When a Workhorse Hits a Standstill

Photo Source: Kelly, @kellymlacy, via Pexels.

Kat Kelly – “You’re never going to get a husband if you keep that up,” my mom quipped to me. The lawnmower busted while I was trying to plow through the backyard that I had let get a little too long. She always called me her little “workhorse.” She meant well.

It was a hot summer day and I was about 16. I remember telling her, “I don’t need a husband. I don’t really need anyone else.”

That was a long time ago. But for most of my life I sat in that space of radical self-reliance. It became a badge of honor for me to be able to handle it all.

But I’ve been handling it all, non-stop since I was about 10 years old.

My mom is long gone from this world. But everyone who has known me since I was much younger sees me as someone who “always figures it out” or “finds a way.”

The way that has manifested into my personal life is clear. But, hey, that’s a journey I’m always working on.

Professionally, it means that any disruptions in my work hit very deeply. And when those disruptions happen the people who know and love me, rely on me to be the strong one who “always figures it out.”

I’ve been laid off four times over the course of my career.

Before my first time, I always assumed that layoffs only happened to poor performers. But then it happened to me in a role that I was tremendously proud of, that I had done a great job at, one where I had won a boatload of industry awards, and one where I had to battle many micro-aggressions from an authentic boys’ club.

The second time it happened, our entire company was handed envelopes. The number on your envelope determined what room you would go into. The room you were in determined whether you would stay or go. Yep, just like Survivor.

And then there was the layoff over video where someone whom I had never even seen came onto the screen and eliminated hundreds of positions and entire departments. Very personal and heartfelt? Truly. Sigh. No.

Lastly, there’s one more that just made the least sense of all. But, we’re not going to talk about that yet.

If you’re reading this, you may be able to relate to some of these scenarios. Or perhaps you are one of the people who have been able to keep your head down or have held just enough power that you’ve been able to dodge those moments.

Regardless of where you fall, I hope we can all agree that as a country, American business should be able to do better. We should not be commoditizing humans as disposable resources.

I am the daughter of a United States Marine and a legit coal miner’s daughter. I was raised with the work ethic that an Appalachian woman who had to chase her own dinner and an agent-orange exposed Vietnam vet who returned to become an officer instilled deeply in me. Hint: it’s an intense work ethic. And to lose a job is deeply painful and creates a deep hole that I’m trying to shield my children from.

You see, everyone I know still thinks I will figure it all out and they still think I’m that young girl who doesn’t need anyone else.

But, I do. I need support and sometimes a soft place to land.

At the time of this writing, the job market is tough, but the country is acting like things are business as usual. If the algorithms hit just right, the magic of social media makes it easy to see the pain that so many workers are going through. It’s damaging. I know.

While I don’t have all the answers, I do have a little advice from having been down this road. While you are digging and trying to figure out what is next for you, dig into yourself and find the thing that fills your soul. It may not pay the bills. But it pays your psyche and you can’t do much without that intact.

Consider this the in-between. I know how stressful and painful it is for most of us – and yes, I’m totally jealous of the folx who see these times as “gifts” on the front end. I wish that could be me, but I really do have to figure it all out to keep the wheels turning.

Dig deep, find your passions, and while you’re doing what you need to do to get to the next step, make sure you’re taking little bites of those things that feed you on a deeper level. Your worth is who you are in this world and not what you do for a living. Easier said than done sometimes, I know, but in these moments sometimes one step at a time is the best way forward.


Kat Kelly is the founder of Vexteo and she has been through the self-doubt brought onto by these moments. She wants you to know your power and worth.

Photo Source: Kelly, @kellymlacy, via Pexels.