You have to be your own best advocate. Know your worth and don’t settle for anything less. This International Women’s Day stand up, speak out, and shine. You were born for this.
If there’s something you’re burning to do, do it now. Last night I learned that a man I greatly admire, someone who was an enormous help to me during my job search last year, passed away of a sudden heart attack. He went out for his morning jog, in seemingly perfect health, and didn’t come home. He was only 49 years old.
His advice and introductions were a tremendous source of encouragement to me at a difficult time. I had just moved back to New York after two years away, was doing a full-time job search, and was dealing with a heavy dose of change and uncertainty. Though I wore a brave face, I was constantly worried about just about everything. The first time I met him in person, I was having a particularly low day.
I went to his office and despite the fact that he was insanely busy, he gave me so much of his time. He was completely relaxed and didn’t rush me at all. I felt right at home talking to him, as if I had known him all my life. That’s the kind of person he was. He listened to my dreams, and immediately started introducing me to everyone and anyone he knew whom he thought could help me.
When I got my job offers, he helped me think through them so I would make the best choice. All of his advice was spot-on. The last time I saw him, he gave me a big hug, and said, “You know it’s all going to be okay. It always is. You just keep working hard and it’ll work out.” And he was right.
The best way I can think to honor him is to follow his advice to the letter. And I will. Don’t wait to do what you love. You never know how much time you have.
Today I looked into a camera and said my weak things in a strong voice. I told my story about my intense struggles with PTSD after my apartment building fire, and how that recovery turned me into an author. I told my deepest, darkest secret, and I feel fierce and free. Link to video will be live soon.
The most valuable gifts we can give others are our time and attention. So often what others need is just someone to really listen. Grateful for my good set of ears and my ability to offer help, support, and encouragement. We’re all just walking each other home.
“We’re all just walking each other home.” ~Ram Dass
This week I spent time with graduate students at Cornell Tech, helping them with their product development portfolio projects, and with a friend who needed some advice about how to move forward in a difficult professional situation. In both these instances, I felt alive being able to offer help, support, and advice. These circumstances reminded me of this quote by Ram Dass. If we aren’t helping each other through this life, then what’s the point, right?
Here’s a lesson we should adopt from Olympic ice skaters: they receive more points for attempting a difficult jump and falling than they do from downgrading the jump to something easier and landing perfectly. Why isn’t that the norm in our entire society. Let’s reward and celebrate one another for daring greatly and failing rather than taking the easy path.
I haven’t written poetry in a very long time, and as I was walking to work this one popped into my mind. I don’t know where it came from, but I felt empowered as I wrote it down. I hope you feel empowered reading it.
Do not mistake my kindness for weakness,
or my desire to collaborate as an inability to lead.
I have been through the intense pressures of life and emerged bright, shiny, and polished.
Like clay in a kiln.
Like a buried diamond, now free.
Believe me when I say I stare into the fire and smile.
Do not underestimate me.
Whenever I need a dose of encouragement, two recurring dreams find their way into my slumber:
1.) In the first one, I walk outside to the edge of a cliff, turn around, and do a backflip into the canyon. Rather than falling, I fly.
2.) In the second one, I’m scuba diving. I paddle up to a Blue Whale (the largest animal to ever live). I pat the whale’s cheek. The whale winks at me and says, “I’m so happy to see you again.”
I don’t know how to do a backflip, I have a healthy fear of heights and open water, and I don’t know how to scuba dive. And yet, these two dreams bring me a lot of peace. I think it’s the Universe’s way of telling me, “You got this.”
“The world is full of people who say it can’t be done. If everyone listened to them, we’d still live in caves—and there would be no such thing as books.” ~Dean Koontz #NaNoPepTalk
I’d like to talk to you about naysayers. Some are valuable. When I was deciding to go to grad school and expressed my desire to work part-time and go to school part-time, a friend of mine told me exactly why that was a terrible idea. (He had gone part-time and deeply regretted it.) He was right. It was a far better idea for me to go to grad school full-time. After I got my MBA and a good job, and decided I want to work on my writing on the side, that same friend said I was wasting my time and that I should really focus on important things like climbing the corporate ladder and finding a husband. (He never climbed the corporate ladder, he’s not a writer, and his spouse is less than a good match.) That time he was wrong.
To find out if naysayers are worth listening to, I consider the feedback as if a friend was telling me my own story. That objectivity helps me sort the BS from the gold. Also, consider the perspective of the naysayer. Are they offering you advice from experience, or are they just stating their opinion as fact? I’m glad my friend gave me solid, informed reasons to go to grad school full-time. It’s one of the best decisions I ever made. I’m glad I ignored his opinion about my writing and how to spend my time. If I had listened to him, I wouldn’t have the writing career I have today.
Ultimately, the one who lives with the consequences of your choices is you. What matters most is your opinion of your own life.
“I like stories where women save themselves.” ~Neil Gaiman
Screw patience. Do what makes you happy now. If someone asked me how I got to the point I am in my life now, as a person and as a writer, my answer would be “I’ve always been my own savior.” I’ve never expected anyone to fix anything or do anything for me. I don’t want or wait well. All I really know how to do is roll up my sleeves and get to work. Sometimes that work is with other people like my experience in theater, and sometimes that work is on my own like sitting down to write my book. Some call it feisty, others call it fiery, and I call it building a life I love.
Our time is so precious and so short. It flies by despite our efforts to slow it down. Every day matters. Don’t bottle yourself up or tell yourself , “Someday, I’ll do what I love.” Do it now. Some day is today, every day. I promised myself a long time ago that I wasn’t going to die with the music, or the books, still in me. I was going to live and write out loud. However improbable my book seemed, I was going to find a way to get it done. And I did. You will, too. Keep writing.