From Hustle to Shuffle

I believe that I recently blew it on a job interview, with one single word.

Kimberly Kay Thompson
5 min readApr 6, 2021



I was on a video call with a kind, cheery, wildly busy hiring director, for an equally kind, cheery, wildly busy organization, for a second interview, after my passing my first phone screen with a human resources manager. As we were nearly through the halfway point of our scheduled meeting, she said this:

“In this job, there will be very full days. It’s expected that the person in this position is really going to need to hustle. For some people, they love this fast pace; for others, it can be overwhelming. Think you’re okay to hustle?”

I answered, sure.

The word sure is a positive word that emphasizes another (usually) positive word and/or offers a casually confident, yes!

I don’t think it came across that way. I said it with a three second pause, a beat.

I could tell, by the director’s expression that it wasn’t what she expected, the slight hesitation.

While I made my way through the rest of the interview, I felt this profound lack of energy, but tried to stay buoyant. I think my interviewer perhaps felt similarly.

I haven’t heard back, and I am not sure that I will. It’s fine. Or is it?

Rewind about a year ago, at the start of the pandemic. I gathered information and supplies, strategized all my strategies, battened down the proverbial hatches, readied and steadied myself and my family, aggressively checked in on family, friends, neighbors and colleagues, donated, supported, advocated, and took deep dives into too many hours of news.

My nonprofit job and job tasks didn’t change much (albeit all virtual, with my gratitude profound for that part) but (and a big but) my organization was anticipating change that was likely to lead to my seven-year employment with them to come to an end. I worked harder than ever, trying to figure out solutions, asking the universe for miracles, and trying to soothe and calm others facing the same impending fate.

My solution to this whirlwind of worry, intensity and activity was walking. I decided to walk, walk, and walk some more. Multiple treks around the neighborhood, mostly the same route over and over, multiple times per day, kept me fit, got me out of my head (or if I walked alone, got me into my head but in a good way), and helped me see that the community was still somewhat life-like and getting glimpses of other human beings from a distance.

In my free time, I dove into books, podcasts, writing, more news, cooking, cleaning, organizing, and trying to learn a language (I chose German, because well, why not). I made plans, broke plans, scrapped plans, and revisited plans. Planning for plans. Plans for planning.

In the meantime, life went on in cruel ways that weren’t COVID related. People I knew, my peers, died of other things; others I knew had children pass away. Beloved family pets passed on. People lost jobs. Others I knew, worked punishing hours. Others were quite alone. Others were quite too much together.

I helped where and how I could. It was never, never enough, in my mind, so I washed, rinsed, repeated, and looked hard and wide to the future.

There would be so much to do, be and see after all of this is over! Time to reinvent! Time for self-care! Self-reflection! Journeying forward! ENERGIZING! Go, go, go! Move, move, move! Readiness, readiness, readiness!

It was the ultimate full life hustle, and I planned to keep it up, deep into 2021, with an exclamation point or two or 10!

Reality doesn’t always match our hustle; it seldom does.

I went from a brisk and purposeful hustle to an odd shuffle in a slow, gradual descent, as I pushed deeper into 2020. The world slogged through bad news and worse news, mingled with hopeful news, to give most people mental and emotional whiplash. I was no exception.

I walked, walked, and walked, through it all, but my pace was less intense, or when it was intense, it was more of an effort to get moving. One day, on my daily route, someone (or something) had chucked or dropped a swollen, dirty diaper on the ground near some bushes adjacent to the sidewalk, in full display. Either the diaper chucker or dropper didn’t know they did this action or did it and didn’t care. Either way, it was awful to look it for so many reasons.

That must get picked up and thrown away!

I (and everyone else in the neighborhood who blazed the same common path) walked past it for months.

But no one did anything but look at it and wrinkle their nose in disgust, including me. It sat there in the dirt, getting increasingly swollen from the rain. I threatened, more than once, to other family members, to get gloves and a garbage bag to get rid of it, but I never did. I shuffled by, always looking at it, wishing it would disappear.

My shuffling continued in other pursuits (that didn’t include unsightly diapers). I quit books. I’d get a third or halfway through perfectly fine books; about that time, for some reason, I’d get tired of reading the same page repeatedly, unable to focus on the text, drifting instead to mindless social media scrolling or playing word games on my phone.

And speaking of words, I bid Auf Wiedersehen to German lessons. Interesting language, but was shuffling through the materials, clearly not retaining anything, as I failed all my quizzes.

Plans? Planning for plans? Nah.

I had friends, taking advantage of free time, and doing local things, nature-y things, like hiking, visiting beaches and mountains, and other outside appropriate activities during a pandemic. My family and I would talk about such plans, say how nice that would be to do, make a tentative plan for the weekend, and then the days would come and go, and we’d just be home and walking past the abandoned diaper.

By the fall, my job, a pandemic casualty, was gone.

I made a declaration right after I lost my job: 2021 would be a time to regain the hustle of newness, goodness, hopefulness, change.

That declaration burned out quickly, as the year didn’t kick off all that well nationally and locally news-wise, and I realized that in order to hustle again it was going to take some seriously hard work and grit.

Radical tiredness settled in deeply.

Experts urged self-care and self-reflection, did and done that, to the point where I could do no more.

I’m okay. Really. I guess. I suppose. I hope. I like to look for signs from the universe when I don’t know what’s what, because it’s fun to be mystical, and fun is good and mystical is needed.

Recently, on my daily walk, the diaper was gone! The universe answered, in the form of a welcomed absence, a cleaning of bad energy, unwanted garbage and waste, and righting the way. I recognize that someone (or something) else did the work of removing it. I am grateful for that, too.

Thank you.

And with that gratitude, I discovered a spring in my step as I shuffled by the cleaned spot, moving forward.



Kimberly Kay Thompson

Kimberly Kay Thompson is a writer, essayist and nonprofit communications professional in WA State.