If you’re a regular reader of my blog (i.e. my dad, my grandma), you’ve likely noticed it’s been a while since I last posted. To be exact, it’s been over a month since I wrote on this blog. I’m not sure if I can even consider this a blog when that much time passes between posts.
While I don’t want to apologize for my lack of writing or come up with a bunch of excuses for my absence, I do want to fill everyone in on some updates in our lives. Maybe I needed a full month to fully process everything I’m about to share or maybe I just didn’t prioritize the time to write these past 30 days. It’s tough to say.
What’s important is that I’m ready to share some things now. Are you ready?
Here are the big changes in our lives:
Sam got a new job!
We definitely had to keep this on the DL until we could safely share this news, but Sam landed a new job! He is in his second week as a Data Analyst for Label Insight and we couldn’t be happier. The Label Insight office is also located in the West Loop (a 10-minute walk from my office and a 12-minute bike commute from our apartment) so Sam eliminated his previous suburb transportation woes of driving two hours a day in Chicago traffic. It’s a 9-5 job during the week, which means he isn’t working nights and weekends anymore, so we have a lot more time together doing things we want to do. Essentially, the parts of Sam’s previous role that took the greatest toll on our lives are no longer factors.
Perhaps most importantly, I know Sam is going to thrive in his new role. He’s found a company that will reward and recognize his ambition, work ethic, and analytic creativity. Label Insight is an incredible company rooted in a mission Sam and I have fully supported for years: product transparency for consumers, specializing in food products. Sounds suspiciously like Whole30, right? We both knew it was meant to be when Sam’s final interview with the company took place on Day 31 of our Whole30 challenge. Maybe we’re a little sappy about these kinds of coincidences (see below), but it’s how we operate and it works for us. When you know, you know.
Even though we’re really excited for Sam’s new opportunity, we both still have a lot of respect for the sports statistics company where Sam used to work. This was the job that got us to Chicago in the first place. If STATS hadn’t hired Sam a year and a half ago, we wouldn’t be here now. It’s crazy how quickly our lives changed when he was offered the job at STATS, and we wouldn’t change the last 15 months for anything. The opportunity STATS provided enabled us to leave our comfortable bubble for a great big city we’ve grown to love. For that, we will always be grateful.
I’m (very likely) going back to school!
Since graduating from college, I’ve vocally touted my belief that graduate school isn’t worth the hefty price tag. My best friend and I have politely argued the pros and cons of working in a field to gain experience (my path) versus paying to go back to school for a graduate specialization (her path). Well, now I’m eating my words and she’s being really nice about the fact that she’s probably been right all along.
The truth is, I still struggle with the idea of going back to school. Part of me adamantly believes it’s possible to find mentors, cheerleaders, and opportunities through networking and unwavering ambition. This is how I progressed post-college and landed a good, steady job in Traverse City in an industry I wanted to work in. I made connections that allowed me to expand my experiences and skills without paying out the butt for education (perhaps even better, I was getting paid to learn on the job).
But then we moved to a big city. A BIG city. I tried for months to land a job in the Marketing and Communications realm but it wasn’t working out. I didn’t have as many connections here and I didn’t know how to prove my value to companies through only my work experience. Luckily, I found a company I love. Even though I don’t work on the Marketing team, I spend a lot of time generating content and I’m emotionally satisfied. Most importantly, I have the autonomy to execute my ideas, like the live webinar series I started last quarter. I’m happy here, and that’s not something I could say every day when I was still in Traverse City.
In Traverse City, I felt like I was bottling up all my potential and saving it for…what? Some future opportunity? A different company? I had no idea. I was 26 years old and felt like I’d already maxed out whatever it was I was supposed to do with my life, because I guess…well, maybe I was doing what I was supposed to do for the rest of my life. It wasn’t what I wanted for the rest of my life but I couldn’t see how to break out of my career rut while living in the same small town my whole life. I made the choice to marry Sam and dedicate my life to him (no regrets there!), but in doing so I felt I’d given up my dream to live somewhere else. Most of the time I kept this to myself, but in truth, it made me feel claustrophobic.
Spending the last year in Chicago gave me the chance to see my future with a wide-angle lens. I can finally consider what I want out of my future because I feel that I’m in a place now where I can obtain the life I want. Every day I hear stories of people doing amazing, life-changing things. There is no shortage of opportunities here. At every turn, there’s the possibility to try something new and be a part of something great. Perhaps I’m grossly overselling the benefits of living in an urban environment, and I probably sound even more like a small town girl for still having this perspective. But, after feeling the way I felt in northern Michigan for as long as I felt it, Chicago has given me the emotional fresh air I needed. I didn’t even realize I was holding my breath for all those years until I moved here.
So how does this relate to going to grad school? Great question. Sorry about that non-sequitur.
In short, I’ve realized the fastest way to advance my career is to get a degree that proves my capabilities. Landing a job in a new city with just a few years’ experience was really, really hard. I don’t want to face that again. If I move to a new place or pursue a new company, I don’t want to secure another low-paying entry-level position when I have the skillset and ambition to operate at a higher realm. Now that I have some experience doing what I love to do, a Master’s degree will further highlight my capabilities and back up my credibility. As an added bonus, the educational opportunities here align with what I’d want out of a graduate program: highly competitive and nationally reputable.
Since the start of the year, I’ve weighed my options about going back to school or not going back to school. To say it’s been a major time suck is a huge understatement—hence my blog hiatus. I’ve attended school open houses and gathered everything I need to start applying so I can start either this summer or fall. I’m frantically studying for the GRE (essentially teaching myself algebra all over again) and taking the test in three weeks. I’ve had long, difficult, and important conversations with Sam about what this means for our time together, our finances, and, ultimately, our future careers. Any spare moment I’ve had in the last five weeks has gone towards pursuing this goal.
Two weeks ago, I was riding my bike home from work that night with all these thoughts swirling in my head. I still couldn’t decide if it’s worth dedicating the next two years of my life to getting a degree after spending so long hyping the experience-over-education mantra. My eyes often hurt from staring at a computer all day, so I exercise them at stoplights by looking at far-away objects. On this particular night, I looked up at a railroad track and saw a train parked on the tracks above the street a few hundred feet away. The train car I could see had this identification number printed on the side:
I know this means nothing to you. But it means everything to me. I knew in that very second that I am supposed to go back to school and pursue my goals. See, it breaks down like this:
CMO stands for Chief Marketing Officer, which is my loftiest and highest career goal. Someday, I’d like to be the CMO for a company I’m passionate about. It’s scary to say this dream aloud sometimes because admitting it makes it feel too real, but it is what I truly aspire to achieve in my career.
10470 is a sign that only members of my mom’s family will understand. My mom grew up in a house with the address 1047 and lived there from the time she was a baby until she married my dad. For as long as I can remember, my mom’s family has fondly referred to my grandparents’ house as simply “1047.” Even when I was a kid, my mom would point out every instance of this number. The grocery bill was $104.7. A phone call came in at 10:47 am. Our hotel room was just a few down from room #1047. Just a few weeks ago, my mom texted me that a girl with the number 1047 on her race bib finished just a few minutes before my dad in his cross-country ski race.
To my mom and her family, 1047 holds a lot of significance. Maybe they interpret it as my grandparents directing their lives from heaven or inputting their presence into our everyday lives. Maybe it’s just a really common number that happens to occur frequently in the natural world. Maybe it’s just a nice way to remember their childhood in their family home every time they see those four digits together. Whatever its significance, recognizing this number in the world is something that’s been instilled in me. I can’t help but feel I’m on the right path or making a good decision whenever I see the number 1047.
When I saw “CMO” right above “10470” on that train a few weeks back, I knew that going back to school was the right choice. It’s not going to be the easiest choice, and I’m sure I’ll struggle through a lot of tough moments in the coming years, but I also know that this is a dream I have to chase. Again, Sam and I probably place too much weight on serendipitous coincidences—like some numbers on a train car or his final interview at a food transparency company taking place on the last day of Whole30—but this is how we live our lives and somehow it hasn’t guided us wrong yet.
I still need to apply, but right now my goal is to pursue a Master in Science of Marketing at either Northwestern University, Loyola University, or DePaul University. I’ll keep you posted once my applications are in and I have to make a decision, but I’m very excited to see what the new few months bring!
Those are the biggest changes to our lives in the past month. I’m sorry I threw it all down here in one big mess of words, but sometimes that’s how I operate. Lots of other things happened this month, too:
- we hosted a friend from out of the country for about a week
- we officially started training for RAGNAR Cape Cod and our half-marathon in April
- we became residents of Illinois (finally!!)
- I attended a rad conference at the Google office
- we visited the Chicago Botanic Garden
- Sam surprised me a trip to my childhood dream destination
- I came down with a seriously bad head cold yesterday…which is the only reason I had the time to write all this down after taking four weeks off
I know that this is the stuff of life, but it feels like we jammed a lot of life into the past month. There have been changes big and small, and I needed time to process all these thoughts before staring at a blank blog post and trying to figure out what to say.
Thanks for your patience, and props if you’ve made it to the end!