11 Dec Unmasking New Beginnings and Finding Silver Linings | Nikki Stanzione
When we embark on new beginnings, surrounded by new people in unfamiliar territory, sometimes it’s that warm smile from a stranger or new coworker that comforts us and says “you’re not alone.” So, imagine the following scenario taking place in the surreal smile-less (at least as far as we can see) world we now live in behind a mask: moving to a new state alone, away from friends and family and all that is familiar to start a new job and kick off a reset in every possible way- relearn, restructure, reschedule, refine, and redefine what I knew I knew, in a completely new environment surrounded by strangers I’ve never met before, jumping into the fire full force at top speed…fully masked. Sounds like a superhero scenario, but I’m still in training before I achieve anything resembling Wonder Woman status. So much to learn, absorb, and execute. Fortunately, I can handle that part. I’ve confidently done it before and actually welcome and embrace the adventure and challenge. I also admire and am impressed by the professionalism and passion that I’m now surrounded by, along with the opportunity that now lies ahead, as I embark on my promising future.
But here’s where it all gets bizarre. Let’s begin with the necessity to take a 17.5-hour drive instead of a 2hr flight.
Full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of flying anyway, so driving while listening to fav songs and having my own concert in the car wasn’t the worst thing. As I approached Minneapolis, ironically Prince’s Purple Rain greeted me on the radio, but that rain quickly and literally turned to snow as the first winter weather event of the season made an early debut. Going from 85 degrees in sunny Texas to driving into a snowstorm in freezing MN in MID OCTOBER was an unexpected quick blizzard-like blast into a new reality. I was warned about winter but thought I still had a little more autumn to enjoy before fall fell and winter arose. The good news is I must’ve brought some Texas heat after all because it’s been unseasonably warm and dry ever since (I won’t get ahead of myself knowing I can’t take this short-lived gift for granted). So, the late start to winter has certainly been a silver lining behind the mask.
Take all the unfamiliar and overwhelming things that moving and beginning a new job entails and add this to the equation: I literally have no idea what anyone looks like behind their mask from their eyes on down. No smiles. No smirks. I suppose on that note and on the bright side…no scowls or frowns either…but the point being, it’s tough enough being introduced to a whole new world…no magic carpet on this ride. Now start the journey on the height of a global pandemic. Not only is it impossible to have “normal” interpersonal Interactions with coworkers, but meeting and socializing with other human beings outside of the distanced work environment isn’t even an option because nothing is open. You can’t even take yourself out to dinner because bars and restaurants are shut down. The good news is that with all there is to learn, organize and decide who has time for socializing anyway? Silver linings behind the mask.
Apartment hunting in a city you’ve never seen before the pandemic is a new experience with various different policies in place. Sweating and getting short-winded (being claustrophobic as I am) on these walking tours through properties, I’m forced to hear the same new disclaimers from the masked mysterious men and women showing me what will potentially be my new home… “NORMALLY,” this would be the fitness center. “Before the virus,” this would be a common area for neighbors to have community activities. “When things get back to how it used to be…” you can use this area for…blah blah blah. You get the picture. The key I’ve learned here is how important it is to love the space you will spend in solitude…and also to be grateful for how clean and sanitized everything will now be. Silver linings behind the mask.
I am so grateful for the coworkers who have welcomed me from their socially distanced open arms and with smiles in their eyes. The kind invites to their homes…if times were different.
The invites to lunch or happy hrs… when life re-opens. The recommendations of places to see and enjoy…. if/when it’s safe to visit again. In every meeting, I’d opt for a zoom call to talk virtually, simply because it’s easier to breathe. And I can see faces. And smiles…what a difference a smile can make. 5 weeks later at my new job, I still identify people (other than my fellow tv hosts) by their masks- not their faces. Do any of them have facial hair? Dimples? What do their teeth look like? Their noses? It’s bizarre to say the least. Planning daily live shows under the instruction of muffled masked producers who are trying to be your cheerleader while they can’t even smile at you can be disheartening. However, the eventual big reveal will be like meeting everyone all over again and be a cause for celebration. Silver linings behind the mask.
So, nothing is normal. Until…I get on set in front of the camera. It’s the only familiar territory I know. It’s the only place where I feel truly at home and like myself. So far…having the love and support of viewers, the kindness, help, encouragements, and camaraderie of new coworkers who are quickly becoming friends, the periodic check-ins from all my friends and past coworkers letting me know they miss me but are so happy for me, and lastly, coming home to FaceTime calls with my family and loved ones who couldn’t be more supportive, reminds me I have so much to be grateful for…and confirm that I made the right decision. I’m still a work in progress – as we all are- but I’m progressing along and always finding the silver linings…even behind the mask.