The shift was subtle. A light breeze in the sunshine. Yet she knew her life would never be the same.
Greetings from Los Angeles. When I booked my trip here a few months ago, I thought I was coming back for my friend’s wedding and a little vacation. I didn’t know then that this trip would coincide with and signify the beginning of next chapter of my life.
Sometimes we have to go back to move forward.
I lived here what now seems like a million years ago, but really it was only like seven years ago. Back then, I was a 20 something girl with a forgotten purpose who fell to the vultures that prey on young insecurity. I know now that Los Angeles is not a town for anyone who lacks confidence. People say New York will make or break you but in my experience, Los Angeles will rip people apart, especially women, if they are not careful. For a very long time, I resented Los Angeles and I beat myself up for having chosen to live here in the first place. That said, this trip has made me realize I am who I am now because I lived here.
This is the truth: Everything we went through, everyone we met, every disappointment and every loss has led us to this moment.
The town seems almost exactly the same—from the buildings to the people to the Superman billboards staring me in the face. And yet everything is different. Suddenly I appreciate all the places I used to go, the people seem way more friendly then I remember and it’s not Brandon I’m looking at everywhere. It is all different.
Because I’m different.
People say you should never look back. Truthfully, I think that’s bullshit. How will you ever know how far you’ve come if you don’t look back at where you have been?
This trip, a little awesome coaching, and some faithful friends have shown me a new phase of life is about to begin, and I couldn’t be more excited.
So thank you LA. For everything you gave me and for leading me to this place of ultimate clarity. I am forever grateful.
Yesterday, I was sitting in a dark room at market research in Baltimore when the news of the Boston explosions came in. All I wanted to do was go be with my friends in New York, but I was stuck. I wanted to scream. Then I wanted to cry.
So I sent an email to one of my main support systems, my fellow Landmark coaches. Shortly after, an online dialogue emerged among us with promises of hugs and a safe space to share our thoughts and the reminder that we would all be seeing each other this Thursday. Instantly I felt relieved. I needed help—some sort of security and reassurance—and my second family had responded.
I’ve learned that life is all about our connections and relationships. Years ago, I lived in Los Angeles while I was pursuing a career as a professional actress. I failed to make more than one, maybe two real friendships, and I certainly did not have a group of people that support me like my Self Expression Leadership Program coaches. When the shit hit the fan, which it did more than once, it felt like there was no one in LA to help me pick up the pieces. It was the loneliest two and a half years of my life.
I don’t know why these horrible things happen. I’d like to think that everything does happen for a reason. However, that’s a hard belief whenever innocent people are killed, especially children. But the outpouring of assistance for the Boston victims inspires me because it is yet another bittersweet reminder of the resilience of the human spirit—and of the knowledge that we are never alone. All I can think right now is thank god for our support systems—those brilliant and precious people that come into our lives and lift us off the floor when we are unable to do it ourselves.
As we know, more often than not, doing the things we truly want to do can require remarkable courage. They say, courage is not the absence of fear, but rather taking action in the face of and despite fear.
I began writing this post on a plane home to the US from Argentina while I reflected on my 10 days in South America. The end of that trip marked the beginning of the end of my year of doing things that scare me—like traveling alone. If you’re feeling stuck or just looking for some adventure, I highly recommend taking on a year like this for yourself.
How do you do it? Well, I’m not exactly sure there is a proper formula for everyone but I can tell you how I did it. I simply did the things I wanted to, like travel to another country just because, or take on a pro-bono project without the “proper experience”, or speak publically at a big time conference (See my talk at the 4As Strategy Festival here.) I did things that frightened me, where failure was likely. And you know what? I’ve never felt more successful.
There is something to be said for having balls of steel—regardless of the outcome. Not everything I did turned out the way I expected. Trust me, it was not all sunshine and rainbows. There was plenty of disappointment along the way. But there were also victories. Lots of them. And no one can ever take away the way you feel when you stand up to speak in front of a bunch of people you admire or get off the plane in a country where you don’t speak the language. It is fear and it is bravery perfectly combined to remind you that you are alive and the world is indeed wide—and magical.
2013 is right around the corner. Try it. Do the things that frighten you. Jump out of that airplane. Or use it to fly halfway across the world. Ask that person out. Dye your hair blond. Or blue. Do the things you’ve always wanted to do but have not. Make a list. Check it twice. And then whatever the things are you’re thinking of doing … go do them.
To date, this is the longest I’ve gone without writing this blog. There are a variety of reasons why, but really what it boils down to is it hasn’t been a priority. In part, this because my life has gone through a transition and the universe, gratefully, has sent me a variety of opportunities that have kept me extremely busy.
I’m at a new company that affords me immense opportunities to grow—and thankfully to travel. I’ve become a bit of a pro-bono junkie with Catchafire.org, an organization that has matched me with two projects that have given me the opportunity to help non-profits figure out who they are and the best ways to tell their story. My writing was featured in Holstee’s My Life site, just as I was finishing Landmark’s Self Expression Leadership Program where I coached participants to launch projects all over the world. I’m in the process of developing my own project, which will hopefully inspire those who use it to live more courageously (more to come on this soon). I also attended The World Domination Summit this past July where I met the most amazing and super successful people who not only inspired me to push myself further, but who have also become true friends.
Another reason I haven’t written is because a few months ago, I received a jarring, and let me be honest, incredibly rude email from an “anonymous” reader who did not speak kindly of my contributions to my readers. This person felt my writing lacked insight and that the content was too “me-specific.” And while I appreciate the feedback, I disagree. This specific blog is a journal. It’s a place for me to tell my stories and the lessons I learn in the hopes that those who read it can relate to what I’ve gone through and understand that we are never alone—not in our victories and not in our struggles. So let me just say, if you are not interested in hearing about my life and my thoughts, you should not read my blog. I promise I won’t be offended.
For the rest of you, I’m still so glad you’re here. Thank you all for supporting my projects. You, my friends, are my everything. And it’s true. My world is pretty amazing right now. But I’m not telling you this to brag, or to make you feel bad if your life isn’t exactly where you want it to be. I tell you this because I know exactly where I was nine months ago. I was in a space of miserableness (though I attempted to hide that as best I could), and as far as I was concerned, the way I felt was not going to change anytime soon.
But it did change—mainly because my outlook and the expectations I placed on myself changed. Before, when I tried my damndest to meet other people’s expectations of me, I almost always failed. But now, for the first time in a long time, I’m setting my own expectations for myself. And you know what, I’m actually meeting them. Funny what happens when we take responsibility for our lives.
So if you’re not exactly happy with where you are in life, just know that it can, and will change. Cross my heart.
Now that I’m clear that it is impossible to find sustainable happiness outside of ourselves, I’ve been revisiting what I can do to make myself happy. Essentially, this means doing the things I love to do. So, I started singing again—for myself. And dancing, also for myself, though the occasional night out dancing with friends hasn’t been bad either. I joined a gym where I take yoga and Pilates classes to center myself and get those endorphins going. I have made a habit of grocery shopping at Whole Foods at least once a week and get a kick out of exploring the aisles and picking out great food to eat. I’m also developing a project, soon to be announced, which allows me to chat up with my friends while I ask for their advice and support.
My living room, the gym, the grocery store, anywhere with my friends—these are all my happy places. They are places I go to do the things that make me feel like me. And when I’m fully myself, I’m happy.
It’s not all that difficult to find your happy place. Just think of things you used to do that made you happy and places you used to go to do them. Then go to those places and do those things.
When we’ve lost something, like a job or a relationship, it’s tempting to take the first replacement that comes our way in an attempt to fill a void. Instant gratification often gets us through tough times and provides a sense of easy satisfaction—for a moment. And then, one day, probably not too far off from the time we’ve accepting a less than stellar offer, we wake up and realize we’ve been in this sub-optimal situation before, and we wonder how we got here—yet again.
What can we do to stop ourselves from taking steps backwards in life?
We can simply say—no.
No, I do not accept your offer. I’ve done this before, and it didn’t work for me. And so I choose to have faith in and respect for myself and simply wait until something comes along that moves me forward.
Recently, someone questioned my ambition, or more accurately my ability to act on said ambition. This bothered me as I’ve always thought of myself as pretty damn driven. And so, I needed to speak to people who have known me for longer than a quick season or two. People that could comment on what I’ve done on a long-term basis. People who knew a bit more about the life I’ve led. I needed to go back to the beginning.
Last month, I spent some time with girlfriends from high school and my early college days. The reason for spending time with my old friends became quite clear to me as the weeks went on. I hadn’t really been recognizing myself, and I’d wondered if the person I am at the core had somehow gotten lost.
There’s something to be said for being around friends who knew you when you were younger. It’s like they can see through any façade you may be currently putting on. When you start to self-deprecate, they can call bullshit. It’s quite comforting actually.
“Aren’t you the girl who moved across the country by herself to chase your dream in Los Angeles?” (Check)
“Didn’t you move away from all your friends last year to go to that planning program and then work non-stop for three months because you wanted to change the direction of your career? Seriously, if that’s not ambition, I don’t know what is.” (Apparently, I’m not a complete slacker.)
“I admire you. You’ve done things I would have never done. You are very brave.” (This last one was my mom.)
At some point during these conversations, I realized I can be whatever I want to be because nothing anyone thinks about me is the truth anyway. How is it possible that who I am can be so completely different from one person to the next? Because no one is right and no one is wrong. People believe what they want to, when the want to. The only thing that matters, and is ultimately “true,” is what we think about ourselves.
And so I started looking within. I reread every blog post I’ve written since the inception of “Tattered and Complete.” And then it hit me. This is exactly why I created this blog in the first place. So I could remind myself of who I really am. And remind you of who you are.
The fact is, I know better. I’m not confused—someone thinks something about me that I don’t agree with—therefore I’m upset.
And all the fear, and self-doubt, and back tracking made sense. I’ve been here before, and I’m pissed at myself for feeling shitty.
I don’t have the right to feel shitty. I’ve already learned these lessons! I should not be letting other people make me feel like crap.
But I started to realize, it’s all OK. It’s OK to screw up more than once. It’s really OK to make mistakes. The only person keeping the ultimate score card is me. So, do I want to torture myself for not getting it right or just move on and try again?
As my friend Jessica likes to say in reference to torturing ourselves, “There’s no cheese down that tunnel.” There is nothing to be gained from beating ourselves up, though I too have gone down that lovely tunnel many times. We hurt ourselves more than anyone else possibly can.
And so, I said, fuck it. Time for another go around.
I wanted to find something that could take my attention off me. I wanted something to do that would allow me to give to someone else. I’ve found the times I am most content are when I’m helping someone else feel good about themselves. They say it’s cyclical. Give and you shall receive. Bestow on another that which you are wanting for yourself.
If there is anything I have ever wanted in life, it is for someone to mentor me, to help guide me, to help me figure out what it is that I want and how to get it—and then to not give up on me, even when I’m ready to give up on myself or I’m just being a pain in the ass.
I’m going to be doing a good amount of coaching over the next few months. I’m going to help other people realize their goals and dreams, and I’m pretty sure it’s not going to be easy. When I did the program I’ll be coaching last year, I wanted to quit a million times. If it wasn’t for the coaches talking me out of it, I’m sure I would have. But if I can give something back, if I can inspire people, or make them feel even the slightest bit better about themselves and support them on their own journeys—the way my friends have faithfully supported me these past few months—I have to do it.
It’s 2012. I’m committed to this year being nothing but extraordinary for me and for everyone I care about. Time for all of us to start kicking some self-depricating ass.
I love the following quote. It inspires and moves me whenever I hear or read it, because when we cut through all the crap, when we are able to truly be with each other, and love and support one another, there is nothing more powerful or special or real.
“This is the true joy in life … being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one … being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy … I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.” -George Bernard Shaw