The Paradox

The Paradox.jpg

I took a walk yesterday. The wind rustled through the green leaves as each step carried me farther from the hustle and bustle of the city. Birds were chirping, the sun was shining, and the water was trickling over the rocks near the footpath. It was pure bliss – and in total juxtaposition to my work load.

The summer brought with it a heat wave, the smell of sunscreen and freshly mown grass, and a whole lot of deadlines. It also symbolized the start of a new season – and the opportunity to leave things behind. Gone was the seasonal depression, the unemployment, the inactivity.... so I'll take busy. I'll take busy any day, as long as I know how to handle the anxious, scatter-brained feelings that come with it.

So when prompted to give my two cents about how to be the most productive, my reply was simply this: spend time being unproductive. Is that too Millennial of me?

Blocking out time for things I enjoy was crucial for my mental health. If you read The Routine, you know that I have my morning mapped out to the minute. In addition to nature hikes, here are a few more things I've added:

  1. Meditation: Each morning, I take five or ten minutes to clear my mind and release any negative emotions I carried over from the day before, or to bask in the positive energy I feel. Headspace is a great app for that.
  2. Sketching: Not only is it therapeutic for me because it forces me to focus on the curved lines or the pressure of the graphite pencil, it is also a creative outlet that I've wanted to pursue since elementary school. Making time for hobbies that give me pleasure often lead to developing skills I can use in my job.
  3. Reading: I just bought a recliner, and there's almost no greater feeling than curling up in it with a good book. I've always been a reader, but now I'm intentional about doing it daily.
  4. Spending time with friends: I live in close proximity to several of my friends, and now that the weather is nicer, we have been adventuring around the town like an elementary school gang. Other people can prove to be a wealth of inspiration.

There will always be deadlines, unwanted workloads, and stress, so I recommend that you pursue unproductivity as well. It will equip you for those moments. It will make you more productive. 

The Birth


"WHAT IS IT?! What is it?!"

It took every ounce of energy I had to contain my anxiousness to the form of toe-tapping and glancing out the smudged glass. The sentiment was shared. For what seemed like hours, my entire family sat hypothesizing the gender of my sister's newborn baby. The wait was almost unbearable.

Finally – finally – after practically pressing my nose against the window pane, the delivery room doors parted and I observed my brother-in-law strut to share the highly-anticipated news, a smirk spread across his face from being the bearer of secrets. As he threw up his arms in triumph, he could barely get the words out before we were all out of our seat. "It's a GIRL!"

A chorus of cheers and shouts of congratulations pinged off the whitewashed walls in the hospital waiting room. Hugs, high-fives, and pats on the back... and a collective sigh of relief. The wait was over.

I wish I could say the same about our coworking business. This precious little girl wasn't even a twinkle in her father's eye when my dad and I dreamt about opening The Root. This business proposition formed over two years ago, and just now we're starting to see it come to fruition. We've acquired the art of patience, which has paid off on multiple occasions. Instead of twiddling our thumbs, getting upset with obstacles, and focusing negative attention on things outside of our control, we are using this calm before the storm to carry out the things within our control.

For entrepreneurs and startups, patience is fundamental.

  • It allows us to focus on the present
  • It gives us the opportunity to practice self-control
  • It prevents us from making rash and detrimental decision

Finding the right location was merely the beginning. Waiting through the renovation has actually given us more time to prepare for opening day. Here are some things we've been able to achieve:

  1. Network
  2. Form partnerships within the community
  3. Recruit potential members
  4. Develop a marketing plan
  5. Design a website and the coinciding platforms
  6. Determine our processes, like "Day One" protocol for how we accommodate members, write out our rules, and discuss different membership scenarios
  7. Order our signs
  8. Peruse for furnishings
  9. Tour other cowork spaces and connect with their managers
  10. Line up the necessities, like who we're buying coffee from and how we can get the best wifi options 

So even though we're stuck in the waiting room, toe-tapping and glancing through the smudged glass window, we're okay. We know what we have to look forward to. And that's enough for now.

The Basics


I took my car for granted – until this past Thursday. A conspicuous brick sailed through my windshield in the middle of the night, leaving a network of splintered glass at eye level on the driver's side. Whether intentional or not, it left me in a position to depend on others. No longer could I visit the gym, peruse the grocery aisles, or spend an evening with friends on a whim. Among many lessons learned, the overwhelming sense of powerlessness was apparent, yet it was dominated by something much stronger, something so strong, it about knocked me over: the willingness of others to come to my aid. Not only did my family flock to my side, but coworkers, friends, and even acquaintances rallied around me. What would've happened if I didn't have this support system?

Unfortunately, that's what some women in our country face everyday. Having a toothbrush to clean their teeth is a luxury, let alone owning a car.

Year after year, data show that men typically earn more than women — and women are more likely to live in poverty. Single mothers, women of color, and elderly women living alone are at particularly high risk of living in poverty.
— Center for American Progress

Why do more women tend to live in poverty? The Center for American Progress breaks it down for you:

  1. Women who work full time earn only 77 percent of what men make
  2. Women are tracked into “pink-collar” jobs such as teaching, child care, nursing, cleaning, and waitressing, which typically pay less than jobs in industries that are male-dominated.
  3. Women spend more time providing unpaid caregiving than men.
  4. Women are more likely to bear the costs of raising children.
  5. Pregnancy affects women’s work and educational opportunities more than men’s.
  6. Domestic and sexual violence can push women into a cycle of poverty.

To name a few.

The great news is, Volunteers of America Mid-States addresses several of these inhibitors. Even better? They're testing a national campaign – the #BacktoBasics movement – and I'm one of a few lucky women that has been asked to represent this community.

Not only do I want to make a monetary difference, but a visual one as well. For years, I've searched the dusty recesses of my mind in order to find a cause worth joining. But this... this is an opportunity to START ONE. 

My goal is to raise $500. I'm donating $50. I can't do it alone. Here's what you can do:

Donate. I will accept anything you can give.

Ask. We live in a time where females are realizing they have a voice to make a difference. Ask someone else in your network to support the cause too.

Share it. This campaign can be engaging and impactful if we use our platforms to speak up. I have images for you to share on your social media platform. Tag me (@therootcowork), tag VOA (@voamid), and use the hashtag #backtobasics.

Be part of something big by giving little. Let's create change together.

The Routine

the routine.jpg

Dealing with renovations, juggling membership applications, and developing partnerships to ensure a smoother countdown to the opening has kept me quite busy. My dad and I are trying to stay ahead, wanting to be as proactive as possible so we're not scrambling (although that's still bound to happen).

That's just a portion of what we're dealing with at The Root, and I'm not even including my freelance work, part-time job at the Carnegie Center, and other "side hustles." All the scrambling is mimicking what's going on in my head most days.

In order to ease some of the anxiety that accompanies a packed schedule, I decided to implement a routine. I wake up eeeaaarrrlllyyyy and go to the gym. When I return, refreshed and energized, I take a shower then make a healthy breakfast. After clean up, I hunker down to eat breakfast and sip coffee while I read the Bible. Then I journal

After getting ready I head to the Carnegie Center, then after I knock out some hours there, I dedicate some hours toward the most pressing freelance work. The evenings are when I spend time with my family.

Wow, what a difference.

Here's why:

  1. It gave clarity and purpose to my day. Most of the time, my mind feels scattered. It allows for time to schedule out what needs to get done. It clears my foggy brain.
  2. It kept me going when I felt like I wasn't going. Anyone who has freelanced knows that there are ebbs and flows with workload. When the offers stopped rolling in, and I was ebbing for a while, my routine was the only constant. I didn't know if I'd get work that day, but I knew I still had things to do! It motivated me on days when I wanted to give up.
  3. It forced me to slow down. With a jam-packed schedule, it's easy to fall into the rhythms of the world – always in a hurry and rushing from place to place, person to person. My mind races, constantly thinking about the day ahead and what's going to get checked off my to-do list. Instead of prioritizing my schedule, I schedule my priorities. Knowing that I've dedicated a block of time that can't be compromised gives me permission to think, live, and enjoy the present moment.
  4. It kept me focused, free from distraction, and made me prioritize what matters. Because of technology, we are exposed to countless events, organizations, and programs. We get overstimulated. There's too much to do. Everything is vying for our time. With a routine, I stay on task, crank out a few hours of productivity, and then compartmentalize my work life to make room for my personal life. Balance matters.

Bottom line, having a routine has too many benefits to advocate. Here's a good summary. Rather than feeling mentally scrambled, I can just stick to eating my eggs that way.


The Decision


I have taken my talents back to New Albany. Like Lebron James, my career path led me back to my hometown. Unlike him, however, my decision wasn't really by choice at all, but more a culmination of external factors that completely changed the trajectory of my life. For the better.

Graduate school seemed like the natural next step. I had this glorified vision that after I graduated from Furman, I'd move out west, get accepted into whatever program I applied for, and go on to get my dream job and live my dream life. Sounds like the plans of a large majority of my peers. For many, their plans panned out, and I commend them. But my circumstances are much more common – dashed hopes and unaccomplished goals are the harsh reality. And nobody tells you about this, probably because words can't convey it. Maybe it's a rite of passage to come to that realization only through experience. It's funny now to look back on that season of life and scoff at the naïvety in those plans. Fresh out of school, the mind is filled with ideas and ways to change the world. I could've flown around the world and back again with the amount of air under my wings. Instead, I took off and fell flat on my face. And nobody tells you about this.

So here I am, no direction, no prospects, living at home. I'm a leech, sucking every good thing from those that love and care about me, taking advantage of their love. I'm a burden weighing down the shoulders of everyone around me. And nobody tells you about this.

But I'm a big believer in timing, and that you're exactly where you're meant to be. In the midst of my wallowing and self pity, it was impossible for me to see through the immense fog that so clouded my judgement. But even enlightenment chooses its time. 

Some time ago, I opened a fortune cookie that said, "Time heals all wounds. Keep your chin up." Andy Stanley, a senior pastor, author, and father in Atlanta, Georgia, said in one of his sermons, "" When that fog finally lifted, I could see how perfectly my life has panned out, and I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be. My decision, or rather the opportunity life has presented to me, faith, and perspective have led me to some realizations. As an entrepreneur, recognizing these things within your own situation can lead you to make better decisions.

1. Accept Help: I haven't accomplished anything by myself. Success has come from my reliance on other people. One of my greatest sources of guilt – depending on my parents – shouldn't yield guilt at all. Both of them have expressed their eagerness to aid me during this time in my life. They are setting me up for future success. Their support right now is buying me time. Instead of spending my paycheck on rent and groceries and bills, I can put that money away. Instead of taking the first job that will secure a paycheck, I can go after my dream job.

2. Welcome Adversity: If I didn't face trials, I wouldn't develop perseverance. I wouldn't know how to solve problems when they inevitably arrive. I wouldn't recognize my own strength.

3. With Time Arises Value Recognition: I plummeted down a spiral of depression. I didn't understand my self worth. But time conceived growth and maturity, which gave birth to recognition and implementation of my values. Not rushing into major decisions has taught me what I actually want out of life, because what I want today isn't necessarily what I want one month, one year, ten years from now.

4. In Every Situation Comes Opportunity: Ending up back home was the last thing I wanted. Or so I thought. But with the revitalization of the downtown area, the statewide focus on innovation, and the resources springing up for entrepreneurs, I see the opportunity to take ownership in the community I care so much about. Not many people have the chance to be a catalyst in a movement or affect change for a cause bigger than one individual.

Like Lebron, I am in a building phase. I have a team around me, I have the tools, I've made the preparations, and enough time has passed. I just have to have the patience and the motivation to get my championship ring.

And nobody tells you about this.

The Apple

Know thyself, an Ancient Greek aphorism shrouded in ambiguity, was one of 147 maxims inscribed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. In Ancient Greece, kings and peasants alike would travel great lengths to consult the oracle, who, in a trance-like state, would share the eminent prophesies that were to be implemented by the worthy supplicants. I don't need an oracle to predict my future; I know that understanding who I am can determine how I navigate future circumstances, which can lead to a more desirable outcome. Recognizing my strengths and weaknesses saves time and frustration because I know to delegate the tasks I despise, then embrace tasks that arouse passion and joy. Discovering my personality traits, like if I work better alone or with a group, if I'm a creative or an analytic, an extravert or an introvert, leads to better decision making to maximize efficiency in the workplace. The interactions I have with customers matter; I AM the brand, a walking billboard, an ambling representation of what my business stands for. Knowing who I am – even the bad – is crucial for entrepreneurial success.

Time has taught me to observe my parents for a more objective way to ascertain the type of person I am and who I'm going to be. I'll give you a hint if you choose to undertake this exercise as well: take note on which of their behaviors annoy you the most. We subconsciously overlook our own flaws and project the anger and frustration onto those same flaws we see in other people. No matter how much you try to fight it, you pick up some of their mannerisms, viewpoints, beliefs.

But that's not always a bad thing.    

I'm 26, and I still live at home. My goal in life is to own at least an entire wall of books, I have a slight obsession with Chance the Rapper, and Sunday is my favorite day of the week. I'm also an introspective that likes to understand the "why" behind the actions of myself and others.

Starting this coworking venture with my dad has opened the door to a whole slew of self observances, one of which is the reason why I want to open a cowork space in the first place. Ever since I can remember, I've wanted my career to revolve around serving other people, I just didn't know in what capacity. After a conversation with my dad I realized that he shared the same purpose; he is channeling it by supervising and supporting the fruition of my dreams to become realities. Turns out, however, that I've gotten a double dosage of compassion for the community; It just took a recent event to occur for my mom to unveil hers from within too. 

My mom, Mary Gesenhues, listening to a fellow advocate after her WDRB interview.

My mom, Mary Gesenhues, listening to a fellow advocate after her WDRB interview.

My mom is superwoman. A couple weeks ago, she flitted to a town hall meeting to fight against the implementation of a corporation on historic land in Floyd County. That was after she had watched my two-year-old nephew all day, folded all the clothes I'd left in the dryer, and had dinner ready on the stove. When she returned, her cheeks were flushed from the excitement of her small victory. As soon as she crossed the threshold, she exclaimed, "We won! Well, they're at least postponing the project for now!" There was a buzz of newfound energy that consumed her – something I hadn't seen in her before. She was standing up for something she believed in. The responsibility she felt in preserving the town was palpable, and I wasn't the only one who noticed.

WDRB caught wind of my mom's rally cry and captured her insistence to use the space in a more sustainable fashion that would benefit the entire county. Her interview aired that night.

WDRB Camera Man.JPG

Now, back to understanding my "why." This sense of social responsibility is something beyond my control, something ingrained in me since birth. Wanting to be part of something bigger than myself, even if I had to lead the charge, was an inherited trait from my parents. A trait I'm proud of; A trait that has already empowered me; A trait that I can depend on during the days that seem impossible to conquer. No, I don't need an oracle – I can look at the actions of my mom and dad. A woman who will stand up for what she believes in, and a man who will stand up for who he believes in... maybe my own list of aphorisms should begin with know thy parents.