As we gain closure to yet another year, I am reminded to reflect on all that has transpired on this latest journey around the sun. It’s easy to brush off gratitude.  In today’s hectic hustle and bustle very few find time to ponder on the little acts of kindness that over time has positively impacted our lives. We forget how fortunate we are sometimes because of the little things such as your partner being kind enough to fill up your gas tank, or when you lost your ATM card and your co-worker bought you lunch, or when the stranger held the elevator door for you, or even when the doctor told you that the lump in your breast was benign. These are all hypothetical situations, but these examples happen a million times a day to each and every one of us.


Scientific research from UCLA Health indicates that actively practicing daily gratitude for 15 minutes a day has lasting physical and mental health benefits. From reducing depression, lessening anxiety, and even improving sleep quality, there is no doubt that practicing the art of gratitude can affect every aspect of your health.


One of the many aspects of my life that I am grateful for this year is being able to work with such an amazing group of people. The photo below is a portion of our Washington team, but I am grateful for the collective whole. 2022 was a devastating year for me. In the first quarter of the year, I was laid off, then I was evicted, I lost all my belongings, everything sentimental, baby teeth, 1st grade art drawings from my children, love letters I had saved, and musical instruments that were my Father’s. To survive, I lived in my SUV, which doubled as my office. I charge my phone and laptop why applying for every job, and every county health and human services benefit while simultaneously also looking for a place to live and just praying that by the time I have to submit a rental application I will actually have an income. This was the beginning of Sacramento’s scorching summer. It’s 117 degrees daily and gas prices are high. I’m trying to minimally operate the SUV’s AC but by 9:30 - 10 am it was already reaching triple digits.


My default character disposition has always been sunshine and rainbows. This outlook has sustained me in life. Colin Powell’s quote resonates with me, “Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” As I’m trying to juggle basic survival, I still needed to be a partner, and a mother, and a daughter. It would serve no purpose to breakdown and reveal my true feelings. I have always been a bastion of stability for those that rely on me. I did not want to expose my fear.


My reluctance to disclose my fear was not out of pride. I didn’t want others to worry. I did not want to burden others with my problems. I got myself into this mess, I will get myself out. But truth be told: I was scared. All my insecurities permeated my soul. What if I can’t get myself out of this? I felt like the living effigy and poster child for imposter syndrome. I was an epic failure, a charlatan. My old acquaintance Depression kept visiting me. She would bring her sidekick Anxiety. We never did get along.


Do you know how hard it is to exude confidence in a job interview when you know that the position would literally change your life? To nonchalantly answer interview questions with a matter of fact tone, hoping to mask the tinge of desperation that is overtly audible to my inner self. I wanted to present a level of professionalism during each interview. With each interviewer I met, I would scan their face in hopes they were not members at the same Planet Fitness I would visit every morning for a shower.  That two minute walk of shame from the parking lot to the shower stall was  worse than standing in line at the county benefits office or at the local food bank. I would actively avoid the looks I would receive when I entered the gym in pajamas and leave without so much as breaking a sweat. I did not disclose my situation to any potential employer, I didn’t want the job out of pity. I wanted to be chosen because I was the most qualified for the position. 


I found solace knowing that I was not the only one who had befallen hard times. I would read posts on reddit about functioning unhoused families and what they did to survive. I had posted on my social media a random blurb about not letting this downfall define me. I was so shocked when a reporter from the Washington Post responded to my tweet and asked if I would be interested in an interview. After the interview was published CNBC reached out.

Inflation is making people homeless - The Washington Post

Inflation and rent increases are making homelessness worse - The Washington Post

I remember telling my son about the media attention. He and I share the same disposition. We laughed at the irony. He said, “Well, Mom, that’s one way to get famous.”

Somewhere between, oh boy this is bad and holy crap could this get any worse ….my vehicle was repossessed. It was at this juncture that I could feel my sanity start to chip away. This situation had now entered Def Con 5, and now I faced a new slew of problems. I was entering unchartered territories and panic mode was steadily seeping in. Everyday an infinite loop would replay in my head of rhetorical questions that I would ask myself over and over. Relentlessly self sabotaging and digging a deeper hole of depression. The theme of despair was constant as I asked myself : Could this get any worse?


The answer is yes. On August 18th, 2022, sometime between 1:45 am and 4:15 am, my Father passed away at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael. He died from complications from a surgery he opted to undergo. He was bed ridden for the last year and a half and he wanted fervently to walk again. But really he told me, he wanted to endure the surgery because he wanted to dance with my mother again. 


I had been estranged from my Father for quite some time. When he finally did reach out, I was still a bit distant because I wanted my life to be more together. I wanted him to be proud of me before I let him again. Death rarely makes appointments. And I thought I had more time.


It may have seemed that I have gone off on a bit of a tangent, but I preface my gratitude story with this timeline to give you a recap of the chain of events. Everyone mourns differently. There is no recipe for recovery of the loss of a loved one. There is no set standard as to how long it will take to grieve, to let the grief pass so that you can function again. I think about my Father daily. I still cry everyday. I’ll hear a song, watch a basketball game, smell his aftershave or even just looking at my son.


My work saved me. I’m sorry, let me revise that statement. My work is saving me. Going through the motions of the mundane minutia of life, I was able to find a sliver of peace as I set my focus there and my subconscious mind compartmentalized  my pain. I became part of a team. I was delegated tasks, I was given increasing responsibilities. Slowly I was functioning. I was part of a whole. I was part of a well-oiled machine. Everyone had their duties. I had mine. I enjoyed contributing. I enjoyed the break from the sadness. Slowly my bout of crying would become bouts of not crying. And those instances became longer and longer. I was healing, My coworkers respected my privacy. I was not ready to divulge any part of me that was previously hemorrhaging. I was picking up the pieces of my life and we were all working toward a greater good.  I became a staunch advocate for my customers. Making sure their projects were being processed by the building department in a timely manner. I was surrounded by such talented people all of whom had more knowledge of the fire restoration industry than I. I soaked up information like a sponge. By sheer osmosis I was leveling up by being surrounded by greatness. I became more succinct and efficient. Each member of the team brought to the table a level of expertise that I did not possess. Their shared knowledge filled in the gaps where I was lacking. With their tutelage I was able to see things as a whole. With this newfound perspective, I was able to process my work quickly and my level of productivity multiplied. This sense of accomplishment set the tone and my confidence came back. Like the domino effect, when my confidence returned by self-esteem stepped up and an opportunity arose and presented itself which led me to the great State of Washington.


2023 had a rocky start for me as I was still recovering from being broken: financially, emotionally, professionally, and spiritually. When I look back at that time in my life, there are so many what if’s. There are simply too many to enumerate. But instead of going down that rabbit hole, I’d rather focus on not the what if’s but what did. I am so grateful for my coworkers who through their collective grace allowed me to fumble through my grief. They were understanding with my unintentional errors and naive questions, and they were generous with imparting their knowledge.


The leadership team is the driving force of the culture at Golden Coast Construction. If we, the employees, are the fabric of what makes up that team, then it is our company culture that weaves us all together.


I will be forever grateful for the senior leadership at Golden Coast Construction. Greg Thode, Tom Biglin, Nadia Kotyakov, and Alex Kotyakov. Thank you for not giving up on me and thank you for believing in me. 


As we celebrate endings, for they precede new beginnings, I want to remember all that I am grateful for. Every person who’s helped me along the way. Every hug I’ve ever gotten. Every piece of advice. Every smile I received from a stranger. I am even grateful for the struggle. The struggle that gave me the mental fortitude to know that “this too shall pass.”. As I close out a momentous 2023, I do hope that 2024 brings you joy, laughter, serenity, and peace in abundance and is sprinkled with extraordinary moments that we can share fond memories of this time again next year.




Popular Posts