Life's Lessons

My, What A difference Five Years Makes

posted by Katherine Wintsch April 30, 2017 0 comments

I love TimeHop – an app that goes back through the pictures on your phone and the ones you’ve posted on social media and shows you each and every day exactly what you were doing on that same day back in time. It could be a year ago, three years ago, ten years ago or anything in between.

So, if it’s April 26th, like it was for me a few days ago, TimeHop will serve up every picture it has access to that you took or posted on April 26th in any number of previous years.

Typically, I scroll through the app first thing in the morning or right before I go to bed as a way of reflecting on the past. Sometimes the experience makes me pause and realize how much my kids have grown in just four years, sometimes it serves up happy memories I completely forgot about, and sometimes it makes me burst into tears.

Like it did last night.

As I sat on the couch after putting the kids to bed, watching an episode of The Voice and finishing a glass of red wine, I decided to scroll through TimeHop very quickly before calling it a day and heading to bed.

When I came to this image under a header labeled “Five Years Ago Today” my heart skipped a beat and I started crying.

Five years doesn’t seem that long ago in the whole scheme of things, but this picture represents more than a lifetime ago for me. If TimeHop hadn’t labeled the picture as five years ago, I would have told you it was taken twenty years ago.

This image is the picture-perfect representation of the greatest juxtaposition of my life – the height of my external success meets the height of my internal discontent and unhappiness.

This picture was taken in NYC during a glitzy and glamourous ceremony held in the biggest ballroom I’d ever seen where I accepted a “Changing the Game” award from The Advertising Women of NYC.

The optics surrounding this picture are things I never dreamed would be possible.

I was a senior vice president at one of the top advertising agencies in the country, I was nominated for this prestigious award by the Chief Marketing Officer of one of the largest companies in the world, the other award winners were the who’s who of women who had kicked ass and taken names in their career. The advertising agency where I worked was so proud of me, they flew my husband, my parents, my boss, my friends and the President and CEO of the company from Richmond to NYC on the corporate jet to attend the ceremony.

My oh my.

I had climbed to the top of a very high mountain in my career and this picture represents me at the top. The only problem was that I didn’t like the view at the top of the mountain I was standing on.

I had all the trappings of success – all the titles, trophies, recognition and award ceremonies that a girl could ask for in life. The problem was that I clung to those accolades like they were my lifeline, because they were my lifeline. I was lost. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know what made me happy. I only knew that when I did impressive things, other people were impressed by me and that felt good.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I’d like to share some words about what was really going on during this time in my life.

I was thirty-five years old with two kids (2 & 4) and a very supportive husband who loved me more than I loved myself. I never exercised, ate horrible food, showed up empty handed to every party I went to and forgot just about everyone’s birthday. I worked 80 hours a week, not because anyone asked me to, but because I derived my self-esteem from my success, from external validation from other people, and I was desperate to maintain the mask and façade of perfection I wore every day.

I was successful on the outside and hollow on the inside.

I burst into tears last night when I saw that picture, not because I was sad about where I was at the time, but because I was so damn happy about how far I’d come.

Fast forward five years and my life is a completely different story.

I’m forty-years-old with two kids (7 & 9) and a very supportive husband who loves me as much as I love myself. I’m obsessed with tofu, yoga and meditation, I write love notes on the regular and I forget far fewer birthdays. I own my own company, barely break the threshold of working 40 hours a week, and I have no one to impress but myself. If other people are impressed by what I’m doing, that’s wonderful, but it’s not why I do what I do. I have nobody to impress but myself.

Man, what a difference five years makes.

I couldn’t help but make a list of what in the hell happened in those five years that took me from successful and living a lie to successful and so damn happy.

Here we go:

  1. I stopped hiding. I admitted I was broken on the inside in an extremely public way that’s been viewed over 30,000 times.
  2. I did my homework. Learning what makes you happy and what makes you want to scream is the most important work you’ll ever do. I did it by reading these self-help books.
  3. I wasn’t afraid to ask for help. I knew my life and definition of success was out of whack but I didn’t know how to fix it, so I hired a life coach to help.
  4. I stopped putting myself last. If you find yourself saying yes to everyone else and no to yourself, it’s because you believe other people deserve your time more than you do. I stopped doing that.
  5. I created a new definition of success. I stopped deriving my self-esteem from my career. I’m more than my job. I’m a great wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend and human being with a lot to offer this world. (Yes, I just said that). I even wrote my new definition of success down and refer to it often.

My tears last night were tears of pride and joy. I was at the height of a success that most people would envy, but it didn’t feel successful to me. It felt like a façade.

Well, façade no more.

I put on my big girl pants, did the hard work and the homework necessary to determine what matters most to me in life and I went out and got it.

One day, one moment and one hard decision at a time.

I can’t wait to see what I’ll be doing five years from now. Forty-five, here I come.

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