BHANSALI’s philanthropic mission has been to educate and inspire the underserved youth of LA. Now, we have been given the opportunity to expand our impact through the introduction of a digital platform for our non-profit program START, called #STARTinspiring. Follow along as we feature original content from trailblazing creatives and industry leaders every week. Here you will find resources to get you going, inspiring stories to get you moving, and tips for self-care to keep you from giving up on achieving your personal and professional goals. We are here for you and want to see you realize your full potential, because that creates a beautiful world.
Learning to hit the re-set button
It was about 13 months ago that my perfectly curated world seemed to come crashing down. I was making a wonderful six figure salary with a global ad tech company, where I was respected as one of their top product marketers. I was featured on the company’s website. I even had glossy professional headshots taken. I was not exactly in love with the work that I was doing, but the money provided comfort, stability and ease. As I have always been one to bite off a lot, I found myself teaching hot yoga classes, and also sitting on the advisory board for the city in which I lived. There was this light that radiated from my eyes. I felt untouchable and unstoppable. Well, this was until the company unexpectedly declared bankruptcy, and within a week I was let go during a phone conversation with HR. There was no severance.
It was beyond frightening. I have pretty much been gainfully employed for more than 20 years. I never relied upon anyone for anything. I was fortunate and somewhat prudent as I was able to amass substantial savings. However, I feared that I could lose everything that I worked so hard to build up. I applied for unemployment. It took weeks before I was able to get any money. The little bit that I did get was not much, but in addition to the money I made teaching yoga, it was at least something. My former employer was late with sending the paperwork for COBRA, and I ended up paying about $800 for health insurance that did not kick in.
Rather than seeing myself as a self-sufficient kind hearted person, I always identified myself and evaluated my self-worth based upon my accomplishments and my income. Not so nice. I felt lost. I felt like a failure. I was really afraid. I was also living about 3,000 miles away and on the opposite coast from my entire family. The sparkling light that I was had, well it was gone.
As bad as things may seem, we learn that nothing is really permanent. After a few months of pounding the pavement, I was recruited to work for a company that had been a subsidiary of my former employer’s. I was thrilled. I no longer had to live in my own personal shame. I felt like I could come out of hiding.
As I was getting into the swing of re-launching this company, I was excited at first, but then kept on seeing red flags. Some I chose to notice and tuck in my back pocket, and others I chose to ignore. I was told that I would consult for the first few weeks, and then I would get a salary. Well, I did not get paid until after working for them for about a month. Things were in complete, total and utter disarray. I did not even have a title. I never received a computer – I always worked off of my own personal computer. I was technically reporting to the CEO, but we never even met in person. Then the COO brought a past business partner on board, and I knew that my days were numbered. I could not shake this feeling of anxiety and queasiness.
As 2020 kicked off, I was teaching 4 yoga classes a week. I was frustrated with my job, but was afraid that after only a few months that it would not “look good” for me to be making an exit. My skin was breaking out. This was way worse than any teenage acne too. I also had a few episodes of horrible vomiting, which I wonder might have been COVID-19. I was not doing well.
The email and phone call came in the second week of February that they were reorganizing and re-vesting things, and, well, blah blah blah. Good-bye. This time there was at least a few weeks of severance. If anything, this was more back pay for the month of July. And, maybe a bit of hush money, as they were also probably worried that I might share some of their dirty little secrets with other industry folks I knew for years. I had no interest. They asked if I wanted to stay in the industry, and they told me that they would help make introductions for me. I politely declined. I did not really have much direction, but I knew that this field was not right for me.
Two major blows in less than a year. I found myself sitting on the floor of my apartment crying. Within each room I found a new part of the floor where I would plop down and just shed many, many tears. Despite feeling like utter crap and a failure, I trudged along. I auditioned and was hired to teach at another yoga studio. I did a little tutoring, and helped a neighbor become familiar with Microsoft Office and Google Docs. I spoke with my main studio about getting certified to teach other classes, and I even inquired about working at the front desk. I started investigating substitute teaching in LA. And, I even got hired to work for the Census Bureau – well, pending my finger prints not revealing that I was a danger to society.
Then… the night of March 15th, the emails and text messages started coming in. The yoga studios were closing. San Francisco went into lockdown. I began to panic as it would only be a matter of time for LA to follow. Without yoga, what was I going to do to make any money? The next day I headed to Valencia to bring a dear friend some groceries, kitty litter and toilette paper. On the way home, I spoke to my mom. (Side note: my car is equipped with Bluetooth). She mentioned that Amazon was hiring about 100,000 people nationwide. Hmmm… interesting – let’s see what that’s all about.
As soon as I got home, I jumped onto my computer and started researching away. After answering some questions and successfully completing a few quizzes, I was hired pending a background check and drug test. The next morning I had my photograph taken for my badge. I was supposed to start working on the night of March 30th – graveyard shift. But, this would give me something to do, I could get out of the house, and even make a little money. I volunteered every single day that week at Project Angel Food, and I was so happy to be there.
By the end of the week, I received word from Amazon that due to very high demand that I would begin work on the 23rd. I reported to the warehouse that Monday night. I was about 15 minutes early, and super nervous. What had I gotten myself into? I had signed up to work until 4:45am. Did I have the strength to do this job? The answer – a resounding YES! I did it. I went back, and I found myself actually enjoying being there. People were nice. They smiled, they waved, and they said, “thank you.”
With the continued quarantine situation, the volume that we were seeing kept on growing. I was offered the opportunity to work an additional 10 hour shift, which would make me a full-time employee. Or, I could stay at my 30 hour schedule, and pick up extra shifts when appropriate. As much as I see myself as the modern day “Rosie the Riveter,” I knew that an another 10 hours would be too much. But, then something else amazing happened, I was given medical health insurance and the opportunity to participate in their 401K.
Are there days when I am so tired, when I don’t know if it’s AM or PM, where my legs and feet hurt so much that I want to curl up into a ball, and just hide?! Absolutely. But, I move forward. I return to work. I actually like what I am doing. I am providing a very essential service to people. And, in the midst of a quarantine, I have been able to be around other people. There’s a woman at the warehouse who calls me, “happy face.” I even learned that one of my neighbors works there too. So, that’s kind of fun. As this job is physically demanding, I am also getting so strong. I see the sun rise on some days, and the sun set on most days. One of the best parts of my day is my set morning phone call with my mom. When I am driving home at 5am, I call her as it is 8am in NY. This has become a sacred appointment for the both that we equally cherish.
Is this where I expected to be? No. It is so far from anything that I could have imagined. But, this shows me that we can always start over. We can always figure out a new plan. What may seem like an ending, or our world falling apart is an opportunity for a new incarnation of ourselves. This job has turned out to be my saving grace. Rather than sitting in my apartment anxiously watching the latest news, I have a purpose. I have a place to go. Have I become a bit tougher, perhaps? There are moments when I am in the groove of working and feel like a warrior. When the next disappointment comes along to knock me down, which it inevitably will, I won’t run away and cower in fear. I will face it head on, and move forward.
About Amanda Bleich
Amanda Bleich is a native New Yorker who has been residing in West Hollywood for close to 6 years. Amanda has been serving on the City's Women's Advisory Board for three years, where she has been a champion of creating awareness, doing outreach and providing education on human trafficking prevention. She moderated a panel discussion following a screening of the film, Nona, with filmmakers Kate Bosworth, Michael Polish, and Survivor-Leaders, Dawn Schiller and Ima Matul. Amanda spent about 20 intense years working in the digital media marketing and ad tech fields. She now works at an Amazon warehouse in Hawthorne, and teaches 26x2 (hot yoga) at Hot 8 Yoga locations throughout Los Angeles.