I bought this sweet painting in the summer of 2020. At the time, I didn’t know I was in that boat.

After being laid off from my career job, a global pandemic had me facing the reality that there would be no immediate job. I did online yoga classes, walked everyday, chatted with friends and enrolled in an online course on app development. As part of my program, I was required to sketch out an idea for an app. This was easy, because I had been ruminating about an app that would allow working women to connect with the intention of mentorship. I created MentorSHE, and was accepted into Invest Ottawa’s pre-accelerator program for 10 weeks. I was so excited!

While COVID raged on, I kept going. With zero funds, I carried out surveys, interviewed many women, managed to create a website and build a prototype app. Ironically, for the first time, I actually had mentors through the Invest Ottawa program. I soaked up every webinar that was offered, and since I won crowd favorite in the pitch finale competition, I had the ongoing support of coaches and mentors. I learned more about what would be available to me as a woman founder, and did more research about women and mentorship.

I started a MentorSHE blog on Medium, became more active on LinkedIN, and created an Instagram profile for MentorSHE. I commented on discussions and participated actively on panels. I learned how to use MailChimp and create campaigns. I watched my social media pages begin to crowd with news and stories about women in business, and the issues impacting women at work today. I made new connections. None of this has been easy. I am self-taught, and even though I designed and developed the app, I bit off more than I could chew with social media marketing, and I’m not well versed when it comes to using things like analytics. Creating MentorSHE had been a full time effort (without the pay) but I was investing in a vision, my own skill development, and staying “in it” from the outside.

While being immersed in this project, I underwent a deep fracture within my family of origin. I was working hard to recover from past hurts, support my own family, and move on. The path of self discovery turned up lots of truths that it was time to face. Often, my turmoil would pour into my day and I would get derailed. There is nothing quite like pulling yourself out of the mud when you feel you have nothing left, like turning the ignition on a dead battery.

Then, I went quiet.

A few months ago, my husband was diagnosed with cancer. While the prognosis for a full recovery is very good, nothing can stop you in your tracks faster than hearing that kind of news

Seven weeks of daily radiation ended two weeks before our daughter’s wedding. After the daily drive to and from hospital and watching my husband stand up to his treatments with unbelievable strength and dignity, he walked our girl down the aisle and we celebrated with our closest family and friends.

This month I came back to MentorSHE — my work. While my husband recovers and rebuilds, I am again facing this world of work, and my project. I promised to fulfill a commitment I made to myself for MentorSHE, and that was to find community, partnership, anything or anyone I could collaborate with that might have a shared interest in my vision. I reignited a few embers and told myself if these don’t catch, I am out.

I’ll admit, I sometimes question if I should keep going. I weigh the pros and cons. I think about going to work part-time, outside of the corporate world and doing something I would enjoy. It makes me think of my hobbies, and if there is some alignment there. I have lined up a few things to explore.

I am two years older than I was when I was first laid off, and COVID-19 is still with us. I am reflecting on what MentorShe has meant to me during this time — me and MentorSHE in the boat. From the shoreline, I see that the landscape of work has changed, and so have I. I am pondering what is next.

What I have learned about myself is that I am a builder. I am a creator. I am a communicator. How does that line up in a LinkedIN profile?

Like you, I read so many headlines about the decline of our mental health and the lack of systems to help. I read about employee experience and engagement, and how paramount it is for us to connect with our people. I am learning that we should all be bracing ourselves for the “future of work” and the ambiguity of it all. We have exhausted ourselves with information: some good, some bad and all of it just too much. It is no wonder we are seeing what they are beginning to call the #greatresignation.

On my birthday this past summer, I headed out to a small town to treasure hunt in vintage and antique shops. After hours of perusing and discussing the myriad items we saw, I landed on a classic oil painting of boats in a harbor. Excited with my $65 dollar purchase, I reframed and hung it in my home. Then I realized, I actually bought a painting of a boat in a harbor last year (pictured above) and over our bed is a print of two row boats tied to the dock. I also have a lovely water colour of a venetian gondola I bought in Italy, an homage to my roots. “I guess I like boats”, I mused. While showing off my new artwork, I shared this observation with my sister-in-law, who said, “Interesting. Safe harbor.”.

Safe harbor. Anchored to the shoreline.

Being laid off made me feel pushed out from a world I knew very well, and a field I competed in and played on since I was 22 years young. I was another version of me then. It was a good career. In a sense, it ended on a high note, working for a great company where I managed a product. But in the early days, I asked, “Why me?” Why wasn’t I part of the “re-imagined” workforce? I tried to get into other roles but that did not pan out. It hurt. Intellectually, I know I was a number on a spreadsheet. My performance and work was excellent, but I was also older, and maybe that played a part. I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter now.

Founding MentorSHE has been about giving women a place to find intentional mentorship opportunities, because I think one way out of the mess of our systemic barriers is to find new ways to connect with purpose. It has also been about finding the next version of myself. This is what we do. This is the human experience: recovery and starting again.

Recently, I told my daughters (again), “I am in transition”. They joked that it seemed to be taking a long time. Maybe instead I should say, “I am transition” and ask, “How does everything else live up to me?”

This soul journey is ongoing, and the richness of life is layers deep. Right now, I am trying to be still enough not to miss what is meant for me.

Originally published at https://mentorsheblog.carrd.co.

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Maria T McGinn

Maria T McGinn

Act II Part 1 presently “Daring Greatly”. Connecting women through intentional mentorship. Founder @mentorshe.com