Kathleen Pagan, 34
CEO & Creative Director, Endlessly Elated
Having jumped from corporate finance to lifestyle blogging, Kathleen Pagan knows a thing or two about building your own empire. With the goal of encouraging equality and helping women in the workplace achieve whatever they set their minds to, Pagan has launched an initiative called “The Fem Think Tank,” which allows women to come together and share their career ups and downs to learn for each other how to face them head on. “Don’t let the beliefs of others define you,” says Pagan. “We are strong women and we will always prevail.
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I started my company after my dad’s passing in 2012, which was a defining moment, to say the least. It was the first time in my life that I stopped ‘doing’ and starting ‘questioning.’ My dad passed away at the age of 62 so for me it became a period of “am I?” I began to ask “am I doing what I want in life? Am I living to my fullest potential?” In search, I realized that although I was blessed with a supportive family, great friends, and an amazing boyfriend (then turned husband) something didn’t feel right. I felt like I wasn’t doing my life’s work. So, just weeks after my dad’s passing, I founded Endlessly Elated (a name I chose to ensure it was a daily reminder to live a fulfilled life) and the rest is history.
I’d say my greatest achievement came the day I decided that those three little words “believe in yourself” weren’t going to be words, but rather actions I lived by. It took me a long time to believe that I could do and be whatever I wanted to. I lived my whole life subconsciously putting limitations on myself, not because of the naysayers but because of my own preconceived notions. It’s my greatest triumph to have found my purpose and live life on my own terms.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
I was told I was ‘too agreeable’ to ever hold a leadership position let alone be a CEO.
3. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
The biggest stereotype I’ve ever been faced with has been that as a woman in the workplace I need to be ‘bitchy.’ That people need to ‘fear me’ in order for me to be perceived as a suitable leader. A few years back, I sat in an office for a year-end review and was told that due to my lack of leadership qualities or how she verbalized it, “you’re just too nice, Kathleen,” I would deter myself from any career progression and due to this unfortunate fact, I either shaped up or would inevitably get fired. As I played the conversation in my head, I realized that my choices were either to become her or continue to be me. When in doubt, always choose yourself.
Needless to say, I never got fired, I moved onto various other positions, had the most amazing managers and after my recent resignation a beautifully, poised email from my current boss came out stating that although she was so sad to see me go, she was extremely proud of me and was fully supportive of all my endeavors. Now that’s a girl boss!
4. What did you learn through your personal journey?
Simple. I created my own. I wasn’t going to let the opinions of those who wanted to categorize me into the “she’s too nice” or the “she’s not bossy enough” boxes write my narrative. I took a stance to ensure that no one mistaken my kindness for weakness or my “lack of bossiness” for self-confidence. My story is mine and mine only. No one gets to write it but me.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?Believe it or not, I often think about this question and I always find myself asking the women around me the same thing. Limiting beliefs can come from the least expected places sadly sometimes from the people closest to. Don’t let the beliefs of others define you. Don’t let your circumstances limit you. Don’t let your skin color and ethnicity be a label for who you are. We are strong women and we will always prevail. In the great words of Shonda Rhimes “Not to get all Beyoncé on you, But [we] woke up like this!”
Dating. Divorce. Marriage. Being single. None of it is easy.
I don't think any of us have the right answers or know exactly what we are doing when we navigate through relationships or breakups, even if we do take every Buzzfeed quiz there is out there. What I have found out though, is by writing this book, Female. Likes Cheese. Comes with Dog: Stories about Dating, Divorce & Saying "I Do" most everyone can relate to some part of it, whether it is having an awkward date, being dumped, or falling in love. The short stories read as if we are talking over drinks at a bar gossiping about our love life. It's as if, you, reader, are one of my best friends. I hope by reading this book you are reminded that you don't have to be anybody but you and your mistakes are simply memories to learn upon. Get comfy, grab a glass of wine (or your beverage of choice), cuddle with your furry companion (pet or otherwise), and enjoy…
From the chapter "Kansas & The Firepit" from Female. Likes Cheese. Comes with Dog: Stories about Divorce, Dating & Saying "I Do"
I had lost my dog to my ex. I was a mess. I thought this man was going to be by my side the rest of my life, I had gained a lot of weight. Not the kind of weight you gain when you tell your friend "OMG, Kelly, I, like, put on five pounds this summer because of all the partying I've been doing at the rooftop bars," but real weight. The weight that makes you feel totally inadequate. The weight that makes you say, Hey I might as well keep eating because it doesn't matter anymore. I was inconsolable during that summer.
I still wasn't completely out of my trash TV and alcohol phase, but I had switched to vodka, at least. Which, let's be real, just hides the fact that you're an alcoholic. I wasn't really talking to anyone about my problems. My mom tried to take me to fat camp. Yes, fat camp. When your mother says the reason why you're not happy is because you're fat, there comes a point where you really don't know whether to laugh, cry, or drink. I think I did all three. The reason why I wasn't happy was because I was going through a divorce, and my life was unraveling. I was not only unhappy but also fat, so I guess there was some truth to that. It was just what I needed to hear to get myself back to reality.
While cleaning the kitchen one day, I walked by a pair of boxing gloves. Boxing was something I had always been interested in. Watching it on TV and having some friends that had done it professionally, I figured I would take the plunge and put this "body after breakup" into motion.
There was only one boxing club in our area for fitness. I walked into the afternoon classes knowing that I was going to be a little out of my element, but I'm not afraid of a challenge. I'm an outgoing person and being sports savvy, I knew that I would catch on quickly. The guy teaching the class, Kansas, was very attractive. Ladies, you know how in yoga when you have to do the sun god pose? Well, let's just say he was what you would hope a sun god looked like. With sweat glistening down the side of his face, it was almost as if the ceiling parted and angels started singing as he stood over you telling you, "Ten more!" as you got down for ab rounds between punches. This guy was exciting. He was energetic. He was. . . constantly checking on me during class to make sure my form was correct, since I was new, and let's face it—I was totally OK with the attention. After class I signed up for a one-year membership and became addicted, not just because I loved the workouts but also because of the hot trainer.
I started coming to class three times a week, initially taking only Kansas's classes, but not wanting to look obvious when I really started crushing on him, I had to mix it up. I mean, this is Crushing 101. This was my first crush out of the gate post-divorce, so exactly what you think would happen, happened. Kansas became my rebound guy. I would make any excuse to linger after class (which, looking back, just made me look desperate), but then sometimes I would switch it up and leave. I mean, it was a game. I was trying to figure out if he was interested or not. It was exhausting. After talking after class for a few weeks, I happened to mention a home improvement project I had been thinking of working on. Being the good listener (stalker?) that I was, I knew he just happened to be interested in home improvements, as he did many of his own. I figured that would be a great way to get to know each other better and for him to fall completely in love with me, of course. Duh. Now I had a reason to cross something off my "list". I love sitting outside and having a glass of wine and listening to music by a fire. I wasn't really sure how I was going to accomplish this task on my own, but recruiting a fine gentleman like Kansas would be a good start. So, he agreed to my firepit project, and after gathering supplies at Home Depot, he came over, and I quote to you from my journal, I kid you not:
So today he shows up, and we are in the backyard digging the hole, and he takes his shirt off. His body is a wonderland! I mean sweat is just glistening down his torso. So I had to change the subject somehow and shut my gaping mouth, so like an idiot I say, "Oh, look, a callus on my hand," and he says, "Those on a woman are sexy." FML.
Ladies and gentlemen, do you want to know what I did that day? Something so adult and so mature: I pushed him into the dirt. I pushed that beautiful body into the dirt. I couldn't take it. I was like a schoolkid on a playground. Because that is the type of tantrum this lady used to throw. Kansas took it as flirting. I took it as frustration, because I couldn't tell a boy I liked him at the time.
This whole awkward flirting game went on for a few more weeks. Kansas would come over, and we'd dig more holes (to bury my dignity in) or set stones—I don't know. I thought rebound guys were supposed to be fun, casual things, but this wasn't fun at all. This was like homework in school. Every day I'd come home from "class," and I'd strategize on what I needed to do to make better "grades." If I had actually spent half the time in real school that I spent on Kansas, I would've had a 4.0. I was having to chase him, but I almost didn't know what race I was running. After all, I hadn't dated since 1884. So I figured if the firepit thing didn't work, then I'd write him a poem... Like a moron...