One of the biggest life lessons I've learned is it's never too late to try something new.
In June of 2017, I was in a funk. My seven-year work anniversary at the High Museum of Art had just passed, I was losing steam running my stationery company, Mae B, and I wasn't being called in for auditions. As you can see, I am a jack of all trades, and while that can be fun, when nothing feels like it's working, life seems like one big merry-go-round. I knew that my hometown of Atlanta was stifling my creative ambitions, but the thought of packing up and moving to a new city scared me. But when God is ready for you to move, you move.
I heard Him loud and clear when I received an email from BuzzFeed.
The subject line read: Would Like To Schedule In-Person Interview for Style Resident Position.
At the start of 2017, I spent all of my spare time applying for jobs. Any job. After over six interviews, no one wanted to hire me. I thought to myself, "What's wrong with me?" I realized that walking into corporate companies as a creative entrepreneurial running a business devoted to women of color didn't excite the hiring managers. I was running a niche business, that to be frank, many of the interviewers didn't see as relevant experience. Maybe the naysayers in my life were right —I needed to get a "real" job.
As I sat in a Chick-fil-a parking lot, I received an email. I stared at the subject line, and couldn't believe that nearly six months after applying BuzzFeed was reaching out to me. The girl that was rejected from every job she'd applied for over a six-month period. When I opened the email, it read, "After our phone interview, we'd like to invite you in for an interview for our Style Resident position."
Before I knew it, I had a confirmed interview date, but I had one pretty big dilemma: I didn't have the money to book the $275 one-way ticket to fly to Los Angeles for the interview. The first person I called was my little sister, Morgan. She squealed with excitement and told me I no choice but to see this opportunity through. "Look up the flights and tell me how much they are, you're going to this interview."
A couple of days later, I packed my bag and took a trip to Los Angeles for the interview. As I sat on the four-hour flight, there was a part of me that felt like an imposter. I knew that I was creative, but I was also carrying the rejection from all of the interview before this one. On top of that, I knew that I didn't have the technical skills the position called for, so, I started counting myself out before I'd even landed in Los Angeles.
Now, you're probably wondering what a "Style Resident" is. To put it simply, it is a three-month crash course internship that could lead to a full-time producer position with the company.
I was flying across the country to interview to be a thirty-year-old intern.
That still makes me laugh, but it always felt like an opportunity I couldn't pass up. After my interview, I was asked to complete an edit test. An edit test gives the hiring manager a chance to evaluate your writing skills and see what type of content you'd like to create. A week later, I got the call. I was offered the three-month residency, and they wanted me to start in two weeks. Without thinking, I accepted the internship. It came with no relocation help, health insurance, or guarantee of a job but I knew it was worth the risk.
On July 31, 2017, I stepped off of a plane and walked into my first day at BuzzFeed. It felt surreal. I was living in a new city, starting a new job at a prominent digital media company, and was there because they saw the value in my experience building a brand for women of color.
If you'd looked at my Instagram, you would have thought every day was bunnies and rainbows, but that was far from the truth. I was jet-lagged, homesick, and struggling to produce content. Walking into my residency with zero behind the camera experience proved to be harder than I'd imagined. I wondered, "Am I in over my head?" The answer to that was yes, but this was no different than starting a company from scratch.
So like I'd done many times before, I became my own advocate, teacher, and motivator. I didn't wait for anyone to tell me how to start a company, run it, and grow it. I googled, I listened to podcasts, and made a lot of mistakes. I wasn't going to let my lack of technical experience be the thing that took me out of the race then and I wasn't going to let it take me out of the race now. My success was up to me. So, I got busy.
I stayed late. Got to work early. I spent my weekends watching Premiere Pro YouTube tutorials to learn how to edit. I struggled. I wanted to quit, but as black women do, I persevered. It was pretty clear by month two of my residency, I wasn't going to be offered a full-time position, but I did walk away with a win. In the last week of my residency— a video I cast, shot, and edited Black Women React to 90s' Hair Products went viral, racking up 2.3 million views in three days. I came, I struggled, and I won.
When God moves you, don't ask questions.
If you truly believe your steps are ordered, you will be able to walk by faith and not by sight (which is always easier said than done). Had I let fear of stability, my lack of skill, or even my age play a role in my decision, I might still be in Atlanta looking back on this opportunity with regret. I recognize that packing up and moving cross country is a privilege. Without the support of my sister, my parents, my aunt, and my friends — my move would have been impossible.
There is great value in having people around you that genuinely support you. I'm not talking those that like your posts on social media or show up when you're winning. I'm talking about those that will help you buy a plane ticket, make sure you have your first months rent, let you crash on their couch, or listen to you cry because you're homesick. Those people will push you off the ledge when you're too scared to jump and will be waiting at the bottom to catch you.
I realize now that the goal isn't always to get or keep the opportunity you leaped for initially. God didn't move me just to get a job.
My experience gave me the opportunity to learn new skills but reminded me of what my real gift has been this entire time — advocating and creating a space for women of color, specifically, black women. As I've gotten older, I have become less of a risk taker, but even as we age, we owe it to ourselves to take calculated risks that guide us to the next steps of our purpose.
Now, that my residency is over, I am back to building Mae B, writing, and keeping my heart open for the next chance that I get to jump. I'm still working to find my purpose. The one thing I know for sure is that risks always reveal a reward.