Hi my name is Alissa and I am a
teacher, banker, compliance officer. When you are in between careers what do you tell people? We are so often defined by what we do and not who we are. When the pandemic hit and I found myself out of work, and I realized I had completely forgotten who I was. How does that even happen? The most I can gather is that you go through the motions every day until you are just on autopilot. Despite this being the norm in our country, it isn’t how it should be. I had become so lost in my job and helping others that I literally forgot who I was. So I found myself alone and wondering… what did I even like to do anymore? This is what I knew 1.)I loved to travel 2.)I loved spending time with my friends 3.)I loved volunteering with animals. As you know, I couldn’t very well do any of those things at the time. I decided to set off on a journey of rediscovery, just me, myself, and I.
It would have been so easy to continue to sit on the couch, watch Netflix, and drink wine. But I was determined to use this time to achieve something of value. I had been spending more time on Social Media to feel connected to the world. I found that people were being so creative with their time. I realized that I used to be so much more creative. So I decided it was time to get creative again. It didn’t really matter to me what I did as long as I was creating. I started by coloring. Yes, coloring like I used to when I was a kid- only this time it was Vera Bradley patterns (so grown up). It relaxed me. I was in control of something in the world for those moments. I could choose the patterns and colors. I needed more, so I found something called a jewel painting. It was basically a sticky canvas reminiscent of a paint by number, only instead of painting I had to stick thousands of tiny little jewels to the canvas. It took me about a month, but now I have a bejeweled peacock picture to hang on my wall (I know you’re jealous). If only I could find a job in which I could color and bejewel all day right? Those silly crafts started warming up my brain. I remembered that I loved to read, write, cook, and design. I loved getting lost in the process of creating something and all of a sudden realizing hours had passed. When I was working I usually felt so drained that I had nothing left to give when I got home for the day. It is hard to be creative in that type of environment. I would fall asleep attempting to read, and inspiration for writing had temporarily left me, I cooked because I had to eat, and I couldn’t even design my life. Now I had nothing but time and I was forced to stay home, so here is what I rediscovered.
I decided it was time to start cooking in my crappy little 1970’s style kitchen. I donned my aprons that I literally only used to bake Christmas cookies for the cookie exchange at work. I dusted off cook books that I maybe took out once a year for holidays. I started following my favorite cooks on social media to see what they were cooking up. I basically got creative in the kitchen. I always loved trying my hand at Italian recipes since it is part of my heritage. I made pasta dishes and even Gnocchi (Italian potato dumplings) from scratch. I remembered that when I traveled to Greece I had promised myself I was going to learn how to make traditional Greek Tzatziki sauce (which I still haven’t quite perfected). I’ve also always had a fascination with southern cooking. There is something about how much tradition and love goes into their cooking. I tried cornbread, chicken and dumplings, casseroles, and different salads. I really started to enjoy cooking again. When I cooked I didn’t think about much, just how the dish turned out. I was relieved when it was safe to share my dishes with my family. My parents and I had quarantined for almost 2 months. It felt good to interact with other people again and to not eat all of the food myself. I even started to receive a fresh produce delivery each week and I started trying new and healthy ingredients. I forgot that getting creative in the kitchen could be fun, and I’m glad I had time to rediscover it.
To understand my next discovery I have to return to the afternoon I got laid off for moment. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I went outside and I started raking. If you know me, you are probably thinking that it’s very out of character. I don’t really like to be cold, dirty, or wet. I thought it was weird too, but I just needed to do something that required energy and no thinking. Things had just thawed out and spring cleaning needed to be done in the yard. The fresh air and the smell of wet dirt and grass seemed to sooth my soul. I raked for I don’t know how long and then went inside. I felt a little better. Every day after that I started looking around at the flowers that were poking up through the ground. It was like a slow motion movie. Every day they were just a tiny bit bigger, so exciting! It sounds ridiculous, but I had stopped noticing things like this. I mean when one literally never stops to smell the roses anymore, something has got to be wrong in their life right? I started working in the yard every day from then on. I weeded through a jungle of unruly vines and leaves. I planted beautiful flowers and even grew some vegetables for the first time ever. I had a beautiful tomato plant, a bell pepper plant that only grew 2 peppers, and a giant cucumber vine that I think only yielded maybe 4 cucumbers. But it was fun to learn and grow. I had a ridiculous amount of herbs that I absolutely adored cooking with. I came inside filthy every day and I loved it. I don’t think I enjoyed playing in the dirt since I was a kid making “worm farms” while my Mom planted flowers. There was a freeing feeling about it. I was very sad when the seasons changed and I couldn’t be out there as much anymore. I am looking forward to getting back out there this year and building upon what I learned last year. I am starting to see the tips of my plants poking through the cold ground again and it is exhilarating!
I am glad that I learned to enjoy some of this time that I have had, but it still has been and is difficult. I struggle with not knowing what the future will bring. I haven’t figured it all out, but this time has definitely helped me to get reacquainted with who I am and what I want out of life. Finding my place back in this new world is proving to be quite a challenge. At least now I know that I can introduce myself with a little bit more confidence & clarity.
P.S Remember it is ok to grow and change. Be around people that encourage you to be the best version of yourself, not those that don’t want you to change. Change is hard, but it is a healthy and inevitable part of life, and it is OK to change! This is one of the most important lessons I learned this past year!