A New Chapter (Part 5)

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Today was my last day at the company where I’ve worked my entire career.

I thought I’d at least feel a little bit sad, sentimental or sappy, but… nope. None of that. I tried to be intentional about making mental pictures as I walked through the office hallways for the last time, but I am completely and utterly relieved, at peace and basically just excited for a new life chapter!

I haven’t been telling many of my coworkers where I’m headed next, mostly because of either their anticipated judgement or the actual judgement I have faced from the few people I’ve told. When they find out I’m planning on eventually going to teaching, most of my corporate colleagues think I’m either incompetent (“she couldn’t cut it in the business world”) or think I was unwise to resign without another job lined up (“girl, what were you thinking?!”). Those who know I’m going into teaching are generally incredulous at the huge pay cut I’ll be taking, but – to quote Zac Brown Band – “there’s no dollar sign on a peace of mind.”

After I sent out my farewell note to everyone, I got a flooding of emails back, most of which asked me what I’m doing next. After an eight-year career in procurement, I was amazed at the number of people who erroneously guessed that I’m going into a field related to art or music. For a woman who has spent her career working in oil & gas surrounded by engineers and business professionals, I evidently have quite a reputation for being “artsy”!

“I know you will be very successful on your new career. Are you sharing what the new career is? Church? Singing? Photography?”

“I hope you are pursuing something in art as I know how talented you are in that area and how much you love it!”

“I always admired your capacity and ability to manipulate data and pull out tremendous insights, apart from your arty talents of coarse!”

“You are one of the most talented writers I know.”

“I knew after listening to you sing in the acapella group that you’d start your own band someday. Are you headed off to China? Or headed back to school on in an art program?”

“Enjoy your path and keep in touch.  Let me know when you have a gig at a local club.”

“My friend is opening up a new craft beer bar…  Let me know if you are for hire.”

Last week, I met up with my friend and coworker Farah for one last lunch. She said everyone’s been asking her about me, namely to ask what I’ll be doing next and then to comment, “I’m surprised it took her this long. She’s always been so miserable here.”

It really hurt my feelings to hear that I was apparently so visibly miserable. I thought I did an okay job at least just shrugging and rolling my eyes at the corporate bureaucracy like everyone else. And I was hurt that people said it felt like it took me forever to find another job. I was looking for another job for years, and – in the moment Farah shared this with me – it made me feel like a perceived failure that I couldn’t land another job for so long. But I had to remind myself of God’s faithfulness and purpose in keeping me at this other company for so many years of searching for something else.

Fortunately, Farah stood up for me in those conversations, telling my would-be insulters, “You’re miserable here. We’re all miserable here. All the things Aurora has said and felt are all the things you complain about all the time. At least she’s doing something about it!   You say you’re surprised at how long it took her to leave, but you’re still here and just as miserable as she was!”

It was nice to hear Farah’s defense of me, and it was really nice to hear from all the people who felt inspired by me and told me so. Multiple people told me privately that they think what I’m doing is brave and courageous. They told me it was inspiring to see someone walk away from the golden handcuffs of our outrageous salaries, easy jobs and comfortable lifestyle to do something they’re actually passionate about.

A young employee who already has a side hustle told me in confidence, “You’re actually making me rethink staying here.” One of my first friends ever at this company – the girl who showed me around Brussels during my first week of training – said privately, “I’m so jealous of you.” And my sweet mentee, who I meet for coffee once a week, admitted quietly, “I wish I were that brave.” You can be, I told her. And maybe you will be, I said with a smile.

A few years ago, our company constructed some new buildings on a central campus in town. I was in charge of facilitating the office move for our department, and in the final stages of the migration, my friend Valerie and I went over the to the new campus to prayer walk. I know this agnostic-run, European company would have had a fit if they knew we were walking through the brand new buildings and praying over them, but Val and I – mavericks that we are – decided to be bold in praying for God to be glorified in those buildings and our workplace. At a company as international as this, you don’t have to go to the nations; the nations are brought to you.

And so in my last moments in that new building, I again looked out over the campus and prayed one more time that God’s name would be glorified there; that many diverse nations would be brought in to work here, and that every people, tribe, tongue and nation on this campus would come to know Him intimately and personally.

And then I turned from the window, rode the elevator down, and walked out of that building forever. My work here is complete.

Authentically Aurora

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Angeles National Forest

Photos from my recent trip to California with Seth

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Authentically Aurora

Paris – Day 3

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As a little girl, my favorite movie for years was “Anastasia”, the Fox animated film often mistaken for being a Disney movie. I loved Anastasia’s spunkiness and her effect on Dimitri, whose character development throughout their journey together is probably one of my favorite parts of the movie.

To my delight, our third day in Paris was an Anastasia-filled day. When I woke up, I watched the “Paris Hold the Key to Your Heart” clip from the movie while viewing the real Eiffel Tower in the background from the window of our Airbnb. On the way to breakfast, I heard “A bientot!” on the street – one of Anastasia’s last lines in the movie. Then we went to Palais Garnier where Anastasia and Dimitri attended the Russian Ballet in the film. It was a magical morning.

Before going to the opera house, Rachel and I had breakfast at Le Court D’Or. I ate un croissant au confiture (a croissant with jam) and also had my go-to of a cafe au lait (coffee with milk). The area boasted much of the Parisian haute couture, but Rachel and I just window shopped on our way to Palais Garnier.

IMG_5855.jpgNot only did Anastasia and Dimitri attend the ballet at this opera house, but more famously, it is the opera house of The Phantom of the Opera. Both the exterior and interior of Palais Garnier were absolutely gorgeous, with red velvet and gold and crystal chandeliers everywhere.

Not only was the architecture was stunning, but the history was fascinating. Apparently women used to sit in the perimeter boxes, and men sat in the orchestra seats because the wax from the candles on the grand chandelier would drip down onto the men’s hats, and the women wanted to protect their dresses and finery.

Separating myself from Rachel for a while (knowing she would be embarrassed of me), I meandered the ornate hallways singing “Think of Me”, and – on the balcony outside, overlooking the square – I quietly sang to myself “All I Ask of You” like Christine and Raoul do in the musical. I am a dreamer and a romantic, unashamed of occasionally being considered odd if it means I get to live out my daydreams. When I watch movies or read books, I live the stories with the characters and immerse myself in their adventures. If I were a bit braver and had planned more in advance, I might have even been tempted to cosplay like this fille:

Anastasia Cosplay

On the lower level of Palais Garnier were fashion sketches for the various ballets performed there. Since I have started doing more fashion illustration, I was thrilled to get to see some original Parisian fashion sketches. Overall, Palais Garnier was definitely one of my absolute favorite things we experienced in Paris.

IMG_5978.jpgAfter sampling Pierre Herme macaroons (recommended by Agathe but not as good as LeNotre), we stoped at Angelina for the reported world’s best cup of hot chocolate. It was basically like drinking liquid, melted Godiva chocolate – so rich that I (sweet tooth though I may have) could barely finish my small cup.

IMG_6001.jpgFilled to the brim with chocolaty goodness, Rachel and I walked to the Tuileries Garden and had just stopped to take some photos when I again heard an American accent. Glancing up the stairs behind us, I called out to three men in their late 30s, and we subsequently made more new friends. I am now connected with one of the men on LinkedIn and possibly have a lead on a new job as a result. Networking really can happen anywhere you go!

IMG_6057.jpgRachel and I continued on to the Louvre, which was honestly disappointing. Aggressive hawkers jangled miniature Eiffel Towers in our faces, insisting that we buy. “Only one Euro!” Tourists crowded seemingly every inch, both inside and outside of the museum. The Louvre maps were poorly done, and the bulk of the art was sculptures rather than paintings. Also unexpected was the light, airy interior. I’d expected dark, low ceilings and dirt floors – almost like catacombs filled with hidden treasures. Instead, it felt just like any other museum. But we wandered the Louvre’s highly-anticipated halls for about an hour, eventually finding both Michelangelo’s “Captive” and, of course, the Mona Lisa.

IMG_6099.jpgMoving on to Pont des Arts (the Love Lock Bridge), we were relieved to find it mostly deserted. The bulk of the famous “love locks” had been removed, but visitors had gotten creative in finding ways to declare their love with locks on railing and lanterns along the Seine. I played photographer for a young couple kissing in the rain on the bridge; then we got a couple of goat cheese salads at Le Terminus and called it a night, opting to get a good night’s sleep for the surely full day ahead.

Authentically Aurora

Fostering Hope for Foster Kids

Foster BabysitterPart of the human condition is to long for what we don’t have. Every season of life, we reach for the next or dwell on the past. Single people want to be married. Married couples sometimes wish they were still single. Students wish they were finished with school and out in the “real world”. Those of us working in the corporate realm sometimes long for the freedom of being back at university.

When I was in high school, everything I did was striving toward the goal of getting into West Point. I was the captain of my soccer team, president of my Girl Scout troop, an officer of the National Charity League, member of both student council and National Honor Society, as well as a straight-A student.

I was not the kid whose parents pushed them to work harder, study more and get better grades. I actually got grounded from reading. My parents insisted that I start getting Bs and Cs and that I go out and play more. They had the wisdom I did not at that age; that life is short, and if we are always straining for the next season without enjoying the present, what kind of life is that?

Now instead of feeling perpetually angry and frustrated because I dislike my job, feel unappreciated at work and am pushing 30 with no true marriage prospects in sight, I want to enjoy this season of singleness. There is so much I can do in this chapter of life where I have freedom from spousal responsibility. My parents are still in good health. I have no husband, no children and no pets. I am freer than I will ever be. The world is my oyster.

Last Sunday, I went to an information session on being certified to be a babysitter for foster kids. Did you know that foster parents can only hire certified babysitters to watch their foster children? God has placed within me a longing to build people up and inspire them to be who they were created to be. I am excited about the possibility of learning the unique passions and talents of the foster kids I babysit and then bringing a corresponding project for us to work on together.

I could bring my guitar and write songs with kids interested in music. I could bring my spare SLR camera and teach artistic kids about the light triangle and the effects of adjusting aperture settings. I could bring model airplane sets or a book of logic puzzles. The possibilities are endless. Each activity would be tailored to the needs and interests of each individual foster child.

I would love to spark to flame the inner potential of these kids so many others have overlooked. My heart longs to heal the hurting and uplift the downtrodden; to encourage those without hope and speak truth into those plagued by insecurity. God has placed within me a desire to, in the words of Frederick Buechner, help others find “the place where [their] deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Authentically Aurora