Thursday, April 30, 2009

Who Are You & What Are You Supposed to Be Doing With Your Life?

CHICKS ROCK! wants to highlight Kristina's work by re-posting an edited version of a review of her talk Who Are You and What Are You Supposed to Be Doing With Your Life?, originally written by Sophia Karwowski for Manhattan WCO Center.

Kristina Leonardi is founder of The Women’s Mosaic. She is a career/life path consultant, speaker, seminar leader and expert in the areas of women, diversity and personal growth.

Join her for Who Are You and What Are You Supposed to Be Doing With Your Life? this Saturday, May 2. RSVP to see her speak Tuesday, May 5 when she presents: What Now? Turning Job Loss into Opportunity.

On September 4th, many women (and a few men, too) came to the Manhattan Open Center for an event held by Kristina Leonardi, Founder and Director of The Women's Mosaic. She presented a talk entitled "Who Are You and What Are You Supposed to be Doing With Your Life?" an attempt to equip attendees with the tools to apply their unique talents and passions to their professional life in a practical way. Leonardi shared these life lessons in a friendly, non-judgmental way, relating to the people in the crowd as equals with stories and anecdotes from her own varied and non-conventional career path. She explained how she managed to incorporate skills and contacts gleaned from each point in her varied resume into her founding and development of The Women's Mosaic.

Leonardi repeatedly stressed the importance of people who wish to make career changes to examine what they truly want without the distraction of outside influences. For example, she said, family members and friends often persuade a loved one to refrain from making drastic alterations to their lifestyle without meaning to be harmful. Many people claim they want to "help others" in their work but often don't realize this type of work can be harmful if they don't already have a stable self-image in their own life. The only way a person can get to know their true preferences, Leonardi stated, is by spending more time alone and learning to appreciate their own company.

Another neglected aspect of the path to a fulfilling career, said Leonardi, is the recognition and acceptance of one's own unique strengths. Many people have not yet identified the specific talents they possess and that have the potential to empower them in their professional and personal lives. Paying attention to repeated compliments from others and re-visiting one's childhood quirks can offer strong hints to hidden talents that people didn't allow themselves to recognize. The most useful life lesson to come out of this self-search that people should always remember, Leonardi told the audience, is to "do what you love and the money will follow."

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is the Grass Greener?

People who know me know that I can be indecisive about my future. I have had the feeling for some time now that I am “running in place” in almost all aspects of my life, and when I have so many ideas as to what my next steps will be, it can be overwhelming, to say the least.

Some friends and family members have had great success moving to other countries and/or cities to accomplish their goals. It is a leap of faith when someone leaves everything they know to build a life elsewhere. It is nothing new, especially since a primary aspect of human history is migration. As the child of immigrants, I know from my parents how difficult it was to leave their families and friends to realize the American dream. My relatives who remain in India or live in other parts of the world believe that it far too easy for people to achieve financial success in America. Some of them claim to dislike this country and the people, even though they have never been here or had any interactions with Americans (with the exception of my siblings and cousins, of course.) Still, it is apparent to me that most of these naysayers would have jumped at the chance to come to the U.S.A., if they had the opportunity. Those of my relatives who never had any interest to visit this country at the very least (if there are any) are more than willing to ask for, and accept, American dollars from my parents when they come to visit India. “The grass may be greener,” in their eyes, but many of them don’t understand what my parents and other immigrants went through to become successful.

Relocation to another city (or possibly another country) is on the table for me now, especially since my current project is coming to an end. I am keeping myself in check by making realistic and ambitious career goals, and pray that all will turn out well.

Do any of you have plans to relocate, or have you done so already?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rolling Up My Sleeves

I'm not sure how many of you know, but last week was National Volunteer Week. Because I have a regular 9-5 type of job, I couldn't do much of anything during the week. However, this past Saturday, I woke up just as the sun was rising to head down to Brooklyn for Hands On New York Day, sponsored by New York Cares.

I have volunteered with several organizations throughout my life, but there is always something particularly exciting about a project in the park, including a clean-up. You roll up your sleeves and work up a sweat, and the instant gratification you get must have something to do with it too. Raking leaves until you can see the ground might literally take you hours -- but when you finally see the ground, it's a sweet sense of satisfaction.

Plus, I love being outside, and have been trying to spend more time outdoors this year. If nothing else, it was quite a beautiful day to be out in a park! The sun was out and it was in the 70s for most of the day, but the trees kept us cool when we needed it.

There's also something to volunteering in general. I was a bit cranky, and more than a bit exhausted, but I was really excited to participate. I signed up to volunteer with my sister and cousins, and we had a great time being able to work on a volunteer project together. Events like these are also a good way to meet new people who also have an interest in, and dedication to service.

Did anybody else participate in National Volunteer Week or an equivalent to Hands On NY Day? Even if you didn't, do you have stories from past volunteer experiences? It's always interesting to see (or read, as the case may be) about what people like and dislike about volunteering.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Inupiaq Voices

I watched a documentary recently that rather blew my mind: Nipaa Ilitqusipta - The Voices of Our Spirit, produced and directed by Rachel Naninaaq Edwardson. The film screened in NYC and features the Inupiaq community in Barrow, Alaska. It studies the history that led to the decline of their language. Personal interviews illuminate the struggle to reclaim a language whose loss began a few decades ago when Native American children were pulled from their homes and forced to attend assimilationist boarding schools. In that environment, they were denied their traditions and made to feel shame about their culture. Consequently, those indoctrinated couldn’t bring themselves to teach their language to their own children.

It’s a uniquely Inupiaq narrative, yet, by chasing the story of one specific culture in one small corner of the world, the film touches on universal themes of home, family, self, and the search for identity. I sat, slightly weeping throughout the film because it hit pretty close to home.

I admire the film’s ability to touch emotions in someone who has no knowledge or experience of the Inupiaq culture. I was utterly caught up in the narratives, and I felt that the film was somehow telling my story, or at least part of it. The part that wishes I spoke my father's language, or my maternal grandmother's. The part that wants to travel to far reaches of the world and feel that I belong.

I'm finding I'm not alone in this feeling. It doesn't seem to matter what culture we have in our backgrounds - young Americans of many flavors are searching. Wandering. Hungry. Something has happened. Something has kept us from learning these truths. Something has happened, and we are being robbed. I wonder if we spend our entire lives hunting for puzzle pieces – a collection of words, thoughts, feelings, experiences that’ll tell us who we are and what it all means. I watch a film like this and I realize that, no matter how far I’ve come, I’m still searching. There’s a history that I carry, which I feel, but that’s ultimately unknown to me.

Where else should I be looking?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Forum: Guilty Pleasures

Let's switch it up and keep it light today!

We all have some things that we really love but somehow feel we shouldn't: chick lit, soap operas, reality t.v., eating day-old pizza straight out of the box. What are some of your guilty pleasures? We promise not to judge -- just let it out. You never know who has that in common with you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Make Your Voice Heard

Over the past few months, we've gotten the chance to read the stories of some great guest bloggers. These women have shared their experiences, adventures, advice and insight with us and it has helped make this space even more dynamic. We are happy to provide a vehicle for women to use to make their voices heard in a way they might not usually have.

But this can only continue to grow if even more women submit their work and express themselves in this space. So be sure to check out our guest blogger guidelines and email us your submissions. You can read the work of past guest bloggers for inspiration if you'd like, but we also encourage you to listen to your own voice and speak (or write, as the case may be) your own truth. We can't wait to read what you all have to say!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Library: My Personal Sanctuary

I absolutely LOVE libraries. My mother told me that this love began before my first birthday, when she would take me to our local library in the first town I lived in. I was even issued a library card, which I would try to put in my mouth (along with the other cloth books in the children's section), but overall I was a well-behaved baby during my visits. Somehow, I imitated the adults by remaining quiet when I was in this place filled with books, and I loved to look at the pictures and listen to my mother and the library storytellers read from their colorful pages during children’s story hours.

As I grew, my love of books and the library grew with me. I was always excited to go to the library after school or on a Saturday afternoon, because there was always at least one book to discover and check out. I also found that I was more relaxed and productive if I did my work at the library rather than at home. The quiet environment and studious atmosphere continues to inspire me to complete my work.

When I lived in Indonesia for a year, accessible libraries were impossible to find. I missed how easy it was to walk into a library off the street, browse through the aisles, or read books and magazines at a quiet table. There are many book stores there, but the over-eager salespeople and loud customers were always nearby to interrupt. It was during my time in Indonesia that I realized how important libraries are to me. When my sister and I visited Melbourne, Australia right before I moved back to the U.S.A., we purposely visited the State Library of Victoria, which is a beautiful building in and of itself. My sister even took pictures of me looking around at grand library and opening books without my knowing it. I laugh at those pictures now, but at the time I was just so happy to be in a library again.

Do you have personal sanctuaries that are unique to you?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Remembering Legendary Latinas

In celebration of Women's History Month, I wrote a series of posts on my personal blog about the lives of Latinas who have been inspiring and influential to me. I entitled the series Legendary Latinas and wanted to highlight their lives, accomplishments, and what they mean to me personally.

I chose the women to profile a couple of weeks before March began, found some online sources to use, and began rough drafts of each in the hopes that most of my work would be done before the month even started. But I completely underestimated the amount of work the series would be. The posts were hard work! It took a lot of time to research, fact-check and write the posts, and finding links to facts I knew from off-line sources took even longer. Because the women I profiled are so important to me, I also put a lot of my own reflections on what they each mean to me, which added a level of emotional investment I did not anticipate when I came up with the idea.

So, let's just say that while working on the series, I figuratively kicked myself a number of times for ever announcing it in the first place.

Now that a few weeks have passed since I completed my last post, I'm really glad I wrote it. Despite the long nights and hours of work, the series gave me a chance to explore the lives of women I've admired for a long time. It pushed me to become connected to Latina history and Latina issues in a way I've never been pushed to do in the past. On top of the women I actively sought information about, I started to find out about Latinas I had never heard of before or only had limited exposure to.

I've also gotten a lot of positive feedback, and requests to expand the profiles I currently have or write new ones. I still haven't decided whether or not I'll continue the series in some form or another, but I'm definitely happy with the work I did and having accomplished my goal of giving more exposure to these legendary Latinas.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Reckless Ambition (Freelance, Part II)

Here’s the latest evolution in my thoughts about my freelance lifestyle. I’m comfortable with myself and with my work, which is writing books for teens. That’s what I do. It’s part of who I am. Even more so, it’s part of who I want to be. I have goals. I have plans. I work toward those goals. I enact those plans. Yet, at times, it seems to be not enough.

I believe I’m ambitious, because I want things and I work for them. Where I run into trouble is when I’m dealing with others. In this society, ambition is narrowly defined. This isn’t a choose-your-own-adventure kind of life, according to some. I’ve been accused of being unambitious. I’ve been accused of giving up, because I didn’t go to medical school, like I thought I might. I didn’t go to law school, like I thought I might. I’ve quit jobs I hated that could have led me to jobs I loved if I’d only stuck it out, paid my dues. Etc.

I’m ambitious, yes, but not in a way that feels real in the world, because I’m only able to motivate myself to do things I want to do. I easily stay up late at night writing. Working on my website design. Researching random topics for my books. I have to force myself to stop these activities in the wee hours. But I’d have trouble dragging myself to an office daily to plod through assigned tasks at a desk. It’s not that I can’t. I’ve done it. But I don’t want to, so I’ve built a life that lets me not have to. To me, that’s the height of ambition – making the world work for you, not the other way around. But the world looks upon me as someone who couldn’t hack it, so gave up and went away. Why?

What is ambition? Is it the drive to achieve a particular kind of success, or simply the degree of passion with which you pursue and enact your dreams? Does it imply willingness to endure any possible hardship to reach a certain endgame?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Forum: Making a Living

We've talked a bit about jobs and work culture on the blog recently, and we were wondering what your own experience is.

Do you work in an office or at home? Do you freelance, volunteer, have a corporate job? In a country where our identity is often linked to our careers, do you find that you're defined by your occupation?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

April's Monthly Meet-Up

For all of those who'll be in NYC on April 28th, be sure to stop by at this month's meet-up!

The Women's Mosaic & CHICKS ROCK! Monthly Meet-up:
Celebrating Earth Day & The Environment

On April 28th, come by to celebrate our planet! Say hello and connect with friends old and new while learning more about TWM & CHICKS ROCK! in the back lounge at SideBAR, located at 118 East 15th Street at Irving Place just off of Union Square.

Event from 7-9pm; OPEN BAR from 7-8pm

COST: $10 donation; FREE for TWM Members

You can RSVP any of the following ways:
If you're on Meetup, RSVP here; on Facebook, RSVP here; or simply send an email.

Can't wait to meet our readers there!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The State of Silence

In my previous post about silence, I wrote about what it's like when verbal communications break down. Silence can speak volumes, as the saying goes, and recently, I have discovered how potent silence is in professional settings. I am amazed at how much we as human beings communicate with each other without saying one word.

In my current position, my work space is located in a department where silence reverberates all around me. Since moving to my new location several months ago, I have had very few personal interactions with the people who work around me. I believe their silence towards me is mainly because I don’t have any work-related dealings with them. Saying a simple “hello” or just smiling at someone are daring moves; I am amused by their non-verbal rejections of simple politeness, because they seem ridiculous. I don’t go out of my way to communicate with them either, especially now. Through non-verbal communication, I understand they don’t want me to approach them and start a conversation. Their apparent lack of interest made me uninterested in pursuing an acquaintance with them.

There are three people who are exceptions to this -- when I see them, they have said hello and I have even had conversations with them. They have helped ease the awkwardness of my presence in their department, which I am grateful for. As for the others, I feel indifferent about their silence towards me. I don’t take it personally, because they don’t know me at all and I don’t know them. Some of them seem like nice people; I hear indistinct conversations they have with loved ones on the phone and their co-workers, I hear them laugh at jokes, and of course discuss work with other people in the company in productive ways. I realize that we just don’t have anything to say to one another, and that isn’t a bad thing. Ultimately, I understand and appreciate the silence, because at least it allows me to focus on my work.

How do you handle the "state of silence" in your lives?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Expectations and Celebrations

I've never been one to make a big deal about birthday celebrations. To me, birthdays are a great time to be a wee bit lazy and a bit more selfish than usual. But all the partying and planning just exhausts me before the day even comes. Depending on how many social circles somebody has and how they mix together, there could be a number of smaller events to plan as well. It seems to me, though, that plans always fall through no matter how simple or elaborate they are, and the disappointment that comes with that is never worth it, in my opinion.

This is what I kept telling people this year as they constantly asked me what I was planning for my big day. They all insisted I do something, but almost every attempt I made fell apart days or even hours before. In the end, I just let it all go and stuck to my gut. I knew I didn't want any hassles, and that I'd be perfectly happy with some quiet time and a break for my brain, so that's what I went with.

Because of that, I had a great birthday this year! I had dinner one night with my sorority sisters, and I relaxed for the rest of weekend with my sisters and my guy. We spent the entire weekend drinking wine, watching movies, eating pizza, and all the seemingly boring but actually pleasurable things I never have time to do.

So even though the days leading up to my "celebration" were more stressful than I would've liked, I'm happy that I got to spend a quiet weekend with the people I love most.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What Do You Do? (Freelance, Part I)

As a full-time author/writer, I find myself growing more and more frustrated with the tightness I see in people’s faces when I describe myself as such. When I say I’m an author, there’s a polite moment of conversation about what I write, but it often leads back to a follow-up question: “But what do you do for a living?” I’m forced to respond: “Umm... I WRITE. Books. Some of them are even published...” That’s when the tight expressions set in.

I’m irritated. I couldn’t care less what other people think of me – on the one hand. But on the other hand, the frequency of these reactions makes me wonder about the cause of them. Is what I’m doing really all that strange? Lots of people patch together a living in bizarre ways, right? I’m really not alone. Am I?

Since becoming a “freelancer,” I’ve become acutely sensitive to conversations about what people “do” for a living. Career is such a go-to topic in mingling conversations and small talk. I’ve come to believe that there’s a deeply ingrained stigma against self-employment. People seem to think it implies unemployment, lack of job skills, laziness, or avoidance of “real” work. Even people who know what I do constantly ask me how I’m earning money. This baffles me. Granted, writing does not pay well at my level. Any income is prized, especially in this economy. But why is it an object of fascination to so many people?

When I describe my schedule as “flexible,” people read that to mean I’m not doing anything with my time. But just because I can easily arrange to hold a meeting in the middle of the day, or leave town at a moment’s notice doesn’t mean I’m not still putting in a full day’s work – if not more.

I’m tired of defending myself to people I don’t really care about. I’m tired of hearing “well, you’re not working, so...” Should I just suck it up and smile tightly back? Or is there something I can do to educate people about my work, and that it’s not just make-believe?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Friday Forum: Spring Break

Now that we've spent a week on a virtual "spring break," we're curious to hear about everyone else's real spring break plans.

Have any of you recently gone on a vacation, or do you have plans to go on one some time this year? If so, where are you going and for how long? If not, where would you like to go if you had the chance?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 4

Today is our fourth day of "spring break" here at CHICKS ROCK!. This week, we're going to take a break from our regular posting and instead highlight some topics we've covered.

Today, you can read up on our posts by guest bloggers and engage or re-engage in those discussions. You can also learn how to be a guest blogger at CHICKS ROCK! by checking out our guidelines.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 3

Today is our third day of "spring break" here at CHICKS ROCK!. This week, we're going to take a break from our regular posting and instead highlight some topics we've covered.

Today, you can read up on our posts about finding your voice and engage or re-engage in those discussions.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 2

Today is our second day of "spring break" here at CHICKS ROCK!. This week, we're going to take a break from our regular posting and instead highlight some topics we've covered.

Today, you can read up on our posts about diversity and engage or re-engage in those discussions.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Break at CHICKS ROCK! Day 1

As we mentioned on Friday, we've reached the 6-month mark, so this week is going to be a "spring break" here at CHICKS ROCK!. We're going to take a break from our regular posting and instead highlight some topics we've covered on the blog.

Today, you can read up on our posts about personal growth, and engage or re-engage in those discussions.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Forum: Meet & Greet

We launched this blog on September 15 as a way to share our stories and build a community. Now that we're more than six months in, we've got a good range of stories we've shared and even more coming up. So in trying to focus more on the second part of our goal - building a community - we want everyone to take a minute or two to quickly introduce themselves to us and to each other. There are a number of readers and subscribers, but we don't hear from everyone as often as we should.

So come on out and de-lurk, give a little shout so we know you're out there, and share something about yourself -- your name, where you live, what you do for a living, whatever you'd like us to know.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Reaching the Summit

CHICKS ROCK! wants you to welcome our latest guest blogger, Sadi:

Sadi is in finance and enjoys spending time with her family and friends. She also loves dining out and listening to live music in the village, in NYC.

December 2003: my last vacation. Since then, I graduated college, worked as a consultant, started an events company, and dove into Wall Street. Throughout these times, I wanted to keep going and accomplish the most I could before letting go and breaking the rhythm.

Finally, I was at a stopping point – Bear Stearns collapsed; I landed safely at a Hedge Fund. It was time to get away.

I took my parents with me to treat them for their support, and we chose a place not many people we knew had explored – Quito, Ecuador. We centered ourselves in Quito but took 1-day excursions away from the city. Our first day, a tour guide picked us up early and by 7 am, we were on the road to visit Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world. I asked the tour guide to bring bikes, letting him know we wanted to bike around the landscape.

We arrived in the middle of nowhere and all around us was greenery, rock formations, and the one and only, Cotopaxi. He took us to the summit where hikers climb to the peak and bikers supposedly cycle down the steep path 14,000 meters high. At the summit, the climate changed from sunny to snowy, and temperatures dropped. This is where the biking was supposed to happen. Since I hadn’t been on a bike in 10 years, I felt like curling up into fetal position -- my parents decided to stay in the car and “follow” me down.

Suddenly, I was going fast down the difficult path and there was no car behind me. My body was bouncing around and I looked up and shocked myself – I was the only soul to be seen in this enormous area. My adrenaline was so high and I finally let myself go, enjoying a new feeling of pure happiness, accomplishment, and peace.

And then, I crashed.

My parents found me tangled up in the bike, on a rock as big as my body – but with a smile on. The wipeout was not the negative part of the adventure – it was simply the snowcap on the peak.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Applying Our Financial Knowledge

I am not one of those people who need a coffee fix at their favorite coffee shop or chain every morning, or buy $10 lunches at work. Even before the recession hit us hard, we all knew that using credit cards like limitless cash and paying just the minimum monthly payment are habits that will keep people in debt for life. Now that some of our worst financial nightmares have come true, I know that the “rainy days” are here to stay for a while. Instead of living in constant fear, we have to make the hard choices and change our bad financial habits for good. Even when the economy rebounds and employment rates go through the roof, I will not become financially complacent again. The lessons all of us are learning now are too painful to forget.

I have done my best to avoid debt like the plague. Refusing to use credit cards is the most effective method. I have a debit card that can be used like one, but I am always mindful of my bank balance and never go over it. Last year, I opened a credit card account at a well-known department store to obtain a discount on a purchase, but I immediately paid off my balance and have not used the account since. I still get letters promising all kinds of savings if I make more purchases on the account. I’m not tempted to do so.

Since my detox began, I hardly ever go out to dinner. If I have to buy something, I have dietary as well as financial limitations to consider. It can be frustrating, but I have to admit I feel good when I see how my cutbacks on eating out pay off. I have also always been a very careful shopper, and I will continue to be so. I try not to make frivolous purchases, and when I do I always try to make up for them by cutting back on others or returning them, if I am allowed.

Do you have any savings' tips to share?

Disclaimer: Blog entries express the opinions of the respective Bloggers/Contributors/Authors/Commenters solely, and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Women's Mosaic. As host and manager of CHICKS ROCK!, TWM acts solely as a provider of access to the internet and not as publisher of the content contained in bloggers' posts and cannot confirm the accuracy or reliability of individual entries. Each participant is solely responsible for the information, analysis and/or recommendations contained in her blog posts.
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