Despite a “having it all” life in New York City, under the surface, Amber James was anything but happy. A pandemic, two health crises, and a family death led Amber to take a risk, blow up her life, and start all over again.
“I think that’s why I’m sharing my story now is I want other women to be able to tell their stories, to find their voice, take that chance on themselves and find their happy because everybody’s different.
And what society tells us isn’t necessarily going to make us happy.”
Find out more about Amber at:
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On The Second Chapter, serial careerist and founder of Slackline Productions, Kristin Duffy, chats with women who started the second (or third… or fifth!) chapter in their careers and lives, after 35. You’ll find inspiring stories, have a few laughs, and maybe even be motivated to turn the page on your own second chapter!
From Blowing Up Her Life to Never Being Happier, Amber James[:[:
And what society tells us isn't necessarily going to make us happy.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
He's a chef. you know, It's always good to go home and get fed by my brother. He actually has a pizza restaurant now, which is even better[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
The expectations of others became my compass. Tell me a little bit about this childhood. Tell me about your striving for perfection from the beginning.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
You must not have done this. And I'm like, oh, maybe I'm just supposed to lie and just be completely perfect and have the right answers all the time because that's the way, that's what everyone's expecting of me. And I'm not allowed to fall off that straight line.[:
And eventually that led to my family starting to go to church more. And then suddenly there was that kind of thing for me as well, where it was this feeling of like really good and evil. And there wasn't really a gray area where you could speak up or be rebellious.[:
But that really, I started to harness my own individuality once I turned 18 and went off to college and walked away from this Small town and realized there was a much, much bigger world out there. That definitely suited me and what I was meant for.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
But I think it really brought us really close together because we were all under this. We're looking for the truth and we're trying to get stories out there. And for me, it wasn't even, I was doing like culture and entertainment staff. So it's not like I was covering crimes and courts, but I still knew at that time, I'm like, everybody has a story and and that was my mantra throughout college when I started this like journalism career in college.[:
And some of those stories are just the amazing stories of everyday life. But it is really interesting to, know about people.[:
And it really opened my eyes to, even though I was in Athens, Ohio, I was still, it was widening my scope of,[:[:[:[:as an entertainment reporter [:
But it was such an amazing opportunity, and I honestly, it was meant to be.[:
pacey. But I was team Pacey. And I was like, Oh, Joshua Jackson.[:[:
You were engaged and then Let me ask you about the first part of the title of your book, I Blew Up My Life. How did you get to the point that you needed to blow up your life and what happened?[:[:[:
That was scary.[:[:[:[:
That's how isolated it was. And it's because the rates were so high and everyone was really scared of contracting COVID and, hospitals were running out of beds. So it was really a scary, isolating time.[:[:
And that is so scary. To be able to witness that, I think sometimes, like I said, when I tell that story, I think a lot of people don't want to believe me, but I'm like, no, that was a real reality of things I saw with my own eyes and it, and then it's on top of that, then you start learning that people you work with.
are getting COVID and dying. And that adds a whole other element of grief and fear, because you're like, these are people that I was working alongside and they're gone. And you can't say goodbye to them. You there aren't funerals going on. And it just, it was a lot. I'm tearing up now,
just thinking about it.
It's really, I'm like, Ooh, this is bringing up some raw emotions for me for that time. But it was really scary.[:[:[:
You said twice.[:
But I was like, this is not normal. I have to get there. So I had an emergency surgery, appendectomy, and then, Two months later, I ended up back in the hospital to get my gallbladder removed.
So two organs in two months, I lost. And it's the recovery from just losing one organ is enough, let alone two. And I just. It was a really scary time because that was another thing. I was living with my fiance and he was really the only person that was there. Nobody else was really around.asn't safe for them. They're [:
And it just becomes very I felt like the walls were just coming in on me.[:[:
I need this person to be there for me because it's the only person I really have. And. He was trying to be friends with all of his female co workers and going out with them while I was home recovering, and that's really when I started to have to face the reality of how toxic this relationship Really had become.[:[:
I realized none of those things were making me happy. And I was simply checking boxes off a checklist that society says, this is what is going to make you happy and make you successful.[:[:
It was so much fun.[:[:
me during, the 15 years I lived in New York, I loathed going home. I was like, Oh, small town, Ohio. Everyone's just. It's just not New York. And I, New York had gotten to the point where I was so stressed out all the time. And I'm like, why do I have all this anxiety and depression?
And I'm go, go, go. And sometimes I wonder if the stress and the fast pace of New York was actually what caused. me to end up in the hospital in the first place. The body keeps the score and I think that may have had a lot to do with it. But when I moved back home with my parents after living in New York, I just had so much fun being able to reconnect with them.
And I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that also, yeah, in addition to all those other crazy things that happened, I had lost my grandfather during the pandemic and couldn't get home. To go to his funeral. It just wasn't safe. So I think that also changed my view of family and what that means and that time is so precious and we need to not be so stuck in these, Oh, I'm way better than this or whatever.
I need to start making time for my family and being closer to them was a really important part of that transformation.[:is. So I do think having to [:
I was the only one who was working a job that was, I freelance, it's self employment. I just said, I have to take a month and I can do some of my working remotely. And it made a difference. Like I was really glad I did that because, my mom's not getting any younger.[:
yeah, I began to value that and also understand now we're all adults and we can all have some fun times together and be like, remember that thing from childhood or remember this or I can actually talk to you like an adult now and I don't feel like I'm regressing to a teenager.
It was nice. And I think, too, going through that craziness, especially a breakup, it was so nice to just be able to go in my room, eyeball my eyes out many a day. But you know what? My mom was like, hey, whatever you need, you let me know. And it was just so nice to have her there and to know that they were literally just a few steps away from me, whatever I needed to talk. And it really, I think, brought us all closer together as a family, because I was finally communicating my needs, saying what I needed, and my parents were like, We can do that for you. As long as you tell us what you need, we're here for you. We got you. And that was so important to me. And once again, it also showed me how toxic my relationship had become that I felt like I couldn't trust anybody or ask for anything that I needed and that my needs were too much, but my family was able to bring me back to center and be like, no, you're worthy of all these things that you want.
And we can give them to you. We love you unconditionally. And I think that's. Man, I did not expect to cry during this interview, Kristin. Thank you.[:[:
I moved to Pittsburgh. I didn't stay in Ohio, but it's so close to my family now. And we see each other all the time. And now I get to spend a lot of time with my nieces and nephew and see them growing up. And it's so awesome to have them when they see me, they're running to me Aunt Amber, we're so excited to see you and like big hugs.
And I'm like, this is so amazing. And I'm so glad that even though things had to blow up, it actually brought things back into my life that I actually really needed. And that made me truly happy and see what truly matters in life.[:
Was that the first time your parents had seen kind of what Trying to be so perfect had maybe how painful that had become for you.[:
I just want to come and be with you And that. Was like full circle to just them understanding me and me also finally finding my voice to be able to tell people what I needed. And I think that's why I'm sharing my story now is I want other women to be able to tell their stories, to find their voice, take that chance on themselves and find their happy because everybody's different.
And what society tells us isn't necessarily going to make us happy.[:
Never being happier.[:
Pittsburgh is[:[:There's so much culture and [:[:[:[:[:
And he makes me, he treats me like a queen. He gets me flowers. He's just the best. And he doesn't want to change me. He just loves me the way that I am.[:[:[:[:
And a lot of people get nervous about blank journals. So I decided to create the journal that I was always looking for during this time. So that's an offshoot of the Instagram.[:
It just had to be something that really honestly resonated with me that day. So every day for a year, it was like, this is my quote of the day. This is my quote of the day. And I put it out on Facebook so that it was like, something that I. Committed to every day, finding something that touched me or that helped me that day.
And as, as I don't know, I keep saying cheesy, but as cheesy as it was, it was something that for me, it gave me a little bit of purpose. And it was just enough positivity in my day to keep me like one foot in front of the other. And yeah, I really do believe I'm not so good at journaling and I say so good because I feel like it's something I should do.
I shouldn't say that, but I really do feel like something like that is amazing.[:[:
mission, I think probably.[:
We're competing for all of the spots at the table. We're doing this. We're doing that. Where Notes to Self is about bringing women together because together we can achieve incredible things. We can push each other forward and we can just do it. Like we got this.[:
Isn't gonna take away from my own and it was very quickly from this instant Competitive no to wait a minute. She's gonna do it her way And of course I want to support that because, she wants to tell women's stories as well. Why would I ever deny that?[:
And I think that's so important. And also by us championing other women, we're also showing other women, this is possible. Yes, you can do this too. It's not just for the men. It's. If it's something you're passionate about and want to do, just go do it. There's no competition needed. Let's just work together.[:because. It's not making me [:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
Don't ask for the raise, keep quiet, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But two things can be true. You can be grateful and say, I am worthy enough. To ask for what I deserve.[:[:
I'm not going to ask for that,[:[:[:[:[:[:
I think. Man, I just am so excited to see all the people from around the world that are reaching out to me every single day, telling me that this has changed their life and that this is so important and life changing for them. Me just posting these quotes and I love it. It's being on Instagram and chatting with women from around the world who say that my quotes have given them the courage to go after what they want. That's. means more to me than anything else. To me, knowing that I'm changing people's lives one Instagram post at a time is pretty awesome.[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:[:
good. So unique. There's nothing else like it in the world. It is incredible.[:[:[:[:[: