Off with the Leadership Mask

kitchen office space

I spend a great deal of time thinking about leadership. Specifically how it ping-pongs from rewarding and inspiring, to terrible and deflating, often within the same hour.

For me, the past year has illuminated the wonderful and awful importance of being an authentic leader. The kind of leader that takes their mask off to be a whole, vulnerable person.

There’s an unspoken lie floating around that leaders need to have it all figured out. That we need to keep it together so everyone else can keep it together. Sure, we need to bring steadiness to the storm. But sometimes you gotta read the room. 

Rewind to late-May 2020…

We were months into what we thought would be a two-month pandemic, my organization had just gone through a staff reduction and our country was literally ablaze as we tackled racial injustice with a fervor our generation hadn’t before seen.

On top of this, my dad had been alone in the hospital for weeks, my aunt just passed away from an aggressive cancer, my friends and family … Read the rest

In with the Impermanence

“An empty carton of Pall Mall cigarettes. Of course!” I laughed to myself and kept walking down the sidewalk. It’s in these moments I wished I could reach out and let him know.

“Him” being this dude I dated on-and-off for way too long. My latest garbage-day discoveries from “QAnon Neighbor’s” recycling bin was one of maybe three things we had actual conversations about. Why did I try so hard to make something stick with him? And why does it aggravate me that he’s no longer part of my life? Like, block-and-ignore-me out of my life.

I’m annoyed because I’ve had a successful track record of keeping former boyfriends as friends. I’ve never understood where the love goes at the end of a relationship. Like your soul reincarnating when you die, my past loves mostly reincarnate as besties with whom I can eat massive quantities of bar food.

I agree it’s not always a healthy or realistic choice. And everyone’s entitled to spend their emotional energy in a way that aligns with their boundaries. … Read the rest

In With the Bookends

When I see my friends post pictures of their young kids in matching outfits, I think it’s pretty adorable. I imagine one of the most fun parts about having kids is making them wear ridiculous things. Want to know what’s less fun? Being part of the sibling pair that has to wear a matching outfit. 

Sissy and I weren’t immune to this. Attending a wedding and wearing a dress that shared a flower pattern with my sister’s dress may be my earliest memory of my independence being under attack. 

As we got a little older and developed our individual style, we’d sometimes share clothes, but would never dream of getting ANYTHING that matched. “Don’t copy me!” with a “Don’t boss me!” retort were common mid-90s refrains – set to a Luscious Jackson soundtrack – that I can still hear in my head today.

Here’s the thing about matching with your biological sibling, even if you’re not wearing similar clothes, you’re wearing similar DNA. Whether you like it or not, you’re matching. You can’t get away … Read the rest

In with the Giant Pupper

Dear Charlie Choochootrain,

Several times in the three years since adopting you, I’ve considered how much easier life would be without a 120-pound animal in my house. The freedom that comes from not having dependents has always been attractive to me.

However, as I think over the past year, I don’t know the person I would be without you. Not only was I learning how to do life alone, but I was smacked with doing it in isolation during a pandemic. You were my main source of social interaction and affection.

At first, the pandemic was fun. We went on so many walkies, took “Rs in the Car” with loud tunes, and played games between my web meetings. As the months passed and heaviness piled on, it became less fun.

There were days when I’d retreat to the floor and cry. You’d lumber over and put your paw on me. Sometimes you’d heap your heavy body onto my lap and peek over your shoulder while I used your back as a giant Kleenex. Your insistence … Read the rest

In with the January Music

It’s the time of year when I listen to Tegan and Sara. Do you have music you listen to at certain times of year? And I’m not talking about Christmas music. Or Halloween music – is that a thing?

Certain months require specific soundtracks. Elliott Smith = October. My Brightest Diamond = November. Blonde Redhead = April. 

One of my favorite Tegan and Sara songs is, “Are You Ten Years Ago?” Not only do I love the frenetic vibe of the song, but I’m asking myself that question lately. “Seriously Jenna, are you 31 right now?” 

Elements of life feel like déjà vu: recently out of a significant relationship, living independently with freedom to find my footing and spend my time selfishly. Even people from ten years ago are reemerging. Familiar restless energy courses through me, begging to know where we’re headed next.

Maybe we’re all on a ten-year loop of repeating patterns, hobbies and fears? I have nearly two decades of journals stacked in my closet, and pulled one from ten years ago to … Read the rest

In with the Fictional Federal Agents

I think about Jack Bauer often. Like a lot. Lately the world feels like a place where he would thrive.

It’s been nearly seven years since “24” went off the air, and he still pops into my head almost weekly. And don’t try to sell me on that “Designated Survivor” crap. I sat around waiting for him to torture and kidnap people and grew more disappointed as each episode passed. I don’t like my Kiefer level-headed and diplomatic.

When the world gets Jack-Bauer-level weird…like it has the past couple weeks (or months or years), I try to remind myself of the things we can control. Things like the simple actions we take as we move around the world. Things like kindness.

When I say “kindness,” you have a definition that pops into your head. A vision of what it looks like and how it feels to receive kindness. While you and I may have adjacent definitions, I guarantee they’re different. Each of us has a different vision, and I love that about us.

Kindness can mean … Read the rest