Six years, three months and 18 days. That is how long I will have worked at IHG before they will close their doors. This is my story:

 

As much as I was ready to start a career, I had a 4 year old daughter and an eight month old baby that I was still nursing that I would have to leave in the care of my mostly blind mother  who also moved in with us that year because she was forced into retirement from her eye condition. I was still married at that time which meant my husband and I worked alternating shifts as much as possible so we could be present with our kids when time allowed. I had decided that if I was not going to have the opportunity to be a stay-at-home mom with my baby boy, like I was my two other children for the first couple years of their life, I was going to make it worth it. When I walked through the doors, of SLCRO it felt right. It felt like home and I was going to everything I could to be successful there and I was!

 

Day one of training I didn’t hesitate. Right off the bat I was doing what I do best and started networking. I started reaching out to people that stood out to me and began asking questions about how to grow within this company. I made a lot of friends and had a lot of support along the way. I had a lot of wins right off the bat. I was the top of my class, then the top on the reservations sales floor right out of training four months in a row, and then got promoted to the Intercontinental Sales Department and make the top performer there just in time to get promoted three months after that to the Sales Team Manager role. After that there were multiple recognitions, awards and prizes my team and I won and I was on top of the world. IHG became my home away from home, my place to thrive and my sanctuary when things were bad in my world outside those walls. I also had a lot of failures. I made a lot of mistakes and went through different phases of burn out.

 

Now, I never thought that I would really be able to work at a job where I had to be chained to a desk, be told what to do by a boss,punch a clock and follow the rules. I mean, really! So not me!  I am an out of the box thinker, am always “fluttering” around with my loud laugh and dirty mind, and believe that work should be fun and playful. Not cut out for Corporate America…nope not this girl…yet somehow IHG gave me just enough freedom and excitement and love to keep going. Was it the job? A lot of the time, yes. I love coming up with incentives, meetings and projects.  I am really good at being a cheerleader as well as leading and motivating a team of individuals to push themselves to perform at higher standards than they wanted to a lot of the time! I was able to use my competitive nature to continue to succeed and shine. I found a passion in leadership and learned skills that never thought I was capable of achieving. I built relationships that would last a lifetime. My kids were growing up there. Most of my daughter’s best friends are because of so many of the friends I made within those walls. Her circle of friends is as big as mine! The people I connected with in this company were there for me when I struggled in my marriage, then when I bought my first home, again when I got divorced and I had to sell that home a short 16 months later that I busted my butt to get in the first place. They were there for me through so much heartbreak as well as cheered me on through all my victories… not just in work, but in life. I also know that I have been able to be there for them. We have cried together, we have vented together, we have laughed together and celebrated together.  I don’t know where I would be without them.

 

The thing is, you never know where life is going to give to you.  So many times we take life for granted. We believe that there is always a tomorrow. We trust that people will always be there for us. We don’t want life to change from right now, yet we struggle with embracing just that.right now…and being present in this moment. We are constantly looking back to what was, or looking ahead to what we hope will be. Yet the truth is there is never a guarantee in life no matter how bad you want there to be. The only thing you truly have control over is how you allow the situation to shape you. You have the choice in what you do with the experiences you have, even while you are having them. If you make the decision that it will break you, it will. If you truly embrace it and make the decision that it will fuel you, it will.

 

I want to remind you as well, change is not intended to be easy. It is meant to be challenging. It is designed to take you outside of your comfort zone. It allows us to become more than we ever thought we could be. It hurts, it is messy and it is rarely fun. (Which is the hardest part for me because I live for fun!) However, when you reflect on all the changes you have encountered in your life you realize that without it you would not be where you are now. You would be stuck in the life you were used to. How many of us were truly happy in those moments? Ask yourself, “If change never happened where would I be?” How many of us would still be in toxic and possibly abusive relationships? How many of us would still be living in a spiral downward of addictions? How many of us would be suffering silently, or just plain bored with our lives? Maybe not all of us…some of us may have “had it all.” Money, success, and love flourished…then, BAM! Life came pounding on your door and the news was not what you ever wanted to here. Because of that some of  you have suffered the worst possible nightmare and maybe even lost everything you worked so hard for…but then what happened? Did you meet new people that you connected to deeper than you ever have before because of your trauma? Were you forced to grow and change and learn new skills? Did you find a better job? Or did you have to start over and work hard to get where you are today? Did life force you to test your limits?  Most likely, your answers are yes. And most likely you didn’t like that process very much. Now ask yourself if it would even be possible to change your life right now for the life you had then.

 

It’s quite likely at this point many of you reading this are in the pits of your own despair and don’t want to look at the life you have because of what you were forced to overcome, and that’s okay. You are allowed to grieve what could have been and what you will miss, please do. It is all a very important part of the process of transformation. I know I have and I am going to some more. I will miss those friendships I made at IHG. It is scary to go into my new world. No one will be there to hold me accountable but me. I will have to battle all my limiting beliefs that I have what it takes to be successful at this dream I have had for so long because now it is my reality.  I profess that I have become a great leader and now I am about to be tested more than I ever have. I am going to doubt. I am going to cry. I am going to make mistakes. Then I will remember all the things I learned in my 6 years, 3 months and 18 days at IHG, I will connect with my others I found along the way and I will be reassured that I have what it takes to continue to move forward knowing that I am not alone.

 

As hard as this new journey will be for myself and everyone else involved, even for those who have been given the opportunity to move forward with this company, it will transform us all and we will be stronger and greater than we ever thought we could be. Always remember, I believe in you. You are more than friends, you are family. I will miss you, but I know you won’t be far. I will always be here if you need someone to talk to, to go to coffee, or to bust out a bottle of wine! Until we meet again….

Love,

Chalese Stevens

 

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