To My 40-Something Self

This post originally appeared on the 40:20 Vision

After enjoying dinner at a 30-something’s apartment I realized I have a lot to look forward to. Being more established professionally and financially could mean a well-connected network, a more spacious apartment and a heftier paycheck.

It also got me thinking how I want to remind myself when I reach that more established place in my life just where I started. 

To My 40-Something Self,

If you’re going through a rough time consider, what would I have done as a 20-something? Let’s be honest – it’s a more carefree time. From friendships to relationships and from serious to silly, I’m writing to remind you where you came from. 

1. Wherever you’re living, check in often and go home regularly to see family. Regardless of age, you will always be their little girl.

2. Stay humble. There were days when you could only afford veggies for dinner and months when you lived paycheck to paycheck. 

3. Take public transportation. It’s got to be the best invention next to sliced bread and bottomless mimosa brunches. 

4. Go grocery shopping on Saturday or Sunday mornings. Apparently that’s how firemen roll, and I’m sure you’ll always enjoy a little eye candy.

5. Keep up the workout routine. I’m putting in the work as a 20-something and expect you to hold up your end of the bargain. 

6. Focus on your girlfriends. They have been there to listen, advise and dance through everything. And they will continue to be there to dry your tears, make you laugh and remind you why your ex wasn’t the one for you or how lucky you are to have found your husband. 

7. Explore. Even if circumstances don’t allow you to travel far, be a tourist in your own city. There is always something new to discover. 

8. Don’t forget that kissing is better than breathing. Whatever relationship stage you find yourself in, expect the romance and do your part to contribute as well.

9. Keep writing. If it’s not in blog form, keep journaling and sending letters and postcards. Taking time to reflect will strengthen your memory. Sharing some written love with those close to you will be a welcome surprise. 

10. Take a 20-something out for dinner and drinks. She admires you and would love to hear how you got to where you are. 

Always learning,

Your 20-Something Self

 

Words to live by

Looking for a little motivation? PR pro and social media maven Sarah Evans has you covered. In her book, [RE]FRAME, Sarah offers pieces of advice with an accompanying story for each tip. She writes in an easy to digest and very shareable format. (Pick up your copy here.) 

In one of the opening stories Sarah includes her life mission statement. She wrote it 10 years ago and each topic resonates strongly enough with her that she has not had to make any changes.  

Reading Sarah’s statement inspired me to write my words to live by.

What are yours? 

Fear is only an option, not an ultimatum. 

If life is not playing out the way I imagined, I will choose differently. 

Telling stories is good for the memory, and even better for the soul.

I am happiest when making connections. 

I am a student always.

I go with the flo(w). 

Words_to_live_by

 

Choosing A Different Life Plan: Reflections on Year One in NYC

This post originally appeared on the 40:20 Vision

I was recently told “True New Yorkers are the ones who chose to come to New York. The ones who left their families and support networks to be in the city. They’re not just the ones who were born and raised here.”

When I started dreaming about moving to New York City that’s all I thought it would be – a dream. I had never lived away from my family and friends. I was even nervous to share this dream with people – because the more people I told, the more people there were to hold me accountable. 

As I landed a dream gig, found an apartment in my top area of Manhattan and packed up my belongings, I kept waiting for the catch. It shouldn’t be this easy. 

They say everyone has a “Welcome to New York” story. Mine came in the form of a stolen wallet and iPhone my first month here. Next the struggle to have enough money for bills and for fun became apparent quite quickly. I call that the “Are you sure to want to be in New York?” story. 

But even in the midst of stolen items or when money is tight I try not to complain. Because this is what I chose. And as a result, I’ve become a smarter person. A more determined person. A person who will be able to say I looked my biggest fear in the face and took it head on. A person with stories of tough times and sad days, but more importantly a person with unparalleled life lessons and rockstar nights. 

My brother got engaged this year. My sister got engaged this year. And I moved to a city where I knew one person. I don’t compare myself to them – I look at their current situations and think, “Here’s to different life plans.” 

Throughout my first year the hard times kept me grounded. They reminded of my choice. They also set me up to appreciate the good parts more than most would. Here’s to gaining more smarts, more determination and even more lessons in the year to come.

The 20:40 – What choices have defined you? If they’re not creating the life you imagined it may be time to start choosing differently. 

Stephanie Florence is a 20-something who can talk to a brick wall and dance to a kazoo. On every day that ends in “y” you can find Stephanie meeting people, telling exceedingly long stories and taking the approach of a student…always. Find her “Going with the Flo” at stephanieflo.com

The Art of a Great Surprise

1sur·prise  noun sə(r)-ˈprīz 

Merriam-Webster defines a surprise as an attack made without warning. An attack sounds so violent. I choose to see a surprise as an art form. Here’s how my masterful plan unfolded. 

My friend Kate got engaged on New Year’s Eve. She told me the story that evening and I could feel the excitement through the phone. Little does my newly engaged friend know, but the moment we got off the phone I booked a flight to Greenville, SC to see her. Two friends were already planning a visit to South Carolina this weekend and there was no way I’d be missing out on the celebration. 

I guess I could have told my three amigas what I had in store, but where’s the fun in that? If you have a surprise in mind follow this foolproof plan. 

Find an accomplice. Enter Kate’s fiancé John. He lives in Greenville and after pulling off the greatest surprise of his life (ahem, the engagement) he was all in on surprise #2 for our girl Kate. This stud even picked me up from the airport. (Best not to get lost en route to the actual surprising – no time for that!)

Do your research. I got John to tell me as much of the plans as he knew. The last thing I wanted was to show up and they were off exploring for the entire day. I bought my ticket for the Biltmore Estate tour – even used the same discount code as the girls (the accomplice strikes again!). I followed these girls on Facebook like crazy. Of course they barely talked about the trip. Didn’t they want to help a sista out?  

Tell no one. (Let’s be practical; tell minimal people.) At first I only told my family. Then I started getting really excited so I shared the story more. However, I prefaced it with “IT’S A SURPRISE.” One Facebook post or tweet from someone about my travels and I could have been ruined. 

Plan ahead. I’ll be the first to admit that money is tight for me. I was able to make this trip happen thanks to airline points, an airport shuttle and spending a little less during the week. If you don’t collect points with an airline start NOW! Taking the cheaper, albeit less convenient, route can make a big difference. 

Keep the charade going. My email to the girls the Monday before the trip was titled “Weekend Skype Sesh + Living Vicariously Through You.” We planned for a Skype chat and I even sent a video greeting that they could watch together. After I recorded it I realized there was a bit of foreshadowing: “I can’t wait to celebrate with you soon…” 

What’s the best surprise you’ve pulled off? Let me know in the comments. Good luck to all my sneaky pals out there! 

Mentees

Reverb is a 31 day writing exercise where daily prompts allow people to reflect on closing the year and planning the one to come.  

[Help:  Did someone ask you for help and how did it play out?]

I’ve had the opportunity to connect with a number of students and young pros about breaking into the PR industry and working their way up. I always say I may only be a few steps ahead, but I’m happy to share the knowledge that I’ve picked up along the way. 

People reach out to me through Twitter, blogging, my Alma Mater and friends of friends. I’m willing to put in the time to help people because of the all the mentors that have given me their time. The PR industry is definitely of the “pay it forward” mindset. 

Throughout the calls and emails I’m often left feeling that I wish I could do more. When I’d end a phone call I would wonder, did I do enough? Anyone that knows me knows that I can talk. Because of that I’d invite the person to review their notes from the call and to come back with follow up questions. I was open to an ongoing dialogue, which didn’t always happen. 

Enter Payal Shukla. We connected via social media about our love for the Illini and public relations. She eagerly accepted my offer for a guest blog post and we started having regular phone calls. 

I’m honored to be your mentor, Payal. Our chats help me to reflect on my experiences, learning more about the industry and myself in the process. It’s flattering to know my advice resonated with you to incorporate it into your job pursuits. Your interest in my work keeps me motivated – to be the best professional I can be and to maintain my “student always” mentality. Can’t wait to see what’s next for you. 

What makes a stellar mentee? Ambition, interest, hard work and the ability to take constructive criticism. 

How has being a mentor helped you? What have you gained as a mentee? 

 

Say yes.

Since moving to New York City I have tried saying yes to everything. In fact, one of my “NYC Goals” I wrote back in January was: 

Say yes. 

To invitations. 

Even when I think I will get lost. 

To challenge myself and get out of my comfort zone. 

I focused on doing. After long days I made an effort to see friends and attend events. I proved this question right – “In 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, will I remember the nights I stayed in or will I remember the outings and people I experienced them with?” 

I raised my hand at work. I got in line with this idea, “People who love their jobs won’t work a day in their lives.” 

Two examples include: 

One weeknight my pal Addison invited me to meet his friend visiting NYC. I was looking forward to a night to recoup at my apartment, but instead chose to say yes. Turns out we would see the city in style (aka in Addison’s rented BMW). For the first time the makeup of Manhattan was starting to make sense. (Be thankful you have a map app on your SuperPhone people!) And, for the record, cruising NYC in a BMW is never a bad choice.

I joined an internal company organization committed to equaling the ratio of men and women in leadership positions and helping women of all levels on their way to the top. By saying yes to the opportunity to join the planning committee, I’ve been fortunate to work with stellar colleagues across the company – people I would not interact with through my typical workload. I’m also seeing change and continued dialogues take place as a result of my actions. 

What were the outcomes of your best “yes’s”? This week let “yes” win out over “no.” You just might surprise yourself. 

Bmw_2Bmw_1Bmw_3

 

“2 – 5”

To celebrate my upcoming birthday I’m sharing 25 things I’m proud of experiencing and accomplishing. It’s been 25 years, but it appears a lot of the proud moments have surfaced recently. Imagine that : ) 

What are you proud of today? Consider the big things AND the little things.

1. I graduated from an outstanding university

2. I started a blog. 

3. I took my online connections offline. 

4. I mentored several college students into the PR industry. 

5. I leveraged my social media network for my job hunt. 

6. I moved to New York City. 

7. I received a raise 7 months into my new position. 

8. I ran 1 mile 2 miles 3.5 miles… and counting! 

9. I secured more than 30,000 hits on my YouTube channel (properly tagging a video is no joke). 

10. I engaged the CEO/President of my company in conversation on the elevator, which ended in a high five! 

11. I contributed a post to one of my favorite blogs, the3six5

12. I went into relationships with an open mind and my guard down. 

13. I became the Operations Manager for an internal agency initiative (also the catalyst for the CEO high five). 

14. I went after yoga

15. I swallowed my pride and asked for directions when lost. 

16. I said “yes” more times than I said “no”.

17. I hosted 9 visitors in the first 6 months in NYC. 

18. I am surviving NYC with a StupidPhone

19. I could have a dozen bridesmaids if I got married tomorrow. 

20. I volunteer for a non-profit I believe in, She’s the First

21. I am learning to cook. 

22. I pick up girls better than guys (according to my guy friends).

23. I smile when I mean it and I cry when I need it. 

24. I make my parents proud. 

25. I left my comfort zone. 

Dscn2721Photo7Make_itThe3six5_photoComfort_zone

 

“Student Always” – Airport Edition

This was supposed to be Sisters Weekend. I even have the itinerary to prove it! 

All I wanted yesterday was to hop on my Southwest flight, get my free cocktail for Southwest credit card holder appreciation day and head HOME. In addition to Sisters Weekend, I had planned a family party, a college roommate reunion AND Mama and Papa Flo time. 

Instead, I spent roughly 7 hours at the airport watching fellow frustrated travelers as flights continued to be delayed and eventually canceled. Due to several cancellations all the flights were booked until Sunday. Not the best Plan B… or use of my vacation time from work and flight cost for what would turn into a very short trip. 

Although I was one of the angry people at Southwest last night, the cancellation truly was weather-related somewhere between NYC and Chicago. After I got over the fact I won’t be going home this weekend, I realized Southwest did a pretty good job of helping me through the situation. Here’s how: 

Take advantage of resources – I signed up for Southwest text alerts where I’m updated if the gate/departure time changes. With my current StupidPhone status and dicey service in the airport these texts were a lifesaver. There was also a more mature group of travelers near me that were full of questions about how people found out about the delays/cancellation. 

Once I heard of the cancellation I immediately called (800) I-FLY-SWA and had a rep on the phone within 2 minutes. Cynthia was extremely nice and patient as I tried talking into two phones (with Mama Flo on the other). She explained options and I avoided the line of 50+ people at the desk. 

Be assertive – I dropped my “loyalty to the airline” card (always have a fantastic experience, why fix what ain’t broke?) and emphasized being a credit card holder. This little mention secured me a courtesy hold on a flight until I could finalize plans. (I later canceled by phone and received a full refund.) 

Airport interactions aside, there is plenty to gain from simple people watching. Here’s what I took away: 

Say hello – The camaraderie that occurs at an airport is unique. Friendships form over shared frustration, interests or simply cocktails. Who knows who you will meet before boarding your next flight? 

Don’t get a leg tattoo – I saw more than I care to count and can honestly say I did not see one that appeared normal. I’m all for self-expressions, but maybe rethink those creativity liberties. 

Keep yourself busy – I caught up on writing, had a great call with a rising PR pro, checked into social media and checking in with family and even hung out with a pal experiencing similar travel woes. Had I just sat there focusing on the negative it would have been a much longer and trying experience. 

How do you handle a rough outing at the airport? Several hours in an airport taught me a few lessons, any to add? 

 

Change Fear

Change_fear

Good amazing things can happen when you face your fears. I love this from Karen Salmansohn. Change has never been my strong suit…until now. I still have a long way to go, but I am witnessing how great change can be. In 6 months alone change was constant and I’m accepting all the lessons with open arms. How has change been a good thing for you?