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My intro to Karen Jacobsen was a lovely email. She said: “Thank you for your amazing newsletter. You are providing a point of communication and for many an emotional lifeline – and so much more. I read your email daily and want to thank you for the incredible difference you are making.” It’s stuff like this that keeps the W42ST team going, Wow!

In Karen’s email signature there was a mention of her being “The GPS Girl”. Forever the nosey journalist, I took a look. The sizzle reel was intriguing.

Karen is the Australian voice that all of us have heard in the car on stressful journeys. We’ve shouted at her (I’ve now made an apology for all of us!). She tells us all when “you have reached your destination.”

In a time when we are all looking for some sort of directions, I had to speak to Karen.

Karen arrived in New York following her childhood dreams in Australia to become the next Olivia Newton-John. She has lived in Hell’s Kitchen for 19 years. Her 12 year old son goes to school on W49th Street. So where did she and her family end up in these times of COVID-19?

Karen and family headed out of the city for a while after her son’s school went remote on March 16. They went all the way to her hometown in Queensland, Australia! “Initially we thought, it’s going to be two weeks. Then when we got a sense that the timeline could be much longer, we just thought that it would be good for our son to be able to be with his grandparents and us to be with them during this time. But my heart is in Hell’s Kitchen every day.”

Her GPS story goes back all the way to 2002. “I saw a brief looking for a native Australian female voiceover artist living in the Northeast of the United States. Oh – that’s a description of me! I went to the audition, I got the job.

“The work took place over three weeks. They took me up to Ithaca, NY to record. They only wanted to record a maximum of four hours a day, so that my voice did not sound tired or fatigued in any way. In total it was 50 hours of recording. They captured every combination of syllables possible so that they could chop it up and create a voice system out of my voice.”

Her voice is used in GPS systems . You can also hear her crystal clear tones on cruise ships, elevators, and over 1 billion devices.

She went on to write two books Recalculate – Directions for Driving Performance Success and Roadmap for Your Future. Now she helps companies and individuals move through times of change by hosting conferences and workshops.

“Recalculating is an active, five step process. First: notice you are off route, second is being willing to change direction, third is clarify your destination. Step four is to embrace the steering wheel. And step five is to accelerate – to take action.”

So how can “recalculating” help us through the current crisis?

We talked about how these can be applied today. “Candidly it’s been such a rollercoaster I haven’t known where to start. What I’ve realized during this time is that we’re not even at step one. We’re in what I’m calling pre-calculating before actively navigating change. We are in a time of survival, a time of shock, a time of basics and foundational needs. We’re not making the steps toward wherever we’re headed next because the uncertainty is so immense.”

Karen is frankly as lost as the rest of us – pulling the car over in a hailstorm and waiting it out. She says that we’re not even in a headspace with enough information to recalculate.
She advises us to get back to basics. Wellbeing is important. Be very gentle with yourself, let yourself off the hook quite a lot and then take very small steps as regularly as you can. Whether that be drinking more water every day or meditating for two minutes, doing one star jump or charging our phone outside the bedroom. Things that might seem Herculean at a time like this.

Karen and her family plan to be back in Hell’s Kitchen for the restart of school. They are missing home: “I can’t wait to be back at P.S. Kitchen for their warm artichokes and lasagne and to pop into UT47 for my Macadamia Chai Latte.”

She’s following the news while away. Karen’s also a songwriter and singer actively involved in the Broadway community and she is stunned at the closure of Shetler Studios. “What I am missing most about the neighborhood is Broadway. I don’t even know how to put into words what I think and what I feel. The heartbreak is so unbearable that I don’t let myself think about it. But my intention is to be there, to be a part of that comeback.”

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