Deep breath. You’ve done this before.
Gripping the steering wheel, I drove the same route I’d taken a thousand times. 55 south to the 405, get off at Irvine Center Drive. The morning sun glinted off the high-rise buildings in the same familiar way. I knew which lanes to stay in, where to merge with incoming traffic. I’d done this before. But today was different.
As I passed through the glass doors of the building, I glanced up as I always did, to greet the fourteen stories above me, rising to the sky.
The first time I’d walked through these glass doors was nearly four years ago. A year out of college, and new to Orange County, I’d searched for a job fit for a former English major. I’d come here, to 20 Pacifica, to interview for a content writer position. I’d worn dark red lipstick, which had felt like a disguise to me, something to cover up the insecurity. At least, that’s what I’d hoped.
To my surprise, I was hired, and suddenly I was sitting in a cubicle, trying to pretend I knew what I was doing. Four years of college was supposed to prepare me for this, right? All those essays and projects, the late nights of studying, staring at my too-bright laptop screen with bleary eyes—they had to pay off somehow. But academic success hadn’t exactly translated into glowing post-grad confidence. Sitting in my cubicle, I felt lost, and small, an imposter among more capable, qualified colleagues. For the most part, I kept my head down and did my work.
In those days, fear was my constant companion. It told me lies, whispered things in my ear: No one wants to hear what you think. You’ll get it all wrong. You’ll mess it up.
Fear kept me from speaking up, from using my voice. When starting my career, my first and greatest challenge was finding my voice and learning to use it.
I didn’t find my voice overnight. I didn’t find it after a few months or even a year. In many ways, I’m still finding my voice, still learning how to speak my mind.
My time at Century has pushed me to be courageous and trust myself, and in that process, I began to find my voice.
Deep breath. You can do this.
The elevator doors slid open, and like so many mornings before, I stepped into the lobby, clutching my thermos of tea and trying to ignore the nervousness bubbling in my stomach.
You’ve done this before.
But this was different: walking up to the reception desk, brushing my hair aside, waiting while the thermometer read my temperature.
I adjusted my mask and went to my cubicle, which had sat vacant for the last three months.
After those first few months at Century, I started to feel like I had a grasp on things. I learned more and more, swinging from skill to skill like a kid on monkey bars.
I talked with the sales and support teams until I could write helpful, in-depth articles about the industry and our products.
I played around in Adobe Illustrator, relishing in the chance to practice my passion for design, until the software felt like second nature.
I learned about branding and visual identity, perusing design blogs and gleaning everything I could to help us bolster our own internal brands.
I wrote award submissions for Century that went on to net us ten different prestigious awards. I wrote and illustrated eBooks, bringing together my love of writing and design.
Four years and three job titles later, and largely thanks to a supportive team and a manager who always encouraged us to learn and grow, my day-to-day role had completely transformed.
More than that, I was finally beginning to feel like I belonged, like I could raise my voice, speak up, and not be ashamed. I was beginning to trust myself and believe I deserved to be here.
When the pandemic came, creeping into the news and our collective consciousness like spreading mold, I was afraid. Many of us were afraid. And like millions of other Americans, I was furloughed.
It was unexpected. My days, which were previously filled with eight hours of dynamic, challenging work, were empty. Deflated. I lost my sense of purpose.
I was scared, and lonely, and constantly on edge.
I didn’t feel courageous in those days. I certainly didn’t feel like using my voice. I was treading water, struggling to keep my head above the waves.
But there was a strange sort of alchemy happening beneath the surface, a transformation I wasn’t entirely aware of. With every passing day and every difficult moment, I was growing stronger. Not rapidly, not visibly. But for every trial I faced, big or small, I was learning to be courageous. I was learning that what felt like the end was almost never really the end, and that life almost always goes on, even when you feel it can’t.
Deep breath. You will get through this.
I set my thermos down, powered up my computer. It wheezed to life, cantankerous after sitting unused for so long, and I trawled through my email inbox, stuffed with over 900 emails.
My stomach was still fluttering, my brain overactive.
Can I really do this?
What if I mess up?
I don’t belong here.
All the old doubts, the familiar insecurities, attacked like a flock of birds, flapping and pecking.
You’re not good enough. No one wants to hear from you. Everyone around you knows what they’re doing, and you’re just faking it.
But I was stronger now. I recognized the lies. So I took a deep breath and got back to work.
Sometimes the most important courage is the small kind. Afraid, unsure, but willing to try.
These days, when I walk through the glass doors of the building, I don’t tip my head up to the sky and greet the fourteen stories rising above me.
In those beginning months, it started as a ritual—a talisman of sorts—to drink in the bright blue and the sunlight, soaking up good luck for the day.
But I don’t need that ritual anymore. I don’t need luck. I know now that all I have to do is trust myself, be courageous, and speak up.