The Weekly Edit: Don’t Call It a Pivot

Nov 2, 2018

Toward the end of the summer, I went out to Washington, D.C. for a couple of interviews.  Upon receiving several rejection e-mails, I asked the interviewers why their offices chose to pass.  All four offered a variation on the same theme, I had been out of D.C. for too long.

In a city where networking matters, my Rolodex simply wasn’t fresh enough.  And with a new election (and perhaps a new power structure) on the horizon, there were too many unknowns to continue looking.

It’s a terrible thing to discover that you gave up on something too early, and realize that there’s no going back.  But ever onward, it’s time to start building a life where I am, instead of keeping one eye on the exit.

When I wake up in the morning to the sound of two snoring dogs huddled next to Kyle, I feel good about my decision.  But sometimes, especially in social situations, I feel like I’m back in junior high — a little too desperate to fit in, and certain that I’m failing.  It’s difficult to dramatically change course, but I have to keep working at it.

As the winter chill sets in, all I want to do is eat soup.  But as discussed here before, Kyle will not eat soup or stew of any kind.  How he is immune to the charms of a steaming bowl of delicious comfort is a mystery to me.

Instead, I’m going to try this Thai Peanut Chicken Ramen.  Understand, that noodles in broth is my least favorite of all the soup-like dishes.  But here I am, so desperate for the soothing deliciousness of soup that I’m willing try anything.  Luckily I’m a sucker for anything with peanuts.

These Dagne Dover neoprene Hunter toiletry bags are a total lifesaver.  Unlike most bags, which are just vacuous caverns for your serum and bobby pins to get lost in, these actually feel organized.  From the elastic loops and interior pockets to the included mesh pouches, you can finally keep everything in its proper place.

I have the extra large and the large.  The extra large will hold full size liquids and gels.  The large will hold all of my makeup.  I may also need to grab the small because I just hate to break up a set.

The bags come in a wide variety of colors.  This Dune color is a lovely mauve.

Disclosure: I’ve accepted free bags from Dagne Dover in the past for purposes of reviews and giveaways.  I’ve also bought a couple for myself and others.  Regardless of whether the item was a gift or paid for by me, I’ve loved every one of them.  They’ve never directly paid me for a post.

I’ve gotten into the odd habit of only reading when I travel.  So last week’s trip to New York City gave me the opportunity to finish a couple of books that were on my list.

First, Busy Phillips’ This Will Only Hurt a Little.  It’s filled with light, funny short essays similar to the content Busy produces for Instagram Stories.  Amazon has a sample, if you want to try it before you buy it.

Second, Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) has a fourth Cormoran Strike book on offer.  Lethal White is a more complex story than the previous three books, but a similarly dark murder mystery.

I only own two winter coats: an expensive cashmere one that I’m loathe to damage and a Canada Goose coat that’s a little too bulky to haul around.  This LOFT Marled Funnel Coat appeared while I was hunting for something in between.  It’s cozy and casual, just like I was hoping.  It comes in petite, tall and misses sizes up to XL.

Looking for something similarly casual?  Second choice was this olive Michael Kors coat from Century21.  I was into all the buttons and buckles.

Recently, a teenager I know explained that they don’t really watch television anymore.  That she only watches Netflix and Youtube, and a couple of other channels that I’d never heard of, because, you know, old.  But she turned me onto this YouTube channel called Buzzfeed Unsolved.

While I’m not into their quest to explore the supernatural, I do enjoy their true crime episodes.  They run about 20-minutes, so I tend to watch one on my lunch break.  Because everyone deserves a little break from their workday.  (Be warned though, the hosts can be a bit grating with their nerdy jokes.)

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  1. RR says:

    “It’s a terrible thing to discover that you gave up on something too early, and realize that there’s no going back.”

    This is so spot on. About 4 years ago I gave up my career to raise our 2 girls. A very good friend of mine said that the optimal number of hours worked to have a happy family is 70 & we were both trying to do that unsuccessfully at the same time. I love my family but often look back at the choice to step back with piles of regret. Like your decision to go to school out West, the road not taken often beckons me in my heart.

    • Anna says:

      I’m confused by “the number of hours worked to have a happy family is 70.” Does that mean both partners work 70 hours total at their jobs? Or do you mean you work at home 70 hours. Sorry if I’m missing something.

      • Belle says:

        I’ve read this somewhere: It’s total working household hours, so both partners added together.

        • laura says:

          Wow, I haven’t heard that before, but it’s spot on! For about 5 years, before my oldest was in kindergarten, I worked part-time (32 hours a week, or 4 days in the office) and my partner worked around 40–in a job he enjoyed without many overtime days or lots of travel. It was amazing. I loved going to work and I loved my Fridays with my son. We had another child, but when he was only 18 months, I had to go to full-time work to gain some great job security (in the form of a federal position within my agency). While I’m still happy, I am not *as* happy as I was working that 4-day week. It was simply perfect for my work-life balance.

    • Denise says:

      RR – I’m a full time working and travelling career mom, and I second guess my decision every day. It’s the nature of the beast once we are moms 🙂 Be confident in your decision, and know you are supported regardless 🙂

      • Laura says:

        Denise, you sound like a great person. Your comment to OP made me smile. Thanks for your positivity and refreshing attitude.

  2. MOnica T says:

    I saw a fascinating play last week called “Kings” that was about Washington DC lobbyists and how their influence works. Something that struck me was how a former chief-of-staff who then became a lobbyist got a six-figure bonus every year her former member remained in office. When another lobbyist off-the-record helped a member of the House who didn’t want to play the DC game she was basically blacklisted by the establishment. I can imagine that in a place like that you’re only as good as your last big deal. I’m sorry for the disappointment though, sometimes we’re forced to move forward, even when we want to hang on to the past.

    Also that ramen looks so dang good, why does it have to be 85 today!

  3. January says:

    Thanks for the update! As someone who gave up the DC dream almost ten years ago …with the idea that I could move back (but I haven’t…), I can relate to your struggles. I’m rooting for you out there!

  4. Kim says:

    “It’s a terrible thing to discover that you gave up on something too early, and realize that there’s no going back.”

    This is so poignant. I can relate and have not been able to articulate it so well or so succinctly.

  5. Janine says:

    You sound really resigned. Don’t give up if you’ll regret it. A friend of mine started working with a career coach to find a new job and said it was one of the best moves she had made; maybe one can help you. I know two from working with them in the Women’s Bar Association of DC, Ellen Ostrow and Anne Collier, if that helps to get you started.

    • Belle says:

      I’ve made hundreds of contacts. It’s not meant to be. I don’t have the resources to keep it going.

      • Jess says:

        It sounds so cliche, but maybe your destiny is a different path. Trusting that can be so painful and hard though. In many ways, I am glad to see that you have tried, failed, and are willing to go down a different path. Our abilities to adapt and change strongly affect our overall happiness. Choose to be happy where you are. It’s great advice someone gave me once. So hard to do though, but something to cling to. I think you’ve done a great job trying to get to DC, and maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

      • Janine says:

        I suppose I don’t believe in “not meant to be.” If you truly think it’s time to give up, that’s one thing. You will definitely grow wherever you’re planted. But don’t give up if you think there is a way. Speaking from personal experience, I have had to get creative in getting to the job I ultimately want, and the path has been paved with twists and turns. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before, but if you need a base in DC, you’re welcome to my second bedroom.

  6. V says:

    Re: Soup – At some point my partner and I decided that we would “eat together, but feed ourselves” — meaning, we have dinner together every night (if we’re both home) but we each o prepare our own meal. Many nights we have the same dinner so one of us will prepare it for two, but if I want an omelette and he wants pasta, we each make our own and do our best to coordinate on timing. He is a picky eater, and doing this freed me to be more adventurous with my cooking. It’s more work overall, but we are both happier, and on nights when I’m too tired/busy to cook, I just have whatever he’s having, and vice versa. All this is to say, Belle, if you love soup, make soup! 🙂

    • Stefanie S. says:

      This is a great idea! I may try something like this with my kids.

    • Alisha says:

      Yes! My partner is very picky and I was getting annoyed at cooking something he liked that wasn’t satisfying for me. Now we eat together but make our own food. Sometimes there’s overlap, sometimes not. But it is so much more enjoyable

  7. Jamie says:

    Why not just continue to apply? I know it can feel frustrating but if you can put that aside and just plow forward while treating these rejection emails like “on to the next one” you might be able to find your way back to DC.

    • Jamie says:

      Also recognize that its a crazy place and that if you hadn’t left you might have felt burned out at this point. You can’t necessarily “win” but you can change your mindset and not buy into a very specific narrative about what you might have left behind.

  8. EmiLy says:

    Girl – I have been living in my current city for 7 years, at my current job for 6, been a mother for 2.5… and I am JUST NOW getting out of that junior high feeling! Give it time, find one or two friends and don’t worry about fitting in with the group. A place will grow around you. 🙂

  9. Jill says:

    I’ve been in D.C. for 25 years, working farther away from politics as time goes on. I’ve daydreamed about living elsewhere, maybe where people are friendlier, the work-life balance is easier, etc. Point being, I think we all wonder about the road not taken sometimes. You sound like a smart, kind, hard-working, thoughtful person. Good opportunities come to people with your qualities. And that soup looks awesome. 🙂

  10. Jess says:

    If you want a friend in Spokane, send me an email. ☺️ No matter what, I’ve been rooting for you since your Beauty and the Beltway days and I always will.

  11. Rachel says:

    I think you probably know this. But it is really never too late, paths just wind a little. I have a friend who started off working on tv production (I want to say Richard Bey or something like that). Left that. Was involved locally in various efforts. Started working for two state assemblywomen who shared her. And now, a mother of many children, including a college graduate, works for Sen. Gillibrand. She is my idol. Twists and turns.

    But I feel you. I took a turn in one direction in my career. And it probably wasnt the one I should take. And now I am constantly strategizing on how to get out.

  12. Kathleen H Lisson says:

    Just a thought, but could you make a stew for yourself and a pot of rice on the side and serve te non-soup-lover the solid ingredients of the soup over rice, maybe with a curry sauce?

  13. Christina says:

    Take some time to recoup, but don’t give up on your dreams! Look at your resume and all you have achieved. Don’t let anyone tell you can’t have what you want. Find another way.

    • Belle says:

      I really appreciate all the positivity. But I’ve been looking for a job in D.C. for a year. Dreams cost money. I don’t have the resources to continue, and I can’t push this out further on nothing but hope. I chased the dream hard, it didn’t work out. The only people who can tell you to chase a dream blindly are the ones who won’t experience the consequences.

      • KLC says:

        This is SO TRUE. I got what I thought was my dream job out in DC metro area (dream area). Had to pick up a second part time job just to make ends barely meet, and was absolutely miserable. I made it a year, found a job back in the Midwest, doubled my salary, and am blissfully happy. Occasionally you have to experience a heck of a gut check to realize your life is going to be different than what you thought, but it’s still going to be amazing. Wishing you all the best, Belle!

  14. AllY says:

    You have a healthy attitude about moving forward where you are, and I admire that. I would just say – don’t close your own doors. Find work that you can enjoy. Look for opportunities to be involved in government at a state level and find an issue area you enjoy to be an expert in. Many roads lead to Rome. You are smart, hardworking, and in general amazing. Someday your knowledge and relationships could overcome your lack of a Rolodex. Enjoy time with Kyle and your pups! It’s a wonderful opportunity to give that side of your life a few years to flourish.

  15. Sarah says:

    I agree, don’t give up! I work in DC and know how it can be. I will say as much as knowing people helps, three of my past jobs I got from applying online, including USAJobs. I also think it’s one of these places where it can be hard to job search from afar. It can take a few months, but I know many who’ve landed places – may or may not be dream job status, but will lead to the next better thing and next better thing. Why not come out after the elections for 3 months, if doable? Think it helps to be here so you can be more of a known entity and “build the Rolodex.” You could run your blog from here and do side gigs while you look. Go to to all the events, get involved with orgs and associations that speak to you. As a longtime reader I feel like as much as Montana has your heart, DC has your “career” heart. Rooting for you.

  16. SLG says:

    When I ponder the road not taken — and for me there have been several — I think about Cheryl Strayed’s Rumpus column, “The Ghost Ship that Didn’t Carry Us”:

    “And yet, there remains my sister life. All the other things I could have done instead…. I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”

  17. Nel says:

    I can sort of relate. It was my childhood dream to be CJ Craig. I have always loved DC, and spent some of my childhood there so it still holds a special place in my heart. After spending my summers interning on the hill in college (shoutout to CapHillStyle, which I read DAILY), I just decided to go in another direction with my career, mostly because I couldn’t afford moving to DC from across the country. Was I sad? Definitely. But 10 years later, I love the new direction my life has taken and thankful for the success my career has had that I truely never expected. I have friends who stayed and have built great careers for themselves. I made peace with leaving and never looked back, as I’m super grateful for the life I built for myself.

    Also, aren’t you like, 35? You have the rest of your life ahead of you. Who is to say life won’t take you back there?

  18. Susan says:

    Okay I’m going to take a slightly different tack than previous commenters: you need to quote Ariana Grande and say “thank you, next” to DC. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.Deep down you know that. Not to mention we only remember the good and we all look at our pasts through rose colored glasses. There is a reason you left and a reason you’re not back. It will be clear, soon enough. I’m not even going to comment on the political mess you’d be diving head first into. Go forth and conquer Abra. You can do this. Bigger, better things are looming.wait for it….

  19. Jenn says:

    A friend once gave this advice: trust the decision you have made in this past, because you made the best possible decision for yourself given the information you had at that moment. I trust you made the best decision then and that you’re making the best decision now.

  20. J says:

    I’ve been reading your blog since I was a freshman in college and I now have two semesters left in law school. You’re passion and insight have really helped me professionally as I have always dreamed of living in DC once I take the bar exam. I did an internship there during undergrad and clerked there my 1L summer. I made the choice not to go back there this past summer because I had an opportunity at a mid size law firm that ended up lying to me about my pay rate (no official offer was signed, my Career Services office said there was nothing I could do but quit…). I had to take this current semester off for a multitude of personal reasons, but being wildly confused and and unhappy was a main reason. I went to law school right after college and stayed close to home because I was in a relationship at the time and last summer, that relationship ended. It made me think a lot about what I really wanted and what I was doing. If I hadn’t been in a relationship, I would have moved to DC right after I finished college. I know this isn’t on the same level, but even me just coming and going for internships as I can and then coming back to where I live during the semester has put me far enough behind other people my age/at my career/education level that I’m noticing it. I mad the choice to not try and get a position there my final summer of law school for financial reasons so I can save money to move post-Bar Exam. I know it will make the job search a little harder, but I’m not afraid of a little hustle.

  21. Alisha says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this, no one ever talks about this. I had entered my current career, program management, with a goal to fund medical school. For various reasons, med school isn’t happening in this lifetime. Once I fully let goal of my old goals, I started to feel more fulfilled in my career, but it is still taking time. Wishing you the best

  22. Lc says:

    As someone a decade older than you, I would encourage you to think of this as just one of many chapters in your life. Just because your current chapter is not going to be in DC, that does not mean that you will never go back to DC. Life has taken me to many different places, and I seem to be “stuck” in my current, definitely not my favorite, city because of my kids’ ages. But who knows what the future holds? I would not have picked all the wonderful places life has taken me when I was a new law school graduate.

  23. DC BRAUd says:

    I’m sorry that it’s not working out. I’m a lifelong Washingtonian and was a lawyer in DC for years, and I recently made the “head over heart” decision to leave the city to move to a smaller city with a better COL and quite honestly where the demand for someone with my legal skillset was higher. It was a really heart wrenching decision and there are times that it cuts a little bit that I’m not in *the* most competitive arena…

    …But I’m extraordinarily valued where I am now, and frankly I wasn’t in DC. I would have bled for my job which sounds dramatic, but I was very committed. But outstanding lawyers are a dime a dozen, and I had no idea the emotional toll that a lifetime of such intense competition had taken on me until I just walked away. It’s different, and there are days that I really miss being home, but I’ve found a different type of fulfillment and peace in being able to bring my talent to a place where I frankly think it’s being used much more effectively.

    I wish you the best. From “getting to know” you via your blog over the years, I think you’re a person that has a strong sense of purpose. So I really hope that you find that. Whatever and wherever it is.

  24. Elise says:

    Been reading and admiring you from afar for many years (since… 2009 I want to say? – now I feel ancient). Your content is always outstanding and you are clearly highly intelligent and passionate about many different things. Even though we’re not *real* friends, I just wanted to say I’m proud of you for choosing what’s best for you right now, even if it’s hard or feels like the death of something. I think most if not all of us come to a similar point sooner or later – whether it’s the end of a relationship, infertility, loss of a dream job or just working your a** off and never getting what you were hoping for. You rock, you’re incredibly inspiring, and I know good and even great things will continue to be your future. Best wishes from Michigan!

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