Earlier this week, I spent a few days right back at the beautiful spot where I had my first night in the van just over a month ago. Despite the dreamy disposition of that lead, I slept like shit on the first night. Hard to have optimism. By the way, camping friends. If you have tips for comfortable sleep, please send them my way.
Needless to say, I was in a shit mood. I spent the last week moving boxes out of an apartment and my body was already aching. My flight home was very delayed and I went to bed at 3 am the night before. Not sleeping before my first day back to work felt like a test from some God I do not like. At all.
I convinced myself to take a walk to wake up and mentally prepare for Monday. A stupid walk for my stupid mental health. I’ll admit, it took the edge off. I didn’t explicitly want to cuss anyone out after 10 minutes of wandering, so I was calling it a win.
As I started back toward my campsite, I noticed a handful of people lining the shore looking out over the water. The last time I saw people crowded like this, I got to see a manatee and their baby swimming just a few feet from my van. Say what you will about Florida, but the wildlife is absolutely beautiful. It’s like living in an aquarium.
There, just a few feet from the shore, dolphins were swimming. Playing. Wandering through this inlet and making a u-turn back to the gulf. There was something so simple and beautiful about it as they swam. Looking up, I saw an even more simple, silent joy lining the shores as people collected to watch this magnificent moment.
But the best part to me wasn’t the dolphins, although they were majestic as fuck. No, the best part for me was the older person standing next to me. Their energy. The light in their eyes. Y’all, they looked like a kid on Christmas waiting for Santa.
At one point, they whispered to me, “can you believe it? How lucky are we?”
It was the first time in a while someone remarked how lucky I am without knowing the details about the van. About Three Ears. About my life.
I just kept thinking, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this. I’m so lucky, you don’t even know.”
See, I didn’t grow up in a family of adventurers or creatives. I didn’t even meet an entrepreneur until I was in my 20s. And even more rare? An optimist.
I grew up with pessimists. At their most positive, I’d call them realists. People raised on generations of stories and hard experiences that convinced them God didn’t care. That life would always be the same. That they were being punished. I watched as they wrecked themselves thinking that’s what work was. That’s what life was – a long term commitment that kills your optimism a little every day.
As I first shed the idea that I would grow up to make that work commitment too (too gay), then shed the idea that I had to be angry all the time, I could feel things starting to change. Fewer rules, fewer reasons to be angry, I guess.
Then a question I never asked before: what exactly is optimism?
For me, asking the question helped me realize that “happy” is not a state of being. It’s a feeling – just like angry, happy, sad – and feelings are fleeting. Optimism is no different. It isn’t about being positive all the time, either. I don’t think that’s possible. Life sucks. We don’t sleep sometimes.
Optimism is about seeing silver linings and finding a way to give thanks in everything. It’s not big adventures and YOLO moments, it’s noticing the sunrise and taking 10 minutes for a walk. It’s stopping on the side of the road to see what everyone is so excited about.
Appreciating the dolphins and the joy they inspire in someone’s eyes.
Optimism is also the fuel for dreams and why I am the first entrepreneur in my family. The first to break the mold and skip the pessimist’s pension and pain model for work and life.
But I know that I’m so blessed for that chance. It’s rare that someone with a background like mine creates a company. Lives their dreams. Even more rare? They become an optimist.
However, you don’t Google “optimism” when you’re looking for a new job – and if you grow up in a family that was fueled by pension funds and 20 year military careers, it’s hard to imagine a different path. It’s even harder to know what job to look for in the first place.
That’s why I wrote this week’s blog. It’s to every job seeker’s advantage – no matter their background – to expand their career search and find the right job, not just another soul sucking paycheck. While I can’t tell you if the job will suck, I can help you discover a great job in the first place and this blog will show you how.
Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.
Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.
Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.