Labyrinth

How many of you reading this are living your best life? Are you doing what you truly love? What did you want to be when you were growing up? I was all over the place. I wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be a fashion designer. I wanted to help people and be a social worker. I truly believe that you can be in that role that your heart desires if you are focused on that target and work hard for it. And sometimes, being in the right place at that the right time is the universe’s way to get you there (even if it doesn’t land in your lap, but nearby).

My career has been all over the place and every position I’ve held has had the same common thread of taking me out of my comfort zone and challenging my skills. I started working consistently at 16 years old. Besides babysitting, I worked for a small manufacturing company. My role was an assembly assistant and I worked in a closet-sized room tinning electrical components. I was grateful to my uncle for the summertime job, but it was complete drudgery. With no real human interaction for most of the day, I found myself talking and laughing to myself. A couple of times, he walked in on me as I was doing this and asked if I was okay. I’m sure he thought I was in some hallucinogenic state because the fumes or thought I had lost my mind. I went on to hold a few administrative positions, being young and being female always made for an interesting mix throughout my career but especially at this company…so many times I wasn’t taken seriously and constantly felt the creeper vibe from from my older male counter parts.

I adopted this mantra when I was 18 years old when I was told I was too young, too inexperienced, and a female in a male dominated organization.

I moved on to work for Cardinal Health (it was Allegiance at the time I started). I began a role in an accounts payable position that worked directly with suppliers. My role was to defuse any potential credit holds in order to make sure the supplies flowed to our customers and ultimately the patients that needed them. That lasted a year, when a position for an executive assistant to the VP/GM opened up. I had no experience in this area but what attracted me was that the position included building a community relations presence for the leader and the company. So before the interview, I played with PowerPoint for the first time and “presented” to him. He later told me he was impressed that I learned the software just for the interview. We worked side-by-side for the next 5 years. I supported his work, defused even more difficult situations, planned visits for leadership and worked to get the organization involved in the community.

A position in the HR department opened up, the role was half-time training and half-time community relations. I had gotten my teaching fix (remember, childhood career goals) by teaching catechism and facilitating the Junior Achievement program over the past 5 years, but adult facilitation was something else. I decided for this interview I would facilitate the “making the donuts” lesson from Junior Achievement’s 2nd grade curriculum. It was both an individual and group lesson, and it emphasized working together for impact. I was welcomed to the team with open arms and a sense of humor (thanks, Flora). I spent the next ten years facilitating leadership and developmental training, I worked to make sure our organization was well-known in the community as a good corporate citizen (and fulfilled my desire to do social work–I realized in college when I was working on my psychology degree, that I would be a horrible social worker because I couldn’t leave it at the office, so instead, I could fund and provide volunteers to organizations that did this work) and that employees who were motivated to give back had all the tools they needed to do so. I loved my team and what I did, because every day was different and empowering. I would tease my manager and colleagues that I didn’t have tissue in my office because the employees who came to see me weren’t dealing with employee relation issues, but instead were coming to volunteer or talk about training opportunities. Well that bit me in the butt, the first time our manager and specialist were out of the office. A woman appeared at my door eyes swollen and asked if she could close the door and talk. Then I thought, “Oh crap, I have no tissue”.


Hello friends,
 
As many of you know Cardinal Health is transitioning some work from the local business unit. I may have shared with you that I would not be in this role past the end of the calendar year. However due to business needs, my actual last day with the company is Friday, August 9th.
 
I have absolutely loved the role I have played in building a better community and am grateful for the opportunity to work with you over the past 16 years. I will continue to be heavily involved, volunteering on several boards/committees and of course fundraising until I find my next role. My hopes are to continue to have a similar impact that the one with Allegiance Healthcare/Cardinal Health has afforded me. Much of my role was storytelling, and one medium I did that through was with photos, so I thought I’d include a few of my favorite below.
 
Pas au revoir, au lieu de cela jusqu’à ce que nous nous reverrons!
Dara

That role ended and I wasn’t sure what I would do next. I applied for several positions I thought I’d be a shoe-in for, with no luck.

I was working on the seasonal, local United Way campaign when the opportunity to invest and become a partner in a local clothing boutique was presented to me. Again, I had no retail background. I had no small business background. I loved fashion and I loved working with the community, so like the dreamer that I am, I fell into the trap when I was told that those things can be learned along the way and what the store really needed was some new energy and my network to thrive. I bought it hook, line and sinker…well, that and the fact that a clairvoyant, Dallas (her story is ruminating in my mind, so you’ll learn more soon), told me I was in a crossroads in my life and that I was going to be a small business owner. Sage advice right (for some I’m sure the word “sucker” comes to mind)?!?

So, I cashed out my 401K. Invested half of it in the store to pay past debt and buy some inventory. Lived off the rest for a spell, because I also lost out on about $120K in salary I was no longer bringing in. I loved working with the customer. I loved buying. I loved creating community partnerships. Was I a good seller?!? Oh, hell no! I am not a high pressured sales person and I didn’t want to utilize my network in that way. At the same time, New Mexico was still coming out of the Great Recession. The store closed approximately 2 years later. My business partner and I had the text book falling out (the one that says you should never go into business with friends and this is why…). Four years later, I’m still paying off the debt I accumulated. But if I could go back and change it, would I? No, I needed that experience and adversity to enrich my life. We learn from failure. I learned what I loved. I lived and came out the other side through with this hearty experience.

“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion because you are being brave, I am not interested or open to your feedback about my work. PERIOD. (you can’t take criticism and feedback from people who are not being BRAVE with their lives).”

Brene Brown (God, I love her–thanks Erica)

Because of the experience, I realized I now have the most incredible people surrounding me. I decided I wanted to continue working with the customer but in a smaller, working in the baby pool, kind of way. I get asked all the time, “where do you see your brand in 5 years”. I used to say, “on all the major runways and all in the major department stores.” I no longer see it that way. I want to see it in new places I’ve never been before. So in designing, I get to accomplish the four things I hold dear: creating beauty, traveling, meeting new people/working with dear ones, and writing about it all. I want to see my designs on people who find them to be an investment, and are comfortable, confident and feel beautiful in what I have designed for them. If they tell others, then that is a bonus and I don’t have to spend so much time on social media marketing (LOL).

Retail and apparel is in this weird evolutionary place and I won’t jump all in again like I did before. So, for a few years after the store closed, I retreated and went back to center. I focused on my skills and abilities and worked with non-profit organizations in varying ways: development, fundraising, grant-writing, event planning, HR, communications, and start-up. Again, I was working closer in this social worker space and I was right. There were several instances that I brought issues home with me and I had to remind myself, we all have choices in life. It was hard that at times. I felt like I cared more than the individual in the situation. My most recent role was working with HR and company leaders to understand where their employees financial well-being and beyond wages how to help them move positively on the financial spectrum through building assets. I now had that lived experience under my belt and while I wasn’t a financial adviser, I knew what it was like to have income volatility, living paycheck-to-paycheck, and no savings. That’s when the next plot twist in my life’s story occurred.

I’m pretty active on LinkedIn and was utilizing it quite a bit for my role at Prosperity Works. I have a good-sized network and tend to get frequent direct messages. Most of the time it’s someone saying, “thanks for connecting”, trying to sell me something, or the creepy guy making inappropriate comments (P.S. this is not a dating site), when I got a message just as I was preparing for Los Angeles Fashion Week. The message said:

“Dara Sophia,

My name is XX and I’m an Executive Recruiter with Macy’s. I came across your profile through my sourcing efforts on LinkedIn and was very impressed with your background. I would like to see if you would be interested in exploring the My Stylist Executive opportunity we currently have open at our Macy’s Coronado Center location…”

Okay that stopped me in my tracks, but I did a little investigating and found out it was legit. I was intrigued so I asked for the job description. Reviewed it and the first question had me, “Love being around people and making them happy?” The second question, pulled me in further, “Good at finding the right thing to complete an outfit?”. Then I had a hard stop at, “As part of our sales team…” Heart palpitations, sweaty palms and irrational breathing started to occur. Did I want to go back into retail and sales?!? But I threw caution in the wind and continued the conversation. I submitted my resume and the first conversation occurred. I want to be in NYC in the next 5 years. This is my opportunity to expedite this goal. I LOVE working with people and when I see someone come out of the fitting room smiling ear-to-ear, my purpose is fulfilled. I also learned that I will be representing the brand in the community, building events within the store, and playing again in the corporate philanthropy side. Still, I wasn’t sure if I could do “retail” again.

On my most recent trip to NYC, I spent time with a friend, with whom I had some thoughtful conversations. One night at dinner, I asked him his “why”. I have always known my “why” is to help people by understanding what motivates them and connecting them to what will help them grow, self-actualize, or have a life changing experience. He encouraged me to go for it. He knows how much I want to be in NYC and one point said, “Just hurry up and get here already.” On one of my wandering days, I went to Herald Square and sat in front of the Grand Dame Macy’s among the tulips and daffodils and really pondered the thought. I loved the team I was working with and really started to get in my grove in the work I was doing.

In meeting and talking with what would be my leadership team, and the fact that they were offering me everything and more in my requests…would I be a fool to turn it down?

I returned back and accepted the position. Again, heart palpitations, sweaty palms and irrational breathing started to occur. I gave my notice and Macy’s wanted me to start almost immediately.

11:11

On my first day, when I received my employee id number, I knew I was in the right place (if you read 365 Days, you’ll completely understand). Once I hit the floor, I was reminded that retail is a lot like pregnancy: your feet swell, your sleep patterns are erratic, you don’t eat right. The first time around you don’t know what to expect, but the second time when those labor pains set in (or those sales goals), you think to yourself, “What the HELL was I thinking, I take it back, I don’t want to do this again…” yet when it’s all said and done, you feel a sense of accomplishment and relish in the beauty.

In my first week, I worked with the leadership team to support “Dress for Success” presentations, connected with local media and film industry professionals, had a fun season trends session with local influencer and TV personality, Casey Messer, hosted two personal styling sessions, attended community events (thanks to my friends who had extra seats at their tables), spent time on the floor talking with customers (and not just about fashion but what’s happening in their lives) and learning about all the brands, worked with my colleagues to understand what they do and how I could help them without the feeling that I’m going to be stealing their sales, and had a blast at the cosmetic counters. Believe me, it was a thoroughly exhausting week. If you are doing what you love, it won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it! I can’t wait to get at it again.

I’m not going to lie. I did click on this link from the intranet in my first week. Definitely a carrot dangling in front of me to overachieve my goals.

I don’t need to tell you that life isn’t a straight line. I’m sure you can share with me all your winding stories about bumps in the road, side-tracked adventures and even big time failures, but there are those moments when you feel like that carrot or piece of cheese will get you to where you want to be, so my advice is go for it even if you start small, you won’t regret living your best life.

Oh, and because I have freakin’ audacious goals, please feel free to comment on this post, email me, or shoot me a text to schedule your personal stylist appointment (and thank you to those of you who have already taken advantage of my service). Let’s go shopping! Or if you want to have something created especially for you…Hopeless + Cause Atelier is your choice. Just indicate how I can aid you in your personal style or look.

“The wilderness is where all the creatives and prophets and system-buckers and risk-takers have always lived, and it is stunningly vibrant. The walk out there is hard, but the authenticity out there is life.”

Brene effing Brown, Braving the Wilderness

With light and love,
Dara Sophia

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