On March 13, 2020 I turned 30 years old – and on the very same day, the entire world was essentially forced to shut down. One cancelled karaoke soiree and three days later, I was forced to lay off the majority of my staff at Fairmont Royal York and take on what I can confidently say would be the most challenging year of my life.
Rewind 13 years. I graduated from Sutton District High School and moved to the big city of Toronto to attend George Brown College and begin my career at the prestigious Fairmont Royal York. Things were looking up and my future was brighter than I could have ever hoped for. I began as a Room Attendant (AKA Housekeeper) at the hotel and gradually worked my way up to Hotel Operator before finishing college and landing a position in the Sales and Conference Services department. A few promotions and years later, I was able to call myself the Assistant Director of Catering Sales. I led a team of talented and passionate event sales professionals in achieving record-breaking numbers over the course of the hotel’s largest renovation in its 90 years.
Not For The Faint of Heart
To say this hotel is not for the faint of heart is an understatement. With over 1,300 rooms and 31 event spaces, our hands were ALWAYS full. Now imagine what happens when a global pandemic forces you to downsize from 1,200 working staff to 50 working staff… Contrary to what some may think, being one of the 50 people left to manage countless cancellations, never-ending complaints, and ever-changing government restrictions was not something to brag about. The management team did their best given the circumstances and everyone’s dwindling mental health, but after a few solid months of lost revenue we were all put on reduced work weeks and left to wonder what the future of our careers would look like.
A New Path?
But while everyone hit pause in the summer of 2020, I hit fast forward. I had big dreams, and one of those dreams was to someday own a house in Toronto. My partner and I decided to start casually looking at places in Leslieville. By November, I had sold my condo and we were headed out of the downtown core to experience home-owner life for the first time ever! What I didn’t expect was how enamored I would be with the home buying process, the parallels to my current career were easy to identify and it had me thinking – what if I was in control of the clients I worked with? What if my time was used not to line the pockets of a big corporation, but instead to build my own wealth? What if I could apply everything I’ve learned from hospitality, but take more control over my life and escape the 9-5 rat race that I suddenly realized I was convincing myself to love for the last 13 years? At that point I didn’t waste any time and I signed up with Humber College to earn my real estate license.
While so many exciting things were happening, the pandemic was only getting worse. As case counts and deaths accumulated and government restrictions got tighter, our immediate business was at a standstill. My job evolved from coaching a successful team of sellers to acting as a one-stop shop. My job title was unchanged, but I was also managing group sales leads, weddings, small meetings, gala re-bookings, film shoots, conference services, outside catering requests, photoshoots, and more. Whatever we could do to stay afloat, I was one of the few responsible for making it all happen. I would come into work every day and sit isolated in an office wondering which client was going to be upset with me today and if it would be enough to cost me my job. My anxiety was at an all-time high and the constant bad news was slowly pushing me into a hole of depression. People were often not nice, and they certainly were not patient. I was absolutely floored by the amount of insensitive emails and calls we would receive regularly, with no regard for what COVID-19 had done to our industry, our amazing employees who were let go, and the persevering soldiers left standing.
After several months of this, accompanied by increased workloads (yet reduced salaries), and constantly changing interpretations of what the government was telling us was allowed, many of us began to lose even more hope. I started having breakdowns at least once a day over the slightest inconvenience. Do you ever spill your coffee a little and realize the thread you are hanging on by is actually quite thin? I couldn’t sleep because I was always thinking about work, I was depressed most of the time even when I wasn’t working, I had regular panic attacks, and a new symptom – chest pains. I was seeing a therapist regularly who told me that my nervous system was shot. The only way to apply the tools he gave me was to temporarily remove the source of the pain – my job.
In April I made a decision that has been widely stigmatized in the corporate world – I took a stress leave. I decided I could no longer sustain the identity I had worked so hard to build throughout the course of my life. I could no longer coach and support my peers and fellow leaders – hell, I could not even hold myself together long enough to get through a meeting. I spent the next three months journaling, crying – a lot, listening to podcasts, meditating, working out, spending time with loved ones, and re-focusing on the real estate program that had taken a back seat to my other responsibilities.
In the end, I was able to find myself again – but the person I found was different. The person I found wanted more for herself. She had big dreams and goals, she had a fire about her that I hadn’t seen in a very long time, and she knew that she would be doing herself a HUGE disservice if she returned to a path that was no longer hers to take.
Keys With Kylie
In July I made the decision to resign from a job I never imagined I would be able to live without. I said my final goodbyes to a place I called home for almost 13 years, and I opened the door to a brand-new career in real estate at OLEA Real Estate Group.
I took a huge risk transitioning to a commission-based job, but my career as a realtor with the incredible OLEA Real Estate Group team has absolutely BLASTED OFF! In a few short months, I’ve already closed 15 deals (and counting), secured a ton of new leads, and am well on my way to dominating my social media accounts (follow me @keyswithkylie!). The best part about it all? It’s MY business to run, and I get to choose who and what is worthy of my time and energy.
My point in all of this is that sometimes the future changes quickly. We can choose to be afraid of it and assume the worst, or we can leap forward into the unknown and assume it will be brilliant.