Chapter 48: Making Herstory at the Border of Crazy
The guest for meeting number eleven patiently waits in the virtual lobby as I finish up my current meeting. My brain is tapped. Energy is drained, and I regret accepting this final call of the day.
Of the ten meetings I’ve had thus far, three of them were “mentoring” sessions. Apparently, I’m a hot commodity after 25 years of surviving and thriving in my industry.
Each week, I host about ten mentoring sessions with my “regulars” or people who have reached out on LinkedIn. They are a combination of past colleagues or new professionals seeking to learn and grow.
Mentoring is selfish. All people love to talk about themselves; it’s human nature. However, my mentorship relationships are truly reciprocal because I learn from my mentees as they begin their rise to the top.
As I like to say, they are at the sunrise of their career while I am at the sunset.
From these sessions, I learn about new technologies, their dreams and wants, what motivates them. This is vital input that guides me as a people manager and leader of a large (and hopefully growing) team.
Plus, while sharing my story, I get to reflect on the why’s and how’s. Questions like: why did I choose this career? How did I succeed? Or how do I balance the work as a mom?
As I exit my call, I take a deep breath and long exhale.
Shaking the cobwebs out of my brain, I take a sip of water that loyally stays by my side all day long, mustering the strength for one last call.
As I enter the “room,” a colleague, who I met 13 years ago (which feels more like 117), blankly stares out of the window of her Brooklyn apartment.
I greet her quickly with the usual “Hi, how are you? So good to see you! How’s life?” The standard answer comes back to me, “I’m good, life is good, work is good, the family is good.”
Good, good. That’s good!
After the usual pleasantries, I simply inquire, “what can I help you with? How may I be of help?”
She says that she’s been consulting and can’t seem to find a permanent place to build her career. She shares that after 20 years in the business, she’s struggling to find her lane.
Interesting and sadly this is not an unusual answer. I respond, “Well, you’ve been at this a long time. Do you love the work?” She answers plainly, “yeah.” So, I’m like, ok, that wasn’t emphatic at all. I try again, “what do you love about the work?”
SIDE NOTE: In hindsight, I theorize that there are four buckets we fill throughout our career. The first is learning. We take a position because we can gain new skill sets.
The second is salary and/or title. There are moments in life we need to build our leadership acumen and desire more responsibilities. Often, compensation matters when life events occur, like getting married or buying a house. The phase of life when building capital is imperative.
The third is balance. As we go through life, our personal circumstances evolve. We may want to have a family or need to take care of a loved one or have a personal health crisis. In this case, finding a position that is less demanding is critical.
We are not two different people at work and at home. We don’t experience our professional and personal life as two separate worlds. They are entirely interwoven.
The fourth is loving what you do and who you do it with. You must love Mondays as much as Fridays. If you’ve never experienced this, you may want to think about what’s important to you and reflect on why you are currently on this path and how to make the change needed to achieve career bliss which happens when all four buckets are full.
And that’s where I am…all of my buckets runneth over. After 25 years of working my ass off, I can honestly say I love what I do, who I do it with; I am compensated well and challenged every day. My work and home life are balanced with the ultimate flexibility that the pandemic fostered. Each day, I learn and grow as my industry ever-evolves. I feel set for continued success and to help my team achieve their goals as well.
The good news is that as she answers my question about what she loves about the work, her eyes light up. She says that she loves to produce things. To see an idea through to execution. To be part of a team of people who ideate an event and help it come to life; to be there as the magic unfolds.
Ok, we can work with this.
That’s great! And now I ask the most challenging question of all, “So it seems like you know what you love to do, but at this point in your career, it’s critical to identify your purpose. What is the purpose of your career/life? What is your north star?”
She’s perplexed and requests clarification.
I go on to say, “For example, my sole purpose is to breed leaders. To guide and challenge people (including my daughter), helping them reach their full potential. No project will ever provide the gratification compared to seeing someone rise and shine doing and making what they love.”
I continue, “this purpose was delivered to me as a gift. A candidate was interviewing for a position on my team about five years ago. This candidate was given a choice of joining my team or another position within the same company. When she sat down across from me, she told me that I had a reputation…which freaked me the fuck out because I can be a fatalist and assume the worst. She said, ‘I heard through the grapevine that you breed leaders.’
It was a lightning strike moment.
Dazed, my brain was on fire. My mark in the world, my legacy, had NOTHING to do with the ideas I sold, my annual rating, or the business I helped win.
It rested solely on my ability to see the greatness in others and guide/support them to achieve it. The chance to help people find their path is a gift and an honor. It’s so pride-filling, it’s a sin!
From that day forward, I decided to focus all effort on people, NOT projects. This is the most fulfilling ‘work’ I have ever or will ever do. The major life lesson: the power of my purpose is my ability to inspire power in others.”
As I shared this story, she says, “Wow, that’s cool.” Not exactly the response I was expecting or typically get. She was unaffected. Then she asks me, “Well, like, how did you get to where you are?”
Ummm, ok, didn’t I just answer that question?
This question usually makes me snicker and smirk because the answers always makes my audience laugh, I tell her, “I have no fucking idea!” She predictably giggles and asks me to elaborate.
“It was a total accident. I tripped into this industry. I don’t have a college degree, I knew no one in this business, I had no internships, no prior experience. With about 5% of luck and 95% of hard work, I turned happenstance into an intention, into a career that still surprises and delights me.”
She again looks confused. I add, “when you find your purpose, you will find your path. Only when you identify what you want to show up for everyday and the mark you want to leave on the world will the universe begin to deliver it. It’s up to you to listen and follow the signs.”
With that, I quickly ended the meeting. See, while I can help inspire power in others, they need to be willing to do the work and self-reflection. I can’t give you the answers cause the goddam answers are nascent in your mind and heart. You have to choose to unlock it.
As always, I allow moments that might be missed as an opportunity to reflect on my story. And here we are, me doling out “advice” to a captive audience (insert evil laugh).
Newsflash! No one has all the answers. Shocking? So, when seek advice just know this, advice is objective. We are all students of life, the only difference is some of us (like me) have been studying for our Masters degree for decades.
Simply, when I share my story, it is up to the individual to choose to listen or heed any lessons. Whether they take action or not is not personal, I don’t take it as an insult. We all have free will and the opportunity to seize an insight that moves us but it is our choice.
In addition to free will, I believe there is a part of our story that is universally driven. It must be, or I would not be where I am at today.
The universe hit me over the head again and again until I finally woke from my slumber. Trial and error is the only way to learn. Fuck up, dust off, try again. Do it slightly differently the next time. Get constructive feedback, feel the pain of that, dust off, try again. The gift of hindsight is more than 20/20; mistakes are inevitable and necessary. God, don’t I know it.
Yet the universe holds the magical key to make your path significantly more fruitful. Once I forgave my sins, defined my purpose and truthfully felt my worth, the world opened up. I could now choose how I wanted to nurture my soul throughout my future. I was unblocked, untethered. Healed.
I’m now witnessing karma become a force in my life because the tipping point is happening right before my eyes. The universe delivers in abundance. I am watching, listening, and responding to the signs, signals, and gifts of knowledge and opportunity. For the first time, I am on my true path; what was happenstance is now intentional.
While my career continues to thrive, I intentionally fill my life with hobbies, passions, and side hustles. With relentless and unabashed curiosity, I embrace my creative desires to spark my soul. This creativity is expressed through my burgeoning interior design business, where I help people live their stories. You can view some of my completed projects (with many more to come) at www.cherryhomedesigns.com.
To help satiate my quest to be a great storyteller, I hone my writing skills as a blogger for The Daily Feels (as you clearly know if you’ve read this far).
Today, I am exploding with some great news! My partners and I are launching a vacation rental business, with the purchase of my dream beach house in Wildwood, NJ, called Casa Di Amici (House of Friends). I am electrified by the concept of sensory and experiential design. Our plan is to ignite all five senses of our guests with every detail, so they leave wanting more and come back to us year after year. I am so excited to share this new chapter of my freaky life with you all! COMING SOON!
These are all intentional moves and the universe is there every step of the way, either to affirm my direction or provide an alternative. All signs point to goodness and abundance whether in lessons learned or a hefty bank account. Either way, I’m all in!
Sometimes I dream about taking a time machine back to meet my 22-year old self and conduct an interview about her future plans. There is no doubt in my mind that she would not have the foresight or the courage to dream this big.
Truth is I don’t think there is any single piece of advice that propelled me. It’s a mish-mosh of trial and failure, of highest highs and lowest lows, of positive and negative influences. And it all mattered. Every single person, experience, failure, and success…mattered.
Best of all, my wounds have healed, and I feel truly worthy of this life. No excuses, no apologies. The juice was DEFINITIVELY worth the squeeze.
My wish for all those that I mentor is that you bask in the glory of your becoming. No one is born knowing firmly what you can do or what you can be or what you will mean to the world, or what will happen along the way. The greatest part (the part we often miss) is the discovery.
Because, inevitably, the best is yet to come. I am herstory in the making.