligatory pictures. I stood there with a fake smile plastered on my face feeling stripped, vulnerable and naked. I had nothing to hide behind.

I made a vow that I would never allow myself to feel like that again. I needed to..insert air quotes… find myself.  I cringe at how cliché that sounds as I type this, but hear me out. The three life changing lessons I learned while on the butt end of a workforce imbalance correction (google creative ways to fire someone, lol): 

  Get Back to the Basics As a child, I loved reading and would staple college ruled notebook paper together to write books. Somewhere between writing 20 page essays in college and boring proposals at work, I lost my love for writing. During the involuntary career transition opportunity (thanks Google), my former employer so graciously provided (I promise I’m not bitter), I started writing again. I began journaling daily, contributing to blogs and drafting pitch emails for my entrepreneur friends. I even took a persuasive writing class at the local community college. I didn’t have a goal in mind like writing a book or starting a blog (yet, here we are), I just truly enjoy writing. 

 Party of One When you spend time alone you find out a lot about yourself. I’m an extrovert so being alone felt like rejection. Naturally, I begin to plan brunches, shopping dates and anything I could think of to have something to do.  After a few weeks of canceled lunch and cocktail dates with friends, I stopped waiting on other people and began doing things alone. I started small by going to local coffee shops with my laptop to read or fill out job applications. After a while, Groupon became my best friend. I tried new restaurants, visited local vineyards, attended random $10 concerts..you name it! Under the guise of being ‘too busy’ before, I realized I was missing out on life! At the time, I didn’t realize that these very experiences were adding value that a title could never…

Do Not Compromise As I neared the end ( I didn’t know it at the time) of my career alternative enhancement, I decided that there were certain things I would no longer give up for a title. Family time, peace of mind and the ability to do what I love being at the top of the list. At the rate I was going, I’d probably have been an Executive Vice President at a global organization by 40…and looking and feeling 70. But, hey, I’d have the fancy title, right? Wrong. My priorities have shifted. I am still ambitious and have huge dreams that I will accomplish…in my own way and in my own time.

Today, I’m happy to stand in front of any room butt naked. “Hi, my name is Kisha. I’m a super mom. I’m a creative, serial hair changing, frequent twerker that laughs at the most inappropriate times. It’s nice to meet you.”