I got to meet Tamara because I am lucky. Actually, I think meeting Tamara was like unlocking an achievement in Karma. I’ve introduced so many wonderful women to the world, that I was rewarded with Tamara, who has become my ideal baseline for adventurous spirit, generous soul, and worldly wisdom.
I decided she was a gift for me after reading her blog. Through Tamara, I’ve since been gifted with other friends–she’s been the gift that keeps on giving. So, I won’t mince words about exactly how delighted I am to introduce her to you. Mainly, because there aren’t words enough.
Please, meet Tamara.
Q: Who are you?
A: I aspire to be someone who is first and foremost kind. Not a wishy-washy, thinking nice thoughts kind of kind but an action based, fierce kind. The kind of kind that expresses an opinion about the wrongs of the world and does something to fix them. The kind of kind that answers the phone at midnight and takes a friend to the hospital or listens to her or him cry. The kind of kind that yells at a friend while telling her I love them and won’t stand for her harming herself in some way. And I fail at it CONSTANTLY. But the times that I succeed are what keep me aspiring to it.
Q: What do the first three hours of your day look like?
A: These days I am happily unemployed and homeless by design. I was on a pilgrimage for two months recently so my days involved getting up early, putting on a backpack and heading for a new destination every day–after finding a local café for my morning coffee! Right now I’m staying with my mom, who has pancreatic cancer, for several months. Even though she is ill she is still my mom so each morning she knocks on my door and says, “Coffee is ready!” We sit in the den watching the news, talking about the day’s plan (she is still working!) and just enjoy each other’s company. Then I’m often off to Starbucks, or to hike in the woods or cook or laze around the house for a while.
Q: What about the last hour?
A: Before I came here for the summer, my last hour of the day was usually spent in my pseudo-boyfriend’s cafe drinking a glass of wine. We’d catch up between customers and then I’d head home to climb into bed, read a bit of whatever book I’m reading that week on my kindle until I start drowsing off and fall asleep. Here, I admit, I usually just catch up on trashy American TV or Amazon Prime and then go to sleep!
Tamara, either being eaten alive by corporate culture, or singing opera–you decide!
Q: What do you do for a living?
A: I’ve spent the last 12 years working in commercial real estate. My last role was as the head of marketing for Europe at a large American conglomerate. While I am grateful for all the opportunities I earned at that job (not the least of which was a transfer to Paris) I am just as grateful that my time there is done. Corporate culture eats you alive and I want to have some of me left over to actually enjoy life. My next job starts in September and I will be working as a part-time consultant for a project at a large German conglomerate. I will be coaching and facilitating a team through a behavioral change management program as they seek to increase connectedness and understanding and therefore productivity. And I am stoked, because that was always my favorite part of my previous roles and now I get to do it exclusively!
Q: What are you most passionate about?
A: CONNECTION. I am one of those “Introverted Extroverts.” I need a tremendous amount of downtime after an interaction because when I’m with you, you get 100% of my attention. And I’m also passionate about helping others to achieve connection, which is why I’m so excited about this new role! People think that connectors are born that way and some are, but for me, I needed to learn it. I’m from a reticent New England background with first generation German thrown in.
When I was 20, I went with my college roommate to her home in Ohio for the weekend. In the local shoe store, she struck up a conversation with the woman standing next to her. After a lengthy discussion about all sorts of things, the woman walked away. “Do you know her?” I asked.
“Then why were you talking to her?” I asked. I was in a genuine quandary! With the exception of other students or co-workers, I’d never talked to a stranger other than for directions or to conduct a business transaction. Nowadays, I’m the first one to greet the new person and the last one to leave a party.
Q: What advice would you give your 13 year old self?
A: Learn to play the piano. Take French, even though you hate it–you will need it someday. Understand that your version of success will change. Don’t waste your time trying to fix people who don’t want to be fixed or worse, want to drag you down with them. Eat more vegetables. Recognize that not everyone wants you to succeed. Let them be horrible and miserable and don’t internalize their negativity. Kudos for standing up for the odd kid or befriending the shy kid—do it more. They will remember in 10, 20, 30 years and you will feel better knowing you did it. Be kind to yourself, too. Be comfortable in your own skin—you have a beautiful body and it won’t always be so lithe and fit. And that’s ok, too, because you will have so many wonderful people in your life that love you for more than your outsides, or your money or your talents. So rest easy. There is a bright future—no matter how much your 13-year-old, angsty, hormonal self tells you otherwise.
Q: What is the best advice someone else has ever given you?
A: How to decline graciously. “Thank you so much for thinking of me! I so appreciate the offer. I don’t feel like that is something that I would enjoy so I’m going to decline. But I really am grateful that you think highly enough of me to include me.” Variations of this line work extremely well for parties, romance, business opportunities, dinner invites, trips, etc. It has changed my life. The first time I said it I was terrified of anger and rejection or hurting someone else’s feelings. But I’ve since realized that most people invite you because they want you to be happy. And most (MOST—not all) want the truth, delivered in as uncomplicated and kind way as possible.
Q: How do you want to be remembered?
A: As someone who LIVED and took chances.
Q: What advice would you give a young adult about romance?
A: You can be in and out of love with different people in your lifetime. Things will sometimes end sadly or badly and you can’t control most of that. And it’s possible for good people to act really stupid in the context of relationships. They can say or do mean, hurtful things. Try, with all your being, not to be the perpetrator those things.
Success can look like this, too.
Q: What signifies successful in other people, to you? What do you think success looks like?
A: Success is relative. I can feel awed by someone who has fought his or her way up from a life of poverty or tragedy to work as a kindergarten teacher or store clerk making an honest wage and paying bills on time. And I can look at a CEO and think, “You’ve done nothing with your life.” Life’s a stacked deck and some receive the most favorable hand and lose it all by not paying attention; others double down on a pair of deuces and win the pot.
Q: What makes you feel successful?
A: Sitting in a foreign country talking to interesting strangers and drinking a cool crisp glass of wine. Good, cheap wine. And the strangers can be investment bankers or vagabonds or anything in-between, as long as they have a story to tell. I feel like a kid at the movies for the first time, every time.
Q: What makes you happy?
A: See above. Also, any time that I get to spend with those strangers that subsequently became friends.
Q: Where do you go from here? What’s next in your life?
A: In another week I’ll be back on the crazy travel wheel visiting people and places in the US for work and pleasure until I finally get back to France. Where I’ll most likely move my stuff from Paris to Strasbourg so that I’m closer to my new job in Mannheim, Germany. I’m looking forward to exploring a new place and meeting new people! But I don’t have any permanent plans beyond the next few months—my life is very up in the air right now!
Q: Who are the women who have made the most impact in your world?
A: There are so, so many powerful women in my history that I can’t really pick one without thinking of the several others I’m leaving out in her stead. So here’s just a sampling of people who stepped up at key transitional moments in my life.
Mari, my first voice teacher (and subsequently ordained Lutheran pastor) who is an inspirational musician, traveler, and a fearless and spiritual woman who made me want to be the same, all when I was 13 years old.
Adrienne, an HR leader who became a friend, who took me under her wing when my company was acquired and taught me all the ropes about how to succeed in big business, which led to my move to Paris for a “dream job.”
Sarah, who SHOWS UP, whenever I need her; often before I know I need her. She tells me the things I need to hear versus the things I want to hear–though she tells me those things, too.
Kris, who told me directly when we were young and I was stupid and considering a very bad decision, what she thought: “I will always love you whatever you choose. But I can’t be close to you if you make this decision because it will upset me too much.”
Patty, a former marine and current VP of construction, who makes being a woman in a completely male dominated field look easy though it’s far from it.
My Mom, who is a serious badass. We’ve had our ups and downs as in all family relationships. But she came out of poverty and tragedy and not only succeeded but succeeded spectacularly, earning two Ivy League degrees and a respected place in the church as a minister and a leader. She practices what she preaches and oversees a soup kitchen, food market and clothing rack for the homeless and indigent, which is her favorite part of the job. And the New England women’s retreat she started 25 years ago to support other women in the ministry (when there were far fewer of them) is still going!