I saw a tweet the other day about stories that capture your personality as a kid. I love those stories, reminiscing about moments that confirm your essence early on. It’s pretty wild to realize your personality was forming so long ago. I told a story about a spelling bee on Twitter, but in today’s letter I want to tell you a different story. It’s one about silver linings.
As a kid, I was obsessed with following the rules. I did not want to get in trouble. Remember, my mom was a military officer. No one wanted to get in trouble with her. I met grown men who had gone into combat that were scared of this woman. I was no exception.
One of the many rules of my childhood that I distinctly remember was the rule that we were not allowed to touch the weight rack in the garage. If you have kids, I think you already know what happens next.
Some friends came over. I was trying to show off, carrying a 25 pound plate very carefully to the rack. I remember the sensation and the heaviness on my finger tips. I was almost to the rack when I heard my mother’s voice from the doorway. “Drop it,” she said with that signature stern tone that scared everyone she encountered.
I followed orders. I dropped it. But there’s a catch. There was a foot between that plate and my garage floor. I broke all of my toes on my right foot at once.
That’s not the signature part of the story, even if getting hurt doing mundane things was a theme of my childhood.
The part that shows my personality happened when I got to the ER and asked the doctor his name and why he wanted to be a doctor. I remember the curious look he gave me. “Kids your age don’t usually ask me questions,” he said with a smile, then looked at my mom. “Smart kid, minus the weight dropping thing.”
I proceeded to make friends with everyone in that ER by asking curious questions and telling my silly story to anyone who would listen. I still do that. Storytelling is kinda my thing, clearly. I still break rules around polite conversation, asking different questions to distract from mundane answers. I want to see a little of someone’s truth – with strangers and soulmates alike.
I’m comfortable, proud even, of breaking that rule – but the other rules I made up for myself? Not so much.
I find myself obsessing over the rules. The way it’s “supposed to be,” whatever the hell that means. There’s not enough therapy in the world to start to dissect how I made all these rules up, to understand where they come from, and how I came to know that they are true. I spent most of my days trying to create rules to make my life feel right. Sometimes, the rules were about work. I had to work hard to have “enough” money, an amount I never quite calculated – just endlessly chased. I made rules about who I could love. Rules about if anyone could love me. How I could dress. I lived a lot of life as if without these rules, I was walking a tight rope with no safety net. It would be the end of everything if I fell.
Death and endings swept in over the last few years, and a few times over the last few weeks, as a not-so-gentle reminder that rules don’t matter. Rules are made for replaceable things. People? People are not replaceable.
So, in this world where only people matter, I want to live without rules around polite conversation. I want to live for connection. I want to live for silver linings – sharing a smile with a stranger. Laughter at a funeral. Coffee to celebrate the first snow. Seeing the best in everyone. Sitting in an ER with 5 broken toes and 5 new friends.
These moments of small joys and connection feed my soul, not following the rules. I’d like to believe we could all make this world better by seeking out those silver linings instead of questioning why others aren’t following the rules we made for living. Instead of holding ourselves accountable to rules we didn’t make up and follow blindly. That if we do that? We can make even the darkest days sparkle.
It’s the small things that make life better and in honor of Trans Awareness Week, I wrote about a small thing everyone can do to support the trans community. It is about adding education, not just pronouns, to your email signature. Free template, easy to do. You can read that here.
Bonus: you’ll totally help spread the good word about my company. If you’ve ever asked how you can help, this is your moment to shine. Please share this. Don’t just add it to your email signature. Tell your team. Tell your entire company. Hell, tell the world.
I hope you have a great weekend (and hopefully a whole life) full of silver linings –
Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.
Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.