How I Roll

It only takes one offer to change your life. I interviewed with 30 companies in 4 months (some for multiple roles). After being unemployed for nearly a year, I finally found the perfect job for me. I’m so excited to share the news in the coming weeks! I could write a book, or at least a series of blog articles on what it’s like to be long-term unemployed and interviewing for a new position for the first time in over 20 years. I’ve learned so much about myself in the past year and I want to share my tips and tricks for staying positive in the midst of change, drama, and loss. Funny thing is I’m still getting rejection emails which never feels good, but I’m so hopeful for the first time in quite awhile. 🙂

“I wish you the best.”

I am not a quitter. Musical instruments are about the only thing I’ve given up on, having failed miserably at the piano, then flute, the guitar, and drums.

Although one of my shining moments in high school was playing the drums in a neighboring Catholic High School’s rendition of “Camelot.” My one and only “professional” musical gig. 

Persistence and grit have helped me become a successful long distance runner, but that inability to take a break when necessary has also left me injured and broken. (Literally! My sesamoids!) 

Knowing when to press pause, stop, or reset is as crucial as having the desire and guts to start. That’s why I only gave medals to runners who dropped out of the Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon rather than those who finished. I knew how difficult it was to DNF because I have only done it twice in 13 years of running 100s of races. Ending one race before the finish line does not mean you’ve entirely given up on your goals. It just means you’ve delayed trying to achieve one on a particular day when the odds were not in your favor in hopes of being more likely to achieve it in the future on a better day. 

I’ve found every journey — it’s beginning, ending, and everything in between — yields it’s best results when there are clear boundaries and guidelines. I always read the event rules, employee handbook, and informed consent. I am determined to follow my own personal moral code. Breaking the rules might not always get you disqualified, hurt, or fired, but there is no inherent victory in living in a world where you’re beyond reproach or accountability. 

I have never been one to decidedly and permanently end any personal relationship… to ignore or erase someone willingly from my life. I will always leave the door open. I’m not resistant to apologizing myself when I’m wrong and I will always graciously accept an apology from anyone no matter how long it takes. 

My husband is self-described as aloof, but he makes me laugh which, to me, is essential for any healthy relationship. I might not always get the emotional support I want or need, but we have a bond that’s lasted since we first met in 1994. When we moved to Charlottesville I had no local friends and yearned for connection so I chose therapy as an option to guide me on a path to personal growth and positive change. I hoped I could improve my self-esteem and develop the skills to comfort and care for myself. 

It’s been difficult for me to admit and thoroughly process, but I had a very unhealthy and emotionally damaging relationship with a therapist that began on September 22, 2006 and permanently ended on July 29, 2020. I didn’t officially quit or terminate the therapy. I had tried numerous times since 2007, with varying degrees of success. (Success being the length of time that lapsed between sessions, the longer it was, the more successful.)

I last saw him in-person for a session on February 19, 2018, but there were a few random encounters and emails before my final attempt to schedule an appointment in July 2020 when I was struggling with changes relating to the pandemic as well as work. We emailed a bit back and forth with a joke and emojis. He offered me a couple potential times to meet, but when I made a thoughtful and detailed request for a virtual session rather than in-person because of COVID-19 concerns and my insurance coverage, his harshly dismissive, insensitive, two-word response was
“I’ll pass.”
 

It took me 40 days to process those two words and to respond to him, but before I did, I finally filed a complaint with the Enforcement Division of the Department of Health Professions about his abusive behavior, specifically the blurred boundaries, dual relationships, billing issues, and frequent outbursts of anger. 

There are doors that are closed, others locked, doors we can easily open, others we gladly shut on our own, and then there are doors that hit us on the way out. I had a door hit me as I left my therapist’s office after a heated political argument (yes, so many things wrong with that scenario). It scared me and scarred me emotionally, but even that didn’t keep me from trying to salvage the relationship one more time rather than officially quit. 

I’ve found that I’m most frustrated when there’s no clarity or when I feel like I’m being ignored and that’s been my experience as I’ve waited the 9 months since this investigation began. Without any final resolution, I’m still ruminating and analyzing, trying to find the meaning in past words, actions or inactions, to ascribe motives.

If I think about what harmed me the most … it wasn’t the inappropriate out of session communications, the half of a red velvet cake he gave me on my 40th birthday, his oversharing of personal, family, and health information, the unwarranted criticisms of me or my husband, or the dependency on him he fostered with the frequency of appointments and no clear treatment plan … it was the anger, the rage, especially when I dared to question his own intentions, behaviors, or business practices. 

Almost everyone who’s been to therapy has a hidden desire to feel special or unique, to want to know what the therapist really thinks about them, to be liked, to be cared for, and maybe even to blur those boundaries in an effort to redefine the relationship. Trust me: those boundaries are there to protect you, the client. If a therapist doesn’t respect them, run away and, if you can, report it to the licensing board.

My dysfunctional therapy was a secret for a long time, but when I first described the dynamics of the relationship to another therapist who I had been seeing with my husband for couples therapy, he asked if I had seen the movie “Gaslight.” The term gaslighting has become more popular over the past 5 years, but back in 2007 it was a foreign concept to me. I quickly googled it and learned how appropriately it applied to my situation.

I have an intuition and sense about people that’s very good, but I started doubting my own gut feelings that something was very wrong in this case. I shouldn’t have. I know now I never was misreading the situation, that this therapist acted inappropriately and unprofessionally and for whatever reason we had a stormy relationship that I couldn’t quit and he would never end by referring me to another professional.

Yes, I have issues and I’m probably the first to willingly admit all of my faults, my anxieties and indignations, but I’ve come to learn that it wasn’t just me who was treated in a harmful manner by this therapist. I found quite a number of online reviews that are frighteningly similar to my own experience.

I feel a bit guilty, but it’s actually comforting to find out that he was explosive, rude, disrespectful, threatening, mean, controlling, and unprofessional with other clients, it wasn’t just me.

I always made excuses for his outbursts … I deserved it, I’m difficult, I have a hard time letting good things in so when he did say nice things about me it was hard to believe it, so in a way I misinterpreted his anger as intimacy that I could not reject out of hand. 

But if I’m honest, I probably would be rather upset to find out that he lied to me when he said I knew more about his personal life than anyone else he ever worked with and I will definitely need to address that seriously messed-up feeling with a future counselor.

Having a therapist repeatedly violate boundaries should NOT feel like a badge of honor, but it was one of the reasons I never reported him. Until now, I couldn’t even consider that I might be just one of many victims because I didn’t want to even see myself as a victim. I completely rationalized the experience, blamed myself for pushing and testing him, and for asking all the questions that he freely answered.

If it wasn’t just me who he took advantage of and used for his own personal and financial needs would that make me even more pathetic for convincing myself to keep trying to make it work and never quitting despite so much misery and so many red flags? Although I didn’t want to know the answer, I could no longer live with myself if I didn’t at least try to do something to prevent this from happening to anyone else. I have to hope that my complaint could possibly protect other potential clients from his insensitivity and anger.

Even though waiting for resolution is excruciating, I immediately felt empowered when I finally took action and had conversations with the investigator and my insurance company. Every time someone listened to my story and told me this wasn’t right or it wasn’t uncommon, I felt somewhat validated.

It’s probably impossible for me to get all the answers and clarity I seek, to understand why this happened to me, but I do hope there will be an official record about my experience as “Client A” and for the board to acknowledge there was a violation even if there’s no disciplinary action.  

Two days after I filed the formal complaint I sent my final message to my former therapist:

Subject: “I’m a person, not a piece of pizza.”
It’s taken 40 days to process 2 words. 
I’m at peace knowing that your message was unethical, unprofessional, and wrong. 
We had a therapeutic relationship on and off since September 22, 2006. 
You pass on a piece of pizza, not a person. I deserve better.

His response two days later was nothing like any other message he ever sent me, it seemed more likely written by a lawyer or an HR manager. Of course there was no apology for his previous insensitive two-word rejection, rather it ended with, “I wish you the best.” 

Ok, I really wish he would have sent that message instead of “I’ll pass.”

Music is Therapy: “I’LL SHUFFLE” playlist 🙂

The good news in all of this is that I’m finally becoming more comfortable with myself and am better at creating and respecting boundaries. As I’ve been more honest about my past experiences, I’m optimistic and hopeful for future personal growth and am grateful to have a new counselor who I trust to work with when I’m ready.

If you never watching HBO’s “In Treatment”, I’d highly recommend it. The episodes with Paul and his mentor Gina in seasons 1 and 2 and psychiatrist Adele in season 3 are great examinations of the importance of boundaries.

Related Articles:

Interesting Reading:

HELP WANTED

I’d much rather offer my help than ask for it.

When I talk about my volunteer work with the Charlottesville Track Club during interviews, I always explain that I will never criticize something unless I’m willing to try to fix it or improve it. That’s how I started with the Marathon and Half Marathon Training Program. I saw the way people signed up (on paper!) and it didn’t seem to be ideal. I made suggestions to help modernize registration and disseminate information on a website and social media. On May 23 we have our orientation meeting for the program I’ve helped coordinate for over 13 years and I can’t wait to keep making it better with each edition.

Asking for help has been really hard for me. I don’t have a lot of memories about my time at the Child Guidance Center in Philadelphia’s Children’s Hospital, when I suffered from Anorexia Nervosa, but the one that clearly stands out is when I couldn’t ask for a tissue. I don’t know why I was crying, but I remember the counselor offering me a tissue and then questioning why I couldn’t ask for one myself when I clearly needed it. That sticks with me almost 40 years later … that I could have tears and snot all over my face and still not ask for help.

I’m trying very hard to change this hesitancy of mine. It’s not that I think it’s weak to ask for help; I don’t. It’s just that sometimes I feel like I don’t want to bother people or I think maybe I don’t deserve help or kindness because there are so many people with greater needs than mine. Or, I fear rejection when someone doesn’t respond in the way I’d hope for.

I’m learning that it’s worth the risk to put yourself out there and ask for something that someone might enthusiastically give you. That’s why I recently sent out an email with the subject line, “I need your help.” I didn’t want to hide the fact that my twin sister and I had been struggling with some big changes over the past year and we wanted our 50th birthday to be special and memorable. A photo from a friend could be the one bright spot in an otherwise challenging day. No one can read my mind so I need to tell people how meaningful it would be get that picture. And guess what? It’s working! We’ve already received adorable and beautiful photos of our “Flat Twins” and I can’t wait to see more.

The sign in the store window for a job opening might be “Help Wanted”, but I’m finding the job hunt to be a lot like dating. It’s a confusing mixture of “Swipe right” and “Swipe left” on both sides. Is this the dream job? Is she the ideal candidate?

We all want the offer/acceptance instead of the rejection/denial. Is it worse to get a interview only to be rejected or to get passed on right away? I can’t quite figure it all out just yet. All I know is that it’s very challenging and exciting at the same time.

I never dated much and I had the same job longer than my marriage, so how do I maneuver myself in this strange world of hiring? Sometimes I think I just need to have the right conversation with the right person and they will know that I want this and that I can do it. (OMG I’m quoting Shiv from HBO’s Succession. I hope my resume doesn’t get torn apart like her memo did!)

I’m very lucky to be getting interviews for positions that I really want or am genuinely interested in, but I find myself thinking afterwards, “Oh **** I was too honest!” I wonder: Is my unique and transparent personality getting in the way of receiving an offer or do I just not have the experience needed? As a former supervisor once told one of my colleagues, “You’ve got to let Leah be Leah.” I know deep down that if I can’t be valued or appreciated for being my authentic self, then it’s probably not the right position for me. That being said, perhaps I should try to avoid any self-deprecating humor next time I’m on Zoom.

I’m going to do a deep dive analysis of my job hunt so far and work on improving my resume and my elevator pitch to market myself to potential employers. I was thinking about writing my bio for a company website where I want to work as if I were hired to see what I come up with. I also thought on my two-hour walk this morning that maybe I need to work on my tagline, but all I could come up with were funny ones for an edition of the “Real Running Housewives of Charlottesville.” Seriously Bravo come here to cast your next franchise!

“I’ve got a one track mind, but don’t always stay in my lane.” 

“No need to analyze my face, just check my resting heart rate.” 

“It’s time for me to roll, but only because my piriformis really hurts.” 

“I want to break the glass ceiling like I’ve shattered my sesamoids … into many little pieces.” 

“Every mile is a gift and I love presents! (especially in Pokemon Go)”

So please send me and my twin lots of birthday “presents” on Tuesday, May 18th … especially Flat Twin photos and Pokemon Go gifts (they’re FREE!).

#TWINSRUN50K

I’m so excited to attempt my first unofficial ultramarathon on May 18th: 50K on my 50th birthday! Why 50K and not 50 miles? Well, first off, it’s a LOT shorter (31 miles), but it’s also one of the most common ultramarathon distances (any footrace longer than the traditional marathon length of 42.195 kilometers or 26 miles 385 yards). And, there’s a connection to my favorite past time: Pokemon Go. This mobile game encourages players to walk and the top weekly distance reward level is 50km. I thought it would be fun to hit that in one day rather than one week!

If I had to put a time goal on it, I guess maybe my “A Goal” would be 5:18:59 (the pace I ran at my 2021 Rivanna Greenbelt Marathon and because it fits the birthday theme!). That’s never going to happen (mostly because I want to enjoy this challenge and not die or injure myself), so the “B Goal” is under 6 hours and the “C Goal” is under 7:11, the time of my slowest marathon (16:28/mile), when I walked 26.2 miles in the 2010 Disney World Marathon with a bedazzled aircast because of shattered sesamoids. (Fun fact: someone from Turkey just messaged me on Instagram asking about my sesamoids injury because I posted my x-rays. My advice to her was never have surgery unless you need to crawl to the doctor’s office, because I’ve managed to run for 11 years after the diagnosis, albeit not pain free, but manageable.) Walking a marathon was probably the hardest “race” I have ever done because I knew it was going to take a long time and I ended up getting a huge blister on my good foot because I forgot the lift for that sneaker to keep my feet even. I can’t tell you how much it helped to hear encouragement from fellow runners and compliments on my pretty boot. 🙂

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the impact of running on my life as I take my daily walks. I set a goal on January 1, 2021 to walk/run an average of 10 miles a day while I look for a job which has been vital to keeping me motivated and healthy in both mind and body. It’s helped me realize that I want my next career to be in the running industry because it’s been so life-transforming for me. I am honored to be a 13+ year volunteer for the Charlottesville Track Club, but I wouldn’t mind getting a paycheck doing good work that supports running. Also, with my daily mileage commitment, I easily cash in on those sweet 50k rewards in Pokemon Go!

I started running in 2006 to lose weight and soon realized I had some natural talent, but the former anorexic in me took things a bit too far. I was super focused on maintaining the best “racing weight” and ended up obsessing over the scale and dealing with a serious ferritin deficiency that resulted in me barely finishing my first marathon in 5 hours and 17 minutes in 2007. Over the next 5 years I improved my diet (a little!), gained back some of the weight I lost, and hit all of my PRs in 2011-2012. I was still lean, strong and healthier than when I had relapsed into disordered eating, but even though I was fast, I wanted to be faster and always found some way to negate my accomplishments.

Being “skinny” or “speedy” didn’t make me any happier than I am today, but I’m still not in the best place when it comes to body image. I haven’t touch a scale in over a year, but I know I’m not at my best “racing weight” anymore and it’s hard not to feel “fat” when I’m “normal”. Even though I know I probably look “good” and “healthy” to most people, when I look back at old racing photos of me much thinner, I can’t help but feel frustrated and disappointed in myself. And then I feel guilty for feeling that way because I’m not struggling as much as my identical twin sister who is currently in treatment for her own eating disorder and spoke about it with the New York Times.

Ok, that all just took a somewhat dark turn. Sorry! I wanted to be all happy and positive about this solo ultra run of mine and I really am looking forward to it, but I am also sad that I can’t share the experience with my twin like we shared the 2017 Boston Marathon. That will always be the most meaningful race with my twin because we both worked so hard to get there.

When we started “TWINS RUN”, Malinda came up with the faster twin / slower twin concept. On the back of our shirts we had, “If I’m passing you I’m Leah, If you’re passing me I’m Malinda“. Malinda’s whole attitude was that running should be fun and not competitive, while I focused on improving my race times and qualifying for Boston. That all changed when the bombs went off in 2013 after finishing my first Boston Marathon. Malinda wanted to run Boston with me instead of cheering for me, so she started to train with purpose and after many attempts, she qualified too!

So here we are about to turn 50 and how do I want to celebrate? I’m running for fun and fundraising! Every mile is a gift and I want to share it by doing something good for others. That’s why we are raising money for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer. We’ve been supporting this organization for almost 10 years by running races and sponsoring lemonade stands at the CTC’s All-Comers Track Meets.

At my core, I prefer to be a solo runner. I don’t normally like running with other people unless that’s the only way I can book time with them. I like to run alone so I can think and listen to my music. I’m preparing my #TWINSRUN50K playlist and hoping that my friends and family can share songs and virtual cheers to keep me motivated and give me a reason to think about those special people in my life. I’m also planning a “Chalk the Walk” event to decorate the path I’ll be running back and forth many many times on Tuesday, May 18th with positive messages and art for everyone to enjoy. So please fill out this form to share a song, photo, or mantra.

THANK YOU!

I’ll be running my 50K at Darden Towe Park, starting as early as I can and staying as late as I have to. 🙂

50K on my 50th Birthday!

For my 50th birthday on May 18th, I’ll be running 50K (and let’s be honest, walking some of it too!to raise awareness for Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer.

Make a donation to keep me motivated or sign up for your own challenge: runsignup.com/twinsrun50

Be notified of live updates via my Facebook events page.

l’ve been supporting and fundraising for ALSF for almost 10 years and love their mission: ❤️🍋

  • To raise money and awareness of childhood cancer causes, primarily research into new treatments and cures.
  • To encourage and empower others, especially children, to raise money for childhood cancer by holding their own Alex’s Lemonade Stands.
    alexslemonade.org

Lessons Learned: The Job Hunt

  1. Always apply for the job that interests you even if you don’t think you’re qualified.
  2. Always start the day with a walk or run before turning on your computer or checking your phone for notifications and emails.
  3. Cultivate optimism on a daily basis.

I’ve been on the job hunt for a lot longer than I’d like to admit, but I have learned more in the past two weeks than I have during this entire journey. So take it from me and follow these important tips.

  1. Always apply for the job that interests you even if you don’t think you’re qualified.
    This seems like a no-brainer, especially when you consider there’s absolutely no financial cost to submitting an online job application. (Anyone else remember those days when you had to buy stamps and mail resumes?) It’s not like applying for every college or university on your wish list which could easily break the bank at an average of $50 each. (I’m not calling out my niece with this one, or am I?!)

    Feeling like you don’t have all the experience required for the “dream job” could keep you from applying. This is the time to remember Shakespeare:

“Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we might oft win by fearing to attempt.”

Early on I let the self-doubts keep me sending off my resume because either I was intimidated by a job title or worried that I didn’t have all the experience required. In retrospect, even if I knew I probably wouldn’t get the job, maybe I could have at least gotten an interview and taken that time to build relationships with people in the company. I strongly believe that every conversation is valuable and has the potential to lead to useful dialogue, personal connections, and the opportunity for growth.

It’s also worth applying for jobs that are in different areas of the country even if they aren’t considering remote employees and you’re not sure if moving is feasible. Once again, you never know where a phone call can take you. Put yourself out there and send your resume to any position that appeals to you even if it might not initially seem like a realistic option.

Another exercise to consider is expanding your reach by applying for jobs you aren’t entirely sure you’d want. And, never turn down an interview. I’ve ended up having interviews for jobs I’ve either been overqualified for or that were with companies that I hadn’t initially considered to be on the “OMG I want to work there!” list. Each time I came away learning something about myself that helped me fine-tune my pitch to potential employers and expand my career goals.

2. Start the day with exercise, you’ll never regret it.

I’ve been a long distance runner since 2007, but I’ve always been an avid walker since my college days. I didn’t own a car until I was in my 30s because I prefer to walk than drive. Some people come up with great ideas in the shower, but I have my best thoughts while I’m taking a leisurely neighborhood stroll or enjoying a long run. There had been many days when I was planning on a run, but would check my email or turn on my computer to then get sucked into the job hunt or other projects and never get out the door. Once I decided that I couldn’t look at my phone until I went for my daily walk or run, I started having a better attitude all around.

3. Cultivate optimism on a daily basis.

Create a virtual bank overflowing with items that makes you smile, laugh, or feel hopeful, i.e., songs, photos, cartoons, etc. Rejection is no joke and sometimes the only way to turn that frown upside down is to listen to a pop song or look at a photo of the people that really matter in your life. Having a playlist of tunes that makes me want to dance and content/media that always makes me laugh has been lifesaver for me. My twin sister has been keeping a daily gratitude journal after attending Cultivating Optimism with Deena Kastor. I can’t quite get myself into that routine just yet, but what has been easier for me is to make a positivity playlist or add to my Instagram story highlight featuring my favorite humor.

Thank you Johnny DiNapoli for making me smile every single time I see this!

Available to Work

The job search process is new for me. I spent nearly 20 years in my position at AcademyHealth and 22 years working with Handwriting Without Tears. The last time I applied for a job I printed a cover letter and resume and mailed it at the United States Post Office. When I was asked to schedule an interview, I received a call on a land line. Yes, it really was dark times, those 90s.


In a recent interview, I told the HR Manager that I’m a runner so I can’t hide my age, it’s right there in the race results. I’m proud to tell potential employers that I’m about to turn 50.


A visit to my website or social media will quickly show that I’m happily celebrating this milestone birthday with my identical twin.

For another position, the HR Coordinator asked me to give her 5 adjectives to describe myself. So I submitted:

1. Persistent
2. Creative
3. Helpful
4. Inquisitive
5. Dedicated

All those are absolutely true to my core identity as a person and employee, but if I had to add five more that might not be as flattering, I’d probably include:

1. Neurotic
2. Impatient
3. Obsessive
4. Honest
5. Indignant

This weekend, I had an amazing conversation with an old friend, from the 90s, who gave me the best advice for pursuing my next position. Now I’m inspired again with a list of proactive things to do including requesting informational interviews with people who are in what I’d consider “dream jobs” to find out their stories and learn about their journeys into their current roles. And, I am committed to keep applying for even more positions in fields and companies I might not have initially considered.

I don’t know what the next chapter in my life will be, but I’m excited to start writing it.

Do you have any job hunt “lessons learned” you’d like to share? I’d love feedback and tips. Leave a comment or send me an email. Snail mail is also accepted. 🙂

Trapped in the House with an Eating Disorder by Virginia Sole-Smith

Thank you to Virginia Sole-Smith and The New York Times for the opportunity to share my identical twin’s story.

“Suddenly I had to be in charge of the food. They wanted me to have more variety, but I didn’t want to go back to the grocery store. I started having panic attacks.”

Malinda Hill