Burn Bright

Vicarious Trauma, 'Side Stepping,' and Harnessing the Power of Being You.

November 25, 2020 Kelley Anne Season 2 Episode 4
Burn Bright
Vicarious Trauma, 'Side Stepping,' and Harnessing the Power of Being You.
Show Notes Transcript

Today's guest Amanda Houpt has done it all.  She is an expert on public health, community violence, instructional design, and more.

Today's interview covers how Amanda has learned to keep herself professionally vibrant, including how to deal with vicarious trauma, how to stay grounded and authentic, and how to engage in meaningful self-care.

As always you can connect with the podcast on Instagram and through the new website.  Finally don’t forget you can buy me a coffee and donate to keep the podcast going.  

hi, Amanda. I'm so glad you're here today. Chatting with me. How are you? Hi, I'm good. I'm feeling nervous, but I'm good. You guys can't see Amanda's face, but it is just like with sheer half delight, half terror, which I am loving right now. Uh, Amanda, you're such a fantastic person.

So before we get into all the things I love about you, which I will be talking about throughout this interview. And why I wanted to interview particularly, but I just want you to tell the audience a little bit about you. Like what's your background and what do you do? Like what, what's your expertise? So my background, um, well I grew up in Louisville, Kentucky.

So if you hear an accent, uh, that's why, uh, and I think, I'd say like, I'm first and foremost,  a bookworm and writer, which has very little to do with what I do professionally, but that's like fundamentally who I am. Uh, so I was an English major in undergrad and I studied a bunch of creative writing and wrote a bunch of poems.

Uh, and, um, and then I graduated and couldn't find a job cause it was 2005 and, um, the great recession was like, just about to happen.  I was an English major. They were like, what credentials do you bear to bring here? And I was like, well, I'm an expert in Chaucer. Okay. So, um, you know, that didn't help me really.

I took a job in mortgage. And, and I did it. I was like working at Wells Fargo home mortgage before the housing bubble burst. And it was for me the actual worst. I mean, I worked with awesome people like the coolest people ever, and I hated what I was doing.

So, so, so, so much. Uh, so I did that and then I moved to Ecuador as soon as I could. And I got my ESL certificate and I taught English as a second language and kind of did social work and Quito for a very brief stint of my life. I got really sick. Uh, I had like. Giardia and all the amoebas by the time that I left.

And so I came back to the us, uh, and I got a job at a duel domestic violence shelter, rape crisis center in Louisville. Uh, and I worked there for several years and really like, kind of doing that. I was their prevention coordinator. I fell in love with public health. And so I went off and got a master's degree in public health and instead of focusing on the traditional health topic, like, I don't know, like healthy eating or, you know, epidemiology, which would be really helpful right now.

I focused on how do you sort of apply these concepts? To interpersonal relationships and violence prevention.  And I did a lot of work using community-based participatory research, which is really sort of how do you engage communities and identifying. Their own needs and strengths and, and kind of making their lives better on their own terms. So that's what I sort of studied and did, uh, and currently am working in kind of a freelance capacity.

So earlier this year I founded my own little business called Chrysalis training and learning solutions, and I'm doing a lot of work, um, to help people kind of foster healthy workplaces and make work a pleasant. A place to be. I'm doing that. And I am editing my first ever novel right now, too,  so one of the things I think. It draws people to this podcast is like the creative meets the kind of practical, um, for people who are like selfless professionals. So you definitely fit right in, and that model of helping people  create and, build healthy workplaces.

And so. One of the things that I kind of wanted to talk to you about is if they haven't discovered right now, you will, in this conversation, is that Amanda is one of the, like most delightful human beings ever. I've known Amanda, randomly, like a couple of years, like we met in a random way. You taught me some of the work you did and how to keep a workplace healthy.

And then I just met you for  two days and decided I love her forever. It was really probably borderline creepy, but it was there. I was like mutual admiration society. I was like, I love her. Um, and literally like with like the creepiest of like, I love Amanda. Well, I was like, be my friend, please be my friend.

I love Amanda so much to stalking proportions clearly is that you are. Such an individual, like you have this amazing range of experiences and you, and like your intro, you managed to tell us that you were like an English major, who was in mortgages, who lived in Ecuador, teaching English as a second language, who then, you know, what and did public health and did, rape crisis center work and domestic violence in our work all in one.

Human little human. Right?  you have this varied life experiences. And so I wanted to know, like, what have been your experiences kind of working in general and just talking about that, because I think one of the things, you know, we're talking today all about. what it's like to we'll be in the modern day workforce and the highs and the lows of it.

And so I wanted to know, what's been your experience in, , your various jobs and particularly in your career, that's more focused on what you want to do. What has been your experience working in the modern workforce and particularly as a woman. Yeah. So, um, so clearly mortgage was not the career that I chose for myself.

I pretty much left. And as soon as I had a choice really went into interpersonal violence prevention. Um, and I have a huge personal connection to that. I just know so many people who've been affected, you know, by things like domestic violence and sexual assault and, and, um, and workplace harassment, even all of those different things that that's the sphere pretty early.

I knew I wanted to work in. Um, so I did that first in a. You know, an organization that was directly focused on that then sort of sidesteps. So I realized,  and we can time, I know that you're, you know, an expert on burnout. And so we can talk about this, but, um, you know, that, that career was so, I mean, the time I spent at the domestic violence shelter rape crisis center was so motivating.

Standing for me and incredible. And it was also,  it took a pretty huge toll. So, you know, throughout my career, one of the things that I've kind of learned is that to preserve myself and to preserve my, I don't know, kind of energy and what I'm able to bring to the table is that sometimes I have to sidestep in my career and sort of take a little, take a little break and sit it out from the world of violence prevention.

So. I've had that. And you can see that, you know, if you look at my resume, if you're talking to me at any point about what I'm doing, you can see these little moments where I've sidestep. So I sidestepped for a while and took a job, um, managing, I was a project manager for a really big population research study that was based at the university of Massachusetts  so I did that for a few years and then I came back into the violence prevention world. I knew I was ready. I kind of created space within myself to focus on an intense topic once again. So I came back into the career world as a senior trainer and as a research and evaluation specialist at an organization that does evidence.

Based violence prevention work. And so in that role, I was traveling every other week. So I had a 50% travel schedule on the road road training, going in and doing these four day trainings, teaching people how to implement violence prevention programs in their communities. Uh, and then trying to balance my life on top of that.

So I would say sort of, you know, my kind of experience as a woman in the world is just. Really having, I don't know a lot of things, especially kind of in the human services and social services sphere, a lot of things that you feel really called to do, and that, that simultaneously energize you, but also take a lot of energy from you.

And so I feel like the kind of my life's work . In addition to my career has really been how to figure out that balance of doing work that energizes and inspires me and then figuring out how to fill my own cup so that I can continue to do that work in an energetic way. If that makes sense. No, that makes 100% sense and definitely ties in with a lot of the struggles.

I think a lot of people have, which is you really eloquently worded that. How do you. Balance something you're called to do, you know, as a selfless professional, you're called to do this work. Like you feel drawn to it. How do you balance that with it also simultaneously being exhausting and draining. Like the nature of the work is built to take more than you can ever possibly give it.

And so what in that balance really does sum it up. And I feel like, I don't know if it's a gender thing. So I think men are called to do things too.  but I think. People who identify as women, we really are called in a special way to feel kind of connected. I don't know if that resonates with you or not.

Yeah. I mean, I do violence prevention work and I do it explicitly because so many of the female identified people in my life. I've experienced, you know, an enormous amount of harm and, you know, and it's precisely with that kind of set of human experiences, you know, really amazing people who experienced something they never should have had to experience that really drives me to do this work and around prevention.

We're kind of believing, you know, we're all full of innate potential when we're born. And I just want us to be able to fulfill that innate potential without somebody hurting us or, you know, shooting our star from the sky or, you know, what have you. Um, but for me, it's definitely experiences of, uh, women in my life, my mother and my grandmother, you know, I went to women's.

I went to an all female high school. Cool. And I went to a women's college and I'll, um, I mean, I don't, I don't even love the word women's college, but you know, one of the seven sisters, it's a very inclusive environment. There are lots of trans folks that attend the college that I went to. But, um, but you know, I, I was in an environment where I was surrounded with, with kind of female identified folks and folks who were really thinking critically and interestingly about gender.

And so, you know, I, I do think that. There is, I don't know, there is sort of a shared calling that folks have around doing work that benefits, humanity, and that helps us live our fullest potential well said again. And so how you mentioned before about you really try to make space within yourself to be kind of energetic and to come to the work always positive and, and at that level, and that part of it is making sure that your cup is full.

What do you do to ensure that happens? I mean, I do a bunch of different things. So it's funny, right? I'm a, I'm a trainer. That's most of a lot of what I do. Um, and so I'm often like in front of her room or these days, like on a webinar screen, you know, really trying to engage people in a topic that they don't want to engage in.

Like if you woke up and somebody was like, let's talk about harassment, you wouldn't be like, Oh yes, this is awesome. I'm so excited. Well, I did, I can't wait. And so, you know, so much of what I do is like trying to get people interested in something or, you know, kind of get them to check back into something they're willing to check out on.

And it takes an incredible amount of energy. And so when people meet me, they're like, this is an extroverted human being, like she's a full-on E on that scale. And what's funny is for all of my life, that has never been true. I'm an ambivert. I score equally every time I've taken the Myers Briggs on the introvert extrovert scale.

And so for me, after a day of training, I am done. Like I get back to my hotel room or to my house, or I turn off my computer screen and is like a breath out. And I don't want to talk to anyone or entertain anyone, you know, I have to just recharge. And so I think that for me, the biggest self self care strategy is knowing.

That, you know, you need different things at different times to fill your tank up. And so, you know, after an exhausting day of training or content development, I take extra care to do the stuff I love. So for me, you know, you kind of know that I'm not okay if I don't have a dance class I'm going to, so for me, dance is huge.

It's how I end most of my days, many of my days, Something I always have going on in the background. Uh, I know that whenever people talk about self care, they always make a joke about bubble baths. Like, Oh, you got to take a bath. But for me, I'm a water baby. And like, I do my best thinking and strategizing in the tub.

And so I have myself a Tubby every night. I get my little like bubble bars from lush and I just, I have a whole moment in the tub every night. It's like a self fortifying, you know, little dream soak. No, I completely identify one as a fellow ambivert. I also am that way and like just barely introverted more than I'm extroverted.

So it's on the line enough to be an ambivert. Totally understand that because people will meet me, assume the same things. Oh, you're so energetic. You love life. And I'm like, yeah, but in 15 minutes, I'm not going to be able to speak to anybody for a another 24 hours. So I can totally relate to that and also can relate to the bathtub  we stan Lush hear.

I love lush. Although it did stay in my bathtub. Uh, black that has not gotten out. It took a year. It's been a year and I don't, I don't want to like speak ill of lush because I love him so much. But whatever the tea bath bomb is, I'm going to tell whoever is out there, don't get the tea bath bomb. It will destroy your tub.

Yes. I have had my own lush Dai experiences. Uh, but I will say that their bubble bars are like the things that's like my little splurge that I get them year round because they make me happy. So I don't know. So it's like taking a bath for me. It's I have to be like dancing or kind of, you know, end of the day, exercise is huge.

I love that, um, Latin expression and I'm probably gonna say it wrong, which is shameful, but I think it's salvatour ambulando, and it means it is solved by walking. And so for me, that's really true. Like I. That's a big part of my day, every day is after the engagement side of things and interacting with people or thinking I have to kind of get out of my head and into my body and go for a long walk, do something to kind of, you know, just come back down to earth a little bit.

So that's huge for me. And I think really just, um, being really conscious to carve out time for, for you and, and, and for creativity and, you know, kind of creating that balance. It's hard. And I think it's something that people will always, not people and, and unintentionally, but I think that, you know, all the different commitments of our lives.

And I think this is something that's really true for female identified folks in the world is that you have a lot of people expecting different things of you. You have your job, you have your. Family, you know, you might have different volunteer engagements that are asking a lot of you. And I think that, you know, I have a tendency to want to just let give a hundred percent.

And so I think one of the things in terms of thinking about burnout or kind of creating balances, I don't want to say being defensive in like an aggressive way, but being really defensive about kind of the me time and the introverted time that I need to fill my tank back up. Yeah, I talk a lot about having boundaries being such a key piece to not burning out.

And that does mean defending yourself and protecting more so like protecting yourself and protecting your time. And one of the things that gets back to is that when we choose to be, you know, a selfless professional part of that is when we choose that kind of thinking, we want to get into these careers that take so much in demand.

So much of us that. There's only so much of you. Like I tell people all the time when I train on this, you're a finite resource. And because of that, you're precious, like all the things in our lives that are finite that are like, Limited of whether it be jewelry or, uh, you know, resources now. And we're trying to go green because we're really scared.

We're going to run out of all the other things that fuel our lives. We value that. And so if you are a finite resource, then you become precious and you have to protect that. And the best way you can protect it is by being protective of your time of your energy of who's in your life and what you're saying yes to, and I think that is really important that you've identified that as something that you work on, so you can stay positive and engaged and, and really a part of the work. So what are the best lessons then that you've learned from working.

I think, especially when it came, comes to kind of working, um, in or adjacent to social service services, working on sort of social justice causes doing nonprofit work. I think probably the biggest thing that I've learned is, you know, I'm drawn to that work because I feel like it's a very noble cause. You know, it's like work of intense purpose and I love that.

Um, but one of the things I feel like my career has taught me again and again, is. You know, that doing that work, especially violence prevention work for me really leads you to experiencing both vicarious trauma and at times really intense burnout. And so one of the lessons that I've had to kind of learn, and one of the things I have to remind myself when I'm feeling, you know, those things is that I'm not going to contribute anything noble to the cause.

And the people that I'm trying to work with and serve, uh, they deserve better than that. Right. And so me kind of, um, whether it's taking a sidestep, you know, taking a moment where I kind of hit pause and, and kind of regain my career focus or it's. Being defensive about self care. That's really, really huge.

And kind of having, you know, how to, how to be boundaried, I think is really critical and a lesson that I've had to learn, you know, by failing at that a lot in my career, I think. Um, so that's, that's a big thing. I think. I think the other thing that violence prevention work in particular has taught me is just that human beings are like these radical resilient, you know, amazing beings.

You know, I meet people not on their worst day when I'm not really doing direct service, I'm doing training more so not meeting people on their worst day and the way that I once was at the beginning of my career. But I'm often hearing about the worst experiences of somebody's life, you know, a kind of earth shattering life shattered and moments.

And if I'm not hearing those kinds of direct stories, you know, I'm, I'm reading about that. Cause that's the content that I'm thinking about and bringing into the training room and yeah. You know, you'd think that that would wear you down into the ground or that it would be make you think like humans are garbage and this whole experiment's a dumpster fire.

And there were some days where I assure you. I think that, but I think more days than not what my career has taught me is that humans are just incredible and resilience in our capacity for healing. And for transformation is. It's incredible. And that's what keeps me coming back to the weld to keep doing the work is that, you know, as many life challenging experiences, life shattering experiences I hear about is I hear about, you know, life affirming things that people have done and, you know, people kind of stepping in to chart a new course for themselves.

And that is super, super inspiring for me. So that's a big lesson I've learned that that helps to keep coming back.  brilliantly stated. part of resilience in this work is. Is having that perspective and that it knowing like your ability to see the best, even when working in what appears to be the worst topic, right? The, the worst interactions or the worst experiences of humanity, that it, it keeps you seeing the positive.

And I think part of that's probably the way that your perspective and the way you engage with the work, but also that you prioritize taking care of your so, so that you can keep feeling positive about that and keep. Looking for those moments and keep seeing it on that side versus the other side, which a lot of people do on their way out of a career.

They stopped seeing what you've just explained they see the ugliness and the horror of, of violence and they don't see the capacity for resilience or those other moments. why do you think you're able to do that?

When so many other people. May have a very different perspective about this and about violence working in violence prevention.

 I don't, I don't know why I'm able to do it. I mean, I think that, um, I think one of the reasons that people. Lose sight of that is that they do get really fundamentally burnout or they get vicariously traumatized and that they don't realize it. And not just that they don't realize it, you know, I want to be real, but that doing violence prevention work is not a really profitable career.

You don't make a lot of money doing it. You know, like a lot of sort of human services jobs. You're not rolling in the dough doing it. You know, it's not a glamorous. Thing. And so, you know, I think that there are many people out there that may be no. Oh my gosh. Like I am, I'm deeply traumatized by this work, you know, or, or thinking I'm really burnt out and I'd love to make a change, but I don't know where to go from here or I don't have the Liberty of, of, of, um, taking a break from it.

You know, that, that I have to do this. Cause I have to, this is how I make my bread and, you know, and, and. And that's very real, and I want to honor that, but that it's, it's really easy to be able to say, I take a sidestep and do something different and that sign option that feels comfortable for everybody or that is available for everybody.

But I think that's one of the ways that it happens is that we get really burnout and burnout. You know, it, I think it, um, It sort of squelches all the light in something, you know, and it makes it hard to see the good and the positive sides of things. So I think that's one thing that happens, you know, and, and I think that's why it's, it's critical.

Um, that agencies, that organizations really think about that, especially sort of social service agencies and nonprofits, that they really think about the potential for their staff to get burnout and that they really, you know, create sort of a trauma informed practice to ensure that they're taking care of the caretakers.

If that makes sense. And I think that a lot of time. Times organizations kind of try to do that. You know, so I've worked in nonprofits that have really generous, paid time off policies, but a lot of times employees feel like, you know, there's so much work and the work is so urgent and they're so connected to what they're doing, that they don't have, you know, they can't take the time off that they have.

And so, you know, really kind of finding ways to help people, to help people create those balance boundaries and to kind of recover from that vicarious trauma, I think. Yeah. I think you really picked on two things that. That you can draw a thread to one, the symptoms of burnout is cynicism is so deeply linked to burnout.

Like that's just one of the signs that let you know, okay, this is, I'm not going in a great direction here. Um, and so cynicism is, is definitely what leads people to quit. Their careers changed their careers, right? Lose the love that they had for their careers in the beginning. And the second piece is that people are not really deliberate they're well-intentioned, but not really deliberate in how they do self-care and burnout prevention that they, you know, they try and there, there needs to be a deliberateness that it can't just be a paid time off, which is wonderful and, and definitely a key component.

But if you still feel like you can't take that time off because you feel guilty about what you're going to leave behind at work. And there's nothing there to teach you that, Hey, there's some mindsets that you need to just leave behind.

If you want to survive in this work and more than just survive, find the joy that you have found, and that if you're looking at trauma and how it shows up in the body, all those things, right? Like how people need to release that. And if you can walk, absolutely should be walking like you do, or do engage in some movement.

If you can't there's tools that give you like really minimal mindfulness. But if you don't know how to be deliberate about that, there's only so much you're going to get out of it and you're going to burn out anyways, just because again, like we started the conversation. These are not easy jobs. If you choose these kinds of roles, there's always going to be more ask of you.

If you had 25 hours in a day, you would still eat 26 to get it all done. So I couldn't agree more. About those two things being why you have been a little more successful and I've been not a little Marvin, definitely successful. And what the keys have been for you with taking care of yourself, uh, and not burning out or knowing when to sidestep, when you are burned out.

So you can kind of recharge and come back and renewed for a work. And so along those lines, when it comes to lessons from working and being a woman in the workforce, what, one of the things that we talk a lot about is. Authenticity. And I think what I like about you and I hope everyone's discovering. you are a very unique person and you are very authentic.

 I've seen you in clips over the years, like just short stints and I've never noticed a radical difference in your personality.  so how. Do you manage to be yourself at work? Cause I feel like a lot of people struggle and then I'm debating, like, should we tell the story first and perfectly, like give context to who you are, who Amanda is? I mean, the Hillary Clinton story is still one of my favorite.

Well, I mean the teen election, so let's set the stage. we are going to talk about a special day in Amanda's life in the most painful ways, which is the, uh, election day in 2016 election evening. And it's important, you know, this story, not because of the politics, what is funny about this story has nothing to do with politics and more about Amanda's journey during that evening. So tell him about this, Amanda. I'm I want to say, I think I've set the stage enough.

I just want to quickly say the other thing is the Hillary Clinton's election night is important because Amanda had a party. Planned for this. Yeah. An election party to be, to be, to be truly fair and even nonpartisan about it. My, my mammo that's Southern for grandma. Um, she was a poll worker like her whole life.

She would like, look so. Forward to the pole. She dressed to the nines. We would make a big crock pot of meatballs. Cause before COVID you had like a potluck at the polling place. Anyhow, it was really, really important to her. And so, you know, as soon as I turned 18, I registered to vote and I always had an election party.

And so I've, I've become pretty well known for these election parties over the years. Um, you know, and they've grown in size and scope. And so, you know, it was 2016 and I was like, we are Dell on this Marbella on that. I mean, and for me, election day is a holiday. Like I have a special fit, you know, I like, I play songs like I'm living my best life on election day every day.

Cause it's just like, this is my favorite kind of exercise is exercise. And my write-up so let's, let's, let's break this down because I think this story deserves like interludes. Uh, let's talk about that a little bit. I mean this, so yes, one 2016 was magical because as we've been talking a lot about women and that your personal connection to working with women and what that means to you.

And then we have this election where one of the candidates is a woman you're in. So you have this party, you said you have outfit. Picked out. Yes. , my mother-in-la always buys me really, um, really spirited outfits.

And one of the outfits she bought me is a really fun, it's a pencil skirt and a matching jacket. That looks a little bit like the famous. Thriller jacket, you know, the leather jacket with the big lapels and stuff. It looks just like the thriller jacket only. It's some kind of like woven white material with silver threads woven in and it's printed kind of quilted like snake skin.

It is not snake skin. It's like some kind of cotton with glitter strands in it. That looks like a snake cut, like the thriller jacket. Okay. And this is the occasion, right? It's like you're voting. For the first female president you think, and there's this whole like kind of connection, you know, and we can argue the merits of this connection between white and the suffrage movement.

And so I'm like, I'm going to with my three-letter jacket. So I put that on. I have my pants, I wore, I healed silver cowboy boots, you know, like reflective mirror ball boots. I had briefly campaigned for Hillary,  her Senate campaign. When I was in college. It was a no brainer. And Mark Jacobs made her shirts and it was just the cutest shirt ever.

So I kind of did it for the Marc Jacobs shirt, but anyhow, I digress. I had that on, I had like a button Hillary when she went to Wellesley, like her college photo, you know, she's unrecognizable in this photo. So I had all that on. And I also, I think I had a custom hair piece that I like to make, uh, feathered fascinators and things.

So I had one of those giant, one of those, and I had called together a party and election party at the world war II club. Yeah, the question . What, what is the hairpiece and the facet, if we're coming back to the world war II piece, what for the rest of us? Cause I'm scratching my head. What do we, what do we mean by that?

Like a nice little, like the things you put on top of a hat? Well, I would say that describing it is nice. Cause I made it for me. It means getting your glue gun out and getting a wide head band and you just glue a bunch of feathers, you know, on it. And if one of them sticks up, it's all the better, like it's something you wear in the 1920s, like that has something, you know, really jaunty, but you know, like a flower coming off of it. And if it kind of moves, I really love it,  and I have one that's that is an election day themed one it's, it's like a headband that I've covered in red, white and blue feathers, and then rhinestones that are also, you know, red, white, and blue.

And I had a,  one of these fascinators on my head. Cowboy boots, white thriller jacket, you know, and I'd had this party at the world war two club, and I always a part of my election party every time is I bring black blank maps of the United States and I bring a little,  can of red and blue pencils.

And then as the night goes on and. She'd get called to get to engage in a bit of coloring. And if your candidate isn't winning, you know, it's a stress reliever. And if your candidate is you can talk some trash and you know, it's just fun. And then at the end of the night you had these maps that it's, it's really great.

And so I did this, like I'm, you know, coming from my house, feeling like, you know, A jaunty, sassy, human being. And I emerge at the world war II club. My friend, Samantha, who is one of the great loves of my life is with me. And you all remember 2016. I mean, it was very early on that we learned that the outcome was going to be what the outcome was. I went in really hopeful. \ so the beauty of the world war two club, which I think sadly is closed, rip will wear to club, is that, um, it was, it's like my favorite place in the world because the, the whole theme of the way that they do their thing is they do like three karaoke songs and then like three dance songs and it gets an entire cross section of the community.

They are there at the world war II club. Everybody is out in fierce, you know, so you've got like, you know, there was my favorite.

There was this guy who always did. I have no idea what this song is, but this is what he sounded like. He did it every single time. I went to the world war II, probably a thousand times. So world war, two club. Damn, this is my jam. They keep me Gilliland up till the AEM. Anyhow. Um, he does that, you know, so he's like doing that song.

It's great. That's his jam. Um, so you know, you've got that going on in the background. And then you got the election results. I think I'd ordered pizza. Anyhow, they start calling these States. Right. And it becomes abundantly clear to me that I am like, you know, in my mind, in the winner circle, but in fact, my candidates about to lose this thing.

Right. And so Samantha has this amazing picture of, of the moment when I, you know, you can watch the loss. Cross my face and expression where I was like, Oh no. Oh, well this is baggy. You know? And so I kind of looked at her and I start putting the maps back in the folder and I've got my little cup of pencils and she's like, girl, what are you doing?

And I was like, this is bad. I got to get out of here. I gotta go. I gotta go. We gotta get out of here. And she was like, what are you talking about? They've only called like six dates. And I was like, it's not going our way. You know? And she was like, the girl it's early. And I was like, save your families.

Save your kids, save yourself, go home, go to bed. We've got to go to bed. And so I grabbed all my stuff and I just lost it right out of there. I was like out, I hightailed it into the streets and I walked myself home. But I got to tell you that my cowboy boots while sparkly and lovely, they are not especially comfortable.

No worries. My fascinator. It kind of clings to my head a little too tight. And so as I walked the mile and a half home, I began shedding, all of my. Glamor victory mementos. So, you know, I had like a, you know, a cowboy boot under each armpit and I had a fascinator that was just like hanging on my arm and I had a folder full of maps and like a cup of jangling pencils.

And. It was, it was, you know, it was not the night I thought I'd have, you know, I think my favorite, one of my favorite highlights when Amanda tells the story is the other people trying to cling to some semblance of hope just to keep your party. Let's be clear. Your party together and you have quit the party.

And then I think at one point you told people there was nothing to celebrate, and that was why you were going. Exactly. I was like blame prepaid show, enjoy the pizza. I'm out, go to bed. Like, you know, I mean, But I had nothing else, you know, I hadn't seen all I needed to see, you know, and like I wanted, I did want for anybody who was happy, I wanted them to have space to be happy.

And I knew that I personally, you know, that was gonna be hard for me. And I also just heard it, the ugly cry. Like I hadn't even have a moment where I was like, like, like you don't want to do that at your favorite bar, but she did have a party. You don't ditch your party. Amanda, and this is the moment when I fell in love with Amanda is telling me this story, and I think it's  2017. You're telling the story and. Just you saying there is nothing to celebrate and taking up down the road of your own party with your cowboy boots under your armpits.

I was out, MIMO was out. I had to get out of there and Amanda does go by MIMA. That's also Amanda's nickname is MIMA cause she was like a grandma, which I adore. And that is in a nutshell, I think that really captures the spirit of you in your thriller jacket and your little Clinton pin. I had it all, but I had nothing and walking home and ripping away the electoral college maps for people who might've been delightfully color.

Oh man. I've whipped those things away. I was like, I don't care if this is your self care, I got to go like, give me my maps. We are done. The party is over and we forgot the detail that you had themed the karaoke, all women empowerment songs. Oh, yeah. Like, I mean, the dude got to do his, I won't hot, man.

He got to do that because that's his song. Right. But like, yeah, we were supposed to be singing,  like I am woman hear me roar,  like some pretty classic, all the single lady,  we were like, Like girls who run the world, you know, like this was the, it was our moment, you know? And you can't, you can't stay in that bar.

It can't be like who ran the world and then like, watch what's happening on the screen at that moment. No, you can't. You cannot. No, no. And so poor, Amanda took her rhinestone cowboy boots, her Royal fascinator and her thriller jacket home. I put myself to bed and went to bed with tears in eyes. But I feel like this sums up who you are, Amanda, and why you're one of the most delightful human beings of all I tell you, in 2020, I printed out my maps. There was no party cause it's social distance times, but I printed out my maps. I wore my special headband. But I feel like, did you color the map in as it was frigerator? Yeah. Are you still like waiting? Cause some of the days haven't been determined by that and this is aired, you might.

And they might've called all of them. No. I empowered myself to just make an executive decision and then I hung it on my refrigerator. I'm like, I don't care what the GSA is doing. This map is on my refrigerator. Right? I got, I mean, that was like the highlight of any, one of the days of the past that I got to color in a state. I was like, okay, like I felt good. You know, Amanda, that is the picture of resilient. And so based upon this story, we're going to go back to the original question, which is, I just felt like the story is an important detour for people to know about you and to know why you're such a lovely person.

How do you stay you? How do you stay fascinated up? I mean, I know you're not wearing a cowboy boots everywhere you go, but still the point is how do you carry that in the workplace? And how did you manage to stay yourself?  And was that difficult? I don't know. I, you like, you kind of gave me a preview that you might ask this question and I thought about it and I don't know.

I mean, here's what I do know. I know that, um, I'm a slightly awkward, quirky human and. You know, and that, that has come at a price. Sometimes being that, taking the, you know, just being myself has not always been rewarded, um, with kindness and admiration and love and respect. Um, but I will say that when I try to be somebody else, like in a really buttoned up professional environment, when I'm trying to like, be that person, I am even more awkward and quirky. Like it's like, bless, like it, all the things about me that are quirky, stand out even more when I'm trying to like, be something that I'm not, you know, like it just becomes more clear who I am, if that makes sense. And so it just sort of feels like, just do it.

I mean, my mom was always, you know, a big proponent of each of us, my brothers and I, and they're incredibly unique humans to have just like, be yourself, you know, and like, do what makes you feel happy and come alive internally.

And like, if you just do that enough, the world. You know, March to the beat of your own drum. And before you know, it, the world will follow the drum beat that you have set. And my brother's a drummer, so that's especially, you know, I'm probably helpful for him, but honestly, like that's the advice that she gave.

And, and so we've each kind of done that, you know, and, and, um, and sometimes people don't, you know, respect it or love it or. Love what you have to offer, but more times than not, you know, they're like, all right, that's, that's the thing that you are. And I accept that, you know? Yeah. I really do see you as someone who is fearlessly authentic, and there's not a lot of people who are that way and it doesn't matter what their personalities are or not.

They're just scared to be themselves. And the key, the irony is, is when you're scared to be yourself, like you highlighted. It gets worse. Like the person that you present to be it's so far from who you are, one, it accelerates burnout, but people often don't receive it. Well, and authenticity is polarizing.

Like I do think that when you're yourself, People will take it or leave it. Like all things. Like, I always tell people like chocolate, there are people who despise chocolate and the most, but most of the world loves it. And I think that's the thing about authenticity. Most of the world will love you as yourself, because you'll be the best version of that.

You'll feel free or you'll be kinder. It'd be more compassionate because you have space to be you, but there will be people who don't like it just like, there are people who don't like chocolate, right? They exist. But the majority of people will like you, but it being yourself is sometimes polarized. And I think that it's wonderful that you can be yourself.

And I think that's part of why you have managed to stay engaged and vibrant in the work that you do is because you are yourself, wherever you show up and people can literally take it or leave it, but more people than not will take it. Yeah. And if you give them time, I mean, this is what I have learned also is that, you know, when people first meet me at high dose voltage, they're like, Oh my, Oh my goodness.

You know, and maybe don't know, but you know, after a little bit of time, they get used to it, you know, and they embrace it and it is what it is and, you know, and, and you move forward. Or they're like meetings, like, give me more, turn it up to like, you're on a 10. I need you to 12 right now. Like I need all of this, Amanda.

Goodness. Cause I think you're a fabulous, so, and I agree. I think that people will more people than not will, will like you if you're yourself, but everyone will respect you. Even if they don't necessarily love your presence, they will respect it because it is who you are. And that still carries a lot of weight with people.

I think that's true. I mean, I think too, that like, You know, not everybody has to enjoy me, but I have to enjoy the world. Like being in a sense of like wonder and delight about the world is something that is like a fundamental part of me. And so the way that I honestly feel is take me or leave me. Like you don't, you know, I don't have to be your particular taste, but like, you know, showing up in the world in this way keeps me alive and focused and, and, you know, that's, that's, what's.

But to do anything less than that, doesn't give me joy beautifully said, so. I want you to come back on this podcast because I want you to talk about, to love the things that Amanda is really fantastic about talking about is managing conflict. And so I want to do another podcast with you where you talk about the ways to manage conflict so much. would you come back on the podcast and talk about that? A hundred percent. I would, I want, I basically want you to be my co-host, but I'm working up to it. Um, it's like baby steps to getting Amanda to be your co-host on this podcast.

So the way I've been doing it this season is every, if you listened to a couple of the interviews, I ask rapid fire questions of all the guests. I got like armpit sweats about this and I'm ready. They're meant to be fun. So here's the rapid fire questions. What is a quote saying, or song lyric that you live by?

So it was an easy one for me. There is a Mary Oliver poem called the summer day and it ends with, um, tell me, what is it you want to do with your one wild and precious life. And I love that. I love that too.  If you could choose another career, what would it be?

Oh, man, this is hard. Cause I have so many things. Um, I mean, it'd be  a successful novelist, um, or maybe like a roving storyteller or like a vacation planner. I love all of that. I think you'd be a fantastic storyteller. I'm really waiting for your one, one, one woman show to come out  celebrity crush, Janell Monae. She's pretty fantastic. I saw her, um, live, it was the like tight rope tour when I turned 29. I, that was my present was to go to her concert and I went with a friend who happens to be friends with Michelle Nichols.

Who was the original hoorah on star Trek, famous for the first interracial kiss ever on television. So I got to meet her sitting near her during Dinamo name. Now, Joe, my sweet partner is, uh, an astrophysicist and a total star Trek nerd. Me too. Yeah, totally noble thing to be a I, I I'm down. I mean, I love a Trekkie, so anyhow, I saw.

I've just going over to meet my friend and to meet her friend, not realizing who her friend was at all. And Joe was hiding behind like a pillar in the theater. And I was like, yeah, well, I didn't cry. Then he cried. I was like, what are you doing? And he was like, Patsy hurrah, hurrah, hurrah. And I was like, what are you saying?

And he was like, That is Ohura. And I was like, who's who, who rhe? What's what are you talking about? Like, what does happen to you? And he was like, that is wrong. He lost his mind. So anyhow, I have a huge, you know, I'd love to know what I have a huge, uh, friend crush on her person crush on her musical crush on her creative crush on her.

And then I got to meet her. And that was pretty cool. Even though initially I didn't know who she was.  she's just stunning and creative and fabulous. I. Join you in that who does not love Janell Monet.

Okay. And I love that story with aura. I'm really jealous on all accounts on that, all of that. So what is an ideal way to spend a weekend for you? Oh, it's so tough. Really depends on the weather. I do like, uh, to go on like a, you know, hike and like Santa cabin with a hot tub. Um, but I have to say that right now, I would probably just pick anything with my mom because I haven't seen her in almost a year and I really miss her.

And anything that we would do over a weekend would be like heaven to me right now. Yeah, I know. That's tough. But thinking about the adventures we have had, and that we will have is really exciting to me. We're already planning something very Epic for post COVID times. 

No. So last question. What advice do you wish someone gave you five years ago? So this is advice that Serratia, Raheem, who, you know, who's a dear friend of mine, uh, gave to me after, um, after I was laid off due to the pandemic. And I was just really like, I don't know, feeling all the things you feel at a moment like that.

And she was like, listen, friend, your work does not define your worth. You were worthy and you are worthy for a million reasons that are not what you do for your job. And it was huge. It was a huge moment for me. It was like a breakthrough moment. And I think I needed somebody to say it. And I wish that somebody had made me really think about that.

I don't know if I would have received it in the same way outside of the circumstances I was in, but to all y'all out there, your work, no matter how noble it is, does not define your worth. Amen  and very thoughtful from Serratia. Well said, Amanda, you have been delightful.

I probably said too much. I think that you probably had it, but I, this has been just a joy. I love to talk. And so it was nice. I think you should think about doing your own podcast. I just feel like it makes me so sweaty, you know, it'd be so delightful. Story time with me. MIMA. There we go. It's as good as done. Anyways. Thank you for being on the podcast. Uh, having you will have been lovely and.  quickly tell us what your novel is going to be about. I'm writing a young adult romance novel called birdie may in the summer days. It's about a girl that goes away to a summer arts camp and meets all sorts of delightful friends. Oh, that's lovely. Amanda Houpt everyone. Thank you so much.