Finding the Bathroom at 40

I’m about four and a half months into my new position, with a new organization, in a new city. It seems like a good time for some outward reflection. I started my first week nervous, excited, and open to new ideas. As it had been more than ten years since working for a new employer and many more since living in a new city, I told myself at least once an hour that every trainer/leader needs to experience this feeling more frequently. Granted we’ve all experienced what it is like to be new, but for some trainers/leaders it is so infrequent that that I think we forget what it is like to be overwhelmed on so many different levels. I spent years on the team for new employee orientation at my last job, yet I think that many times we forgot how overwhelming it is to be new. There is so much we take for granted after years or even months in an organization. Think about Maslov’s Hierarchy of Needs. What do your employees need above all else before they can learn your mission statement and your policy on social networking? I’ll tell you what they want to know. The same thing our patrons want to know. Where’s the bathroom??!??

My office has not only a security code to get in to the office from the hallway, but there is a code, a different code, to get into the bathroom. Here I am trying to remember new passwords to a million new accounts, how to get to and from work, the names and faces of 60 different people, and for the first two weeks I struggled to remember this code to the bathroom. I remember thinking that if I can’t remember the code how will I ever remember everything else! But like all new employees, the day soon came when I not only remembered the secret code but had to teach someone else the code.

My first week at work consisted of learning the ins, outs, and behind the scenes of each of our products as well as learning the tools for supporting our products. The first month was about building relationships with my new coworkers–going through the group development process of forming, storming, norming. It’s fascinating to go through group development and recognize different phases of the process. It’s also comforting during the stressful storming parts to remind everyone that “this too shall pass.” Most of my time has been spent being a sponge and absorbing as much as possible while also trying to create and maintain relationships and define my role within the organization. I’ve worked on some exciting projects that I’ll write about soon.

My days at work were a piece of cake compared to the rest of my life for the first two months. Accepting a new job with only a few weeks notice, meant that I’d be living apart from my family during the week. Fridays and Mondays meant two and a half hour commutes between cities and the rest of the week meant nights alone or with my temporary roommate (my sister in law).

A few weeks into my job I turned 40! Turning 40 is kind of like high school prom or graduation. You have these big expectations but really it is just another day. I was so homesick on my birthday. But the ladies I work with took me out to lunch at an amazing restaurant and we had a fantastic celebration. My birthday cake looked like a flower with tiny candles that opened up to a gigantic sparkler. I feared the table would catch on fire. It was definitely a birthday to remember.

40th Birthday! Yep we almost set the table on fire!

Life went on like this for two months, and just as I settled into this new routine it was time to move. The week before my family moved, I received a phone call at work that a very close family member had died unexpectedly. In the middle of preparing to move, I dropped everything to go be with my family in Florida. Needless to say the past few months have been overwhelming and exhilarating all at the same time. I’m very thankful to my Facebook and Twitter friends who cheered me on providing both encouragement and comfort.

It feels good to be challenged in new and different ways. My family is settled. The kids are out of school. My husband is enjoying being a stay at home dad. If I’ve learned anything this year it’s that we are resilient. Just when you think things are tough enough, life throws another curve ball or punch to the stomach. It’s hard. It hurts. But we recover, learn, and are stronger for what we have gone through, and above all I know the secret code to get into the bathroom!

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.


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