The most important thing is you must put everybody on notice that you’re here and you are for real.” – Kobe Bryant

In the numbing aftershock of the sudden deaths of Kobe Bryant, his thirteen-year-old daughter Gigi, and the rest of the passengers on that helicopter, it still doesn’t feel real to me. It’s internally inconceivable for me to grapple with the reality none of them are coming back.

It speaks loudly to the preciousness of my own life. I have held my life more delicately yet more fiercely these past few weeks.

Last year, I went to the funeral of a friend. He was the same age as me. Just like that, he was gone. No warning. I got the news sitting at my desk while working overtime amidst a crushingly busy tax season, and I silently cried, borderline sobbed. My earbuds were in and turned up loud, and though I muffled each sob and wiped each tear that flowed, I couldn’t care less if anyone heard or saw me. That moment was sacred.

It also felt all so ironic. He is never coming back. Meanwhile, the life I still have breath in my lungs to live I am spending (at the time) in a field and position I have no future in. Not much else matters when death shows up. Suddenly, any excuses, even some of the logical or “wise” ones, to not live our best lives struggle to stand when cast on the backdrop of something like this.

I just remember standing in the back of the crowded memorial service a few days later, shaking my head. Death, how I hate you, you thieving jerk. In both of these cases, I will not be convinced it was their time to go. In my opinion, it simply wasn’t. They should still be here. Not because I blame anyone or anything for their deaths, because I absolutely don’t and I see no point in doing so, but I hurt for such an untimely end. So final. Breaths never to be breathed again. I am grateful beyond words for their lives, stories and impact, and out of that place, I am humbled and honored to look at my own life and ask the question: Am I being for real?

I believe I owe it not only to myself, but to them, to be revived by this cold water thrown in my face and take it as the wake up call it can be…

If I let it.

We can always kind of be average and do what’s normal. I’m not in this to do what’s normal.” – Kobe Bryant

Recently, I took a leap. A great big, running leap out of a corporate 8 – 5 existence into an open expanse of self-employment and unknown. Hear me when I say, I did not do this because I had my “t’s” crossed and “i’s” dotted. I did it because I was consumed by one thought last summer: Time is not a renewable resource.

I was watching my life race past me as I was consumed with deadline after deadline. The moment my head would briefly come up for air, I was almost immediately thrust back under water. I was feeling and seeing the affects of tremendous compounded stress on my physical body. I was frustrated and tired of jumping through hoops for male and other leaders, which never really got me anywhere. I felt like I was giving in to the weight of a slow daily death, and my internal panic was increasing as I felt like I was watching my life slip through my fingers.

I was not thriving, but instead I was caught in an endless loop of striving, so I decided to stop the madness. I knew it was time, and for me, this was the best decision I could make.

I gave my notice and left two and a half months later.

Pain doesn’t tell you when you ought to stop. Pain is the little voice in your head that tries to hold you back because it knows if you continue you will change.” – Kobe Bryant

I have no doubts whatsoever that leaving my day job was the best decision I could make. But y’all, there are moments. Moments where I genuinely don’t see how any of this will work or come together. I get scared or worried or self-doubt lurks at the front door of my heart and mind. I have been selective about how much and with whom I share what this transition has meant for me on a daily basis. Even in those shaky times, I am still fueled by the grit to just keep going. To refuse to give up. To push through the pain, and trust the process.

I know on the other side of this discomfort and fear is my promised land, because I can see it.

If you’re afraid to fail, then you’re probably going to fail.” – Kobe Bryant

How I think, speak and believe about my life matters. I am acutely aware that the “old way” of doing life or thinking, just won’t work if I really want to leave the mark I want to. We are talking legacy here. I have big dreams and goals. I want to make six figures… at least! I want my impact to be wide-reaching and positive. I get fired up thinking about all of it. There is so much more to come.

As much as I wish I wasn’t sitting here writing a blog post about what happened to each irreplaceable life aboard that helicopter or to my inspiring friend, I am privileged by the way all of this provokes my own life. As awful as it may sound and as awful as it feels to write this, their deaths have been a (tragic) gift, and I don’t ever want to take any of it lightly.

I thank them sincerely for the ways I have been deeply impacted by their lives… and their deaths.

It’s the one thing you can control. You are responsible for how people remember you—or don’t. So don’t take it lightly.” – Kobe Bryant


Additional thought: This is my personal story, and the way you take what happened and apply it to your own life is up to you, and that is a beautiful thing. Not everyone needs to quit their day job. But I will say this, we each only get one shot at this. My only hope is to be another voice to inspire each of us to go out there, and do the dang thing… whatever that looks like. You can do it, and it is beyond worth it. Here’s to our individually and collectively brighter and fuller futures.

Featured picture: This was listed as a free image. If anyone knows and can conclusively prove to me this needs to be credited to a specific photographer, then please PM me.



More Cloudy Days in Chicago


You should see how many blog drafts I have.

“Maybe what you need is to leave Kansas City. Like, physically get into your car and drive away. Reset.”

Monday, January 6th, 2020 I walked out of my corporate reality, and took a running leap into the great unknown. I knew I didn’t have all the details worked out for self-employment, but I was consumed with one major thought: Time is not a renewable resource. I was doing this for the future Ariell ten years down the road.

Getting through the rest of 2019 to 2020 took everything I had, which wasn’t much. I was running on fumes, and my victory run to the finish line looked and felt more like a forced jog.

So, here I was post-Monday January 6th soaking up the residual shockwaves of an intense building year, and my body took this as it’s long-awaited opportunity to plummet into rest and recovery. Though I have been able to regularly get into the gym (thank God!), plummet, my body did. I was exhausted. Like, exhausted. After this started to subside in its intensity, internal paralysis started to move in to take its place. I was stuck not only physically anymore, but also mentally and emotionally.

A couple weeks after the brakes on my corporate life were applied and I was thickly tangled in the internal mess of the ups and downs of my leap of faith, I was having another long phone call with my mother (affectionately known as Ma). She made the suggestion to pack up from KC and make the trek up north to the Chicagoland area to get away and reset. Here I would also be surrounded by immediate and extended family, and the kind of old friends who will always and truly know me. Made sense; she was right. Why didn’t I think of that first?

This past Tuesday I packed up my CR-V (Lafawnda the Honda, according to my sister) and made the eight hour trek to the land of Bears hats, deep dish pizza, and where the passing lane is an expectation rather than a suggestion (I’m looking at you, Missouri). One of the great things about this new life of mine is I am not restricted by time. I don’t have the looming pressure and anxiety of having to be back in Kansas City by a certain time.

So far, I have seen my Ma, sister, youngest brother, and one of my best friends from high school. I had healthy and ah-mazing vegan food with my sister in a restaurant called Dancing Dog, then followed that up with a double-shot drink and mozzarella sticks in the bar she manages. I took the L for the first time, and one of the guys on the subway called me out as a newbie (I didn’t realize it was that obvious). My youngest brother called to have free day passes set aside for me at the gym he used to work at, so I gladly got my butt kicked in a barre class. My brother bought me $1 earrings in Boys Town. My friend Jesy and I talked and laughed at Goddess and the Grocer outside Wicker Park, remembering instantly why we were such good friends in junior high and high school.

At the moment, I am sitting in a coffeeshop (imagine that) in Downers Grove, Illinois’ Main Street, watching Saturday shoppers with their dogs and coffees in hand and the regular passing of the Metra trains. I have been writing, rewriting, writing, tearing up, deleting, then writing again. It is a cloudy day, which according to the chatty and Euro-stylish retail associate outside Wicker Park, is a record. Apparently, Chicago has never seen this many consecutive days of cloudy weather. Today marks day twelve.

I have known all about cloudy days lately.

As I write, light gray slowly turns darker gray as winter dusk approaches.

I don’t know how to express all I have been feeling since leaving the corporate life. I had enough. Will you allow me to be real? As most women in the workforce can personally attest, this wouldn’t have been the first work situation where I had been held back, talked over, treated like my opinion had little to no value, hushed, put in my place, ignored, and worse… repeatedly. This is tame for what I could write, and as a woman, I don’t want to give in to the pressure anymore to be quiet about mentalities like this towards the input and value of women in the workplace. The thing is it is rarely the majority of the workplace, just a few who are this way at key moments (and not even necessarily all the time!). I believe we all have a greater responsibility to do better. Let’s do better, and value women.

I left with the belief if I make the space, all the good things I had built and invested in would have the necessary room to expand and flourish.

I always want to be encouraging, but all I have to offer is this current raw struggle. This blurry cloudy place. Vague, yet very real. It has been a fight to keep fighting. I have often wondered how the heck all of this will work out, and I keep wanting to tie off all of these things I want to say in a pretty little bow. Hence, all the blog drafts. But that’s just not happening in the way I like (yes, I overthink things), so this is as good as this is going to get today.

Right now though, I am settling into the arms of people who love me, who will always be my safety net, and into the belief there will always be an end to cloudy days.