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The teacher that became the student

Katie joined our team during a tumultuous season of my life, and the fire that our relationship was forged in has made her one of the dearest people I have come to know.

The day I met Katie, was when I was going to speak at her Hospitality UNI class about “A day in the life of a wedding planner.” What she, nor anyone else in the class knew, was that about 12 hours before, I had learned that my husband had slept with one of our former brides.

To say that I was shocked, hurt, and devastated would not do true justice to the things I was feeling on that day in September. But in times of trouble, I have found that I work best if I can stay busy, so I opted to continue with the speaking engagement.

If I’m being quite honest, I don’t remember much after the first five minutes of the presentation that day. I just knew I needed to get through the slides that explained how I was married with 5 dogs and a hedgehog, living in small town USA, so that I could move on and talk about work again.

At the end of class, Katie apparently came up to me and told me that she was interested in interning with our team. I have no recollection of this conversation, but apparently I told her to email me in January at the start of the new semester.

Three months later, she did just that. I still didn’t remember much of anything about meeting her, because I was in the throws of what my therapist called emotional and psychological trauma. Even still, I made plans to meet her for coffee and to chat more about how we could work together.

I remember that first meeting in vivid detail. My husband, who had spent the last several months staying only part time in our home, barely speaking to me, and living in the guest room, hadn’t returned home the night before— so here I was again, facing a young college student, and having to pretend like my life was somehow not a dumpster fire.

Please keep in mind also, that we get a LOT of inquiries to intern with our team. A lot of them start out with “I planned my own wedding and had so much fun!” Or “I watched that movie ‘The Wedding Planner’ and JLO is so glamorous I just want to be her!”— to which I roll my eyes internally because y’all. Homegirl had ZERO work life balance and then went and stole her clients groom! But okay. You do you, boo.

Anyway… so I go to meet with Katie, and immediately, I can tell that she is different. First of all, because she is WAY cooler than I ever was in college. She dresses fantastically, she seems confident and sure of herself, and she kept talking about this study abroad trip she was taking to work with elephants, but she was just worried we wouldn’t want to work with her her trip would fall in the middle of spring wedding season.

Y’all. ELEPHANTS. My all-time favorite animal. It was literally all I could do to not make things weird and beg her to take me with her!

But as I’m sitting there talking to this 20 something adorable creature, all I hear over and over in my head is the thought, ‘how ironic that she thinks she wants to be you when she grows up, and you’re sitting there wishing you could be cool like her?’ Let’s just say, that if a woman came over and offered us a fortune cookie, I would have been like ‘Heck no lady! I’ve seen Freaky Friday-- I know how this ends!’

Needless to say, I offered Katie the internship. But what’s more, I made a promise to myself. Because Katie and some of the other younger members of our team looked up to me as someone that they’re wanting to model their lives after, I was doing a disservice to them by not being totally myself.

So I told my team what was really going on. That my husband had cheated, that I thought he might still be cheating, and that I had no idea what I needed to do next.

I have always found a great comfort in saying the things that scare you out loud. If they’re dreams and goals you have, it makes them feel more real. If they are fears, it somehow makes them less scary. I realized that by saying these things out loud, I could begin to figure out what I still needed to know. I could see the gaps and shortfalls in the things that scared me about the short term, and begin to focus on the long term.

In the same way that I was encouraging our college girls to make plans for after college, to experience new things and keep an open mind for new opportunities; I began taking that advice as well.

A mindset shift began to happen, both on our team, and in my own life. We began calling each other, not just for work related problems, but just life problems.

We began being real and vulnerable with one another, because we realized that while our clients may want to feel like we never have bad days, it was important for us to lean on one another and build each other up whenever we could.

As a boss, I began trusting the team to play to their strengths more, and to delegate things to them that they were simply better at than I was. Our company began to change, and a huge turning point of that was seeing this young girl who looked at me and said she wanted to be like me when she grew up— and I realized that I wasn’t a version of myself that I wanted her striving to be.

Sometimes that is HARD y’all. Sometimes we don’t want to look in the mirror and realize that we’re messing up our lives. That we made a bad call, that led to a chain reaction of bad calls and suddenly, we’re in over our heads. And if that’s you, know that you are not alone, and that there is no shame in starting over.

If your business or your relationship is not where you want or need it to be, then DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

So anyway, flash forward 1.5 years later, and Katie has not only completed her internship, but has since joined our planning team.

Because like a family, this team has learned to ebb and flow together, through the good times and the bad. As a boss I have learned that I don’t have to act like I’ve got it all together and that sometimes, it’s okay not to be okay.

So thanks, Katie Bug, for following up with email after email until I said yes to coffee. Thank you for seeing that there was something to learn from me, when I didn’t see it in myself. And thank you for making me dress just a little bit hipper than I think I can pull off. ;)

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