23 January 2011


We all have a Zina in our life. She is the friend that tells you compassionately what you need to hear, even if you don't want to hear it. She is the maternal friend, whose words are like a warm, motherly hug. She is the friend that can make a profound statement, saying the exact thing you needed to hear at that precise moment. She is also this popular phrase: "People come into your life for a reason." As cliche as it is, it is true.

Zina is that friend.

Zina - The Back Story
I met Zina in 2001, my second year working at Telecom Corporation. I instantly liked her.

Zina is special. She is the only person I know who has a sharp tongue and isn't offensive. When she speaks to you, you feel like the most important person in the room. She smiles with her eyes. Her heart is larger than life. She is elegant. Kind. Assertive. Humorous. She has morals. Faith. She has all the best qualities. I admire her.

For several years, Zina and I were co-workers. And then I was her lead, or "coach" as she lovingly called me. We worked closely every week day for a couple of years. She became a friend. A good friend. I wanted to protect her. And then I moved on. I was still in the same department, but on a different floor. I didn't see Zina as often as I would have liked. When I was down on her floor, I made an effort to check in with her. How was her life. How was her heart.

Skip ahead to the year 2010. Zina and I are now working on the same floor. I see her more than once a day, as I pass her desk on the way to the ladies room, lunch room, elevator/stairs, conference rooms.

I told her for my first big race post-pelvis stress fracture, I was doing a charity run for the American Cancer Society (June 2010 Rock 'n' Roll Seattle). I asked her if it was okay that I run in her daughter's memory (Zina's only child had passed from a rare stomach cancer). This brings joy to her heart and she makes a considerable donation to the ACS.

Then in late July, Telecom Corporation tells me my position is being dissolved. They are giving me 30 days to locate another open position within the company or take the severance package. I am speechless and feel a death, after 11 years with the company. A place that was my second home. A place where I had my second family.

Getting the news of an employer severing a contract, losing a friendship without explanation, your parents divorcing, or the sudden death of a family member.... is mournful. These things happen out of our control. We can't stop them from happening. We can only accept the terms, go through the grieving process, and then move on.

I was hopeful I would locate another position within Telecom Corporation. My credentials were stellar, I had high reviews throughout my 11 years and I had references from former managers and directors I worked under, trusted, and respected.

Because of this hope, I was very selective with whom I told this sad news. Besides my husband and my parents, I told 3 very good work friends: Chrissy, Tara, and Zina. I trusted in them that they would keep my news private and that anyone else who had heard, was due to the untrustworthy management's need to gossip.

...Brings Purpose
Alas, the doors and windows to Telecom Corporation were shut tight and locked. The 6 positions I had applied and was fully qualified all seemed to have mysteriously been "filled prior to my application" said Human Resources.

It was an a-ha moment. I had expired. After speaking with several friends and neighbors who had experienced similar, the magic number was 10 years. At 10 years you are making top dollar and getting maximum benefits. When companies have to downsize, it is a smart decision to rid of the most expensive employees in areas of redundancy. 

Another a-ha moment: I got it. It wasn't personal, even though it affected me, my husband, and my very close work friends, personally.

And then Zina's words. Said at the right time. Her words stuck with me. She was my guardian angel.

[in thick, darling Russian accent]
"Larissa darling, you should not be hidden. Uh uh. You should not be put behind some desk, hidden in some office. You need to be out there! People need to see your face! Your smile! Yes!"
Really, I responded.
"Oh yes! You need to be shown. You are beautiful and smart. Very smart. Not just your face beautiful. Your heart too."
[Like I said, this is a wonderful person. She loves with her heart, her smile, and her words.]

I confided to Zina that I really didn't want to do corporate again.
"I want to do something in the line of my passions."
(I must give credit to my former employer for giving me the opportunities and tools to be a writer professionally and paid for continuing education.)
"I want to work for a place I am passionate about."
She suggests being a representative. Maybe for pharmaceuticals. I do have a closest full of suits and heels.

Lasting Impression
Because of Zina's words: "don't be hidden" and "show your face", it solidified my resolve to make a career change. I really felt like she could read my heart and the next steps in my life, and she was there to nudge me.

I really wanted to break into the running industry, something I am passionate about. And I really want to do freelance journalism, as writing is a HUGE passion of mine too. I knew I wanted these things and just wasn't sure how or when I would make the change.

I kept checking in with local area athletic/running companies, but no opportunities were open.

Everything Happens for a Reason

And then it happened. Through a series of events, an opportunity to represent a running gear company landed in my lap. It is a brand and line I am passionate about (a former die-hard customer). And it was in the running industry.

Just like the series of events that landed me the opportunity to meet my husband. The events that paved the way were painful and had heartache. But in the end, I got the prince and the "happily ever after".

If it wasn't for the end of an era with Telecom Corporation, Zina's inspiring words of wisdom, and winning a Running Skirts photo contest (which led to a phone chat with one of the owners), my career change may not have happened.

Once again, I got the "happily ever after".  


  1. This post made me smile. You should cherish your Zina! And that job at RS: you deserve that happy ending! :)

  2. Zina is a truly wonderful person, she is inspiring in ways she will never know. People in the office call her the "Russian mother". I call her a dear friend and one of the best people I have ever had the honor of getting to know.
    Larissa, you are amazing and I am so incredibly happy that you are doing what you love.
    Passion in life is so important and often set aside for other "important" things.It is nice to see you are able to do what you love.