How Crying in a Bathroom Stall Can Change your Life.

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This story begins with a women’s experience, which turns out, is also mine. We are all connected, more than we realize. As you read this post, see if you can also see yourself in her. If not, perhaps your story is still unwritten.

This woman, on the very first day of her corporate job, one where had been given a six-figure salary, the task of overseeing a large department and managing multi-million dollar budgets, found herself hiding in a bathroom stall, crying. It seems the life she had been leading, all she had been working towards – the degrees, the promotions, the awards – came crashing down upon her. In that moment, she had no way of knowing that everything in her life was about to change for the better.

It would be a cool story, had she walked out of that New York high-rise that afternoon, but life isn’t about being cool, and neither is this blog. Change often takes time, and it took many more moments in the bathroom stall for her to find her voice.

How we had met was many years later, when she had asked me to write her a speech on Women Finding Their Voice. In preparation for my writing her speech, she told me her story, and how she had left her corporate job in order to pursue her passion – photographing women who life had beaten down. Women who didn’t look or feel good about themselves. Some were overweight, or fighting their way out of an abusive marriage, others had cancer. Through email, I learned how she had ignited her passion for photography, while also finding a way to make a difference for others. What seemed like an end, that moment in the stall, was actually a beginning. Along with her tears that morning, came a soothing ache of relief, a gift, a door opening. The first step she would take in a series of steps in finding her voice.

Due to unforeseen circumstance, she never did make it to that speech, but perhaps life had orchestrated our meeting just for me – and for you. To open my eyes to the path I was indeed walking in my own life, my own journey in finding my voice. Through her story, I had come to realize that finding my passion in writing, something that would lift me every day, while hoping to make a difference for someone else, began with many of my own moments in a bathroom stall.

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The steps she had taken that led her out of that bathroom stall, were ones I too had taken. Today, I share them with you. For sometimes we need to take the road less travelled, and other times, simply trace another’s footsteps in the sand.

As you read through these steps, please keep in mind that in finding our voice, our steps are fluid, as we can often skip or repeat steps along the way, moving forward and backward like a childhood game of hopscotch. Inevitably, whether we walk gracefully or clumsily stumble through these five steps, when we follow our hearts, we will find our voice.

The following five steps are simple, but not necessarily easy:

  1. Seek out your feelings. Our emotions always tell us the truth – sometimes whispering, often shouting at us. These are our bathroom stall moments. Take time to think about about your work, or your life. Does thinking about your day create feelings of joy or dread? When we begin to take notice of how we feel, we start to see the truth, to hear what is in our heart. When we follow our hearts, we find ourselves not at the end, but at the beginning of our story.
  2. Release Others’ Expectations. As we peel back the layers of our longings that linger beneath our skin, we often find a voice that is not our own. For many of us, our accomplishments have been driven by others’ expectations of us. Our stories of our higher education, financial success, the success of our children, can stem from a hidden need for approval. Releasing expectations is about not only releasing personal expectations about what we should do, but about what we think the world expects of us. It begins with the question, who am I doing this for and ends with what am I doing for myself? It continues with separating the voices of those we have known, from our own voice. We can meet every definition of the word success, except the one that matter to us. Success goes far beyond degrees, responsibilities and money.
  3. Find your passion. Unearthing your passion is not easy, but when you find it, it will feel like magic! Someday, you will be at the end of this wonderful life, and what will you find? Did you live your life for you? Did you follow your heart? Close your eyes, and think of something you love to do, that you would do for free. Start there. What makes you happy? As you take your last breath on this earth, what do you want to leave behind, and be proud of? This is the key to finding your passion. You will know you have stumbled upon it, by the excitement you feel, the joyful and peaceful feelings that emerge.
  4. Become courageous. This can be the most challenging step. Yet, when we reach deep within ourselves, finding the courage and taking a leap of faith with our passion, we are often rewarded. Give yourself a time limit, but don’t adhere to it. Set a goal but be willing to change it. Just begin doing what you love, and the rest will fall into place. Courage takes sacrifice, determination and pushing through adversity. As your courage grows, your passion grows, and this wonderful cycle continues.
  5. Share your Voice. Once you follow the other four steps, you will need to share your voice with the world. As you walk beyond the threshold of this fear, the life you have always wanted will begin to naturally unfold in front of your eyes. Resist the temptation to run back and hide. While many believe they have a fear of failure, it is often a fear of success. When everything you have been waiting for, that life you only imagined living, begins to take shape in front of your eyes, breath, say thank you. Remind yourself, you are worth it.

The first time I opened up to my voice, when Elephant Journal agreed to publish my article, I felt both disbelief and pride, joy and fear. Within twenty-four hours I had almost 50,000 views. My article had touched a chord about special needs children, and it was because it came from my truth, my voice. Not every article finds that success, but I have come to realize, the ones that I create from honesty and vulnerability, intimacy and truth, find their way more often into others’ hearts and Facebook pages.

I urge you to go out and find your voice. To listen to the gentle whispers of your heart, and follow it. To uncover and release any expectations that are not your own. To uncover your passion, reach for that courage and unleash your voice onto the world.

We can wake up each morning, and go through our days, never finding our voice, knowing the sun will continue to rise and fall. Or we can step out of our comfort zone, follow our hears and leave our mark on this world.

 

Please excuse all grammatical errors and typos. My editor is permanently on vacation.

 

 

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An Angel in Disguise

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During an interview at work recently, I met a man, a very desperate man, who wanted to work for our small agency.

The interview began just as any other. Introductions were made and work history was reviewed, while the critical analysis of his appearance, age and his general fit was swimming around my subconscious.

In general, candidates tell you things you are not supposed to ask, so I simply nodded when he offered up the information that he has a wife and two children. But when he added that he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis five years ago, that life has certainly handed him some challenges, I was unprepared for what happened next. Like a light bulb that blows unexpectedly when you turn on a switch, I was surprised when he began to cry.

Feeling a lump growing in my throat, I tried to ignore it. But events that come unexpectedly, especially ones that change your life, have an undeniable, underlying truth that cannot be swallowed away. It seemed that my years of soul-searching, meditating and determination to make a difference in others’ lives, came smack up against my hardened professionalism in the world of business.

My inner and outer worlds were about to crumble together in one heaping pile of tears. My heart began to speak over my head, and I found myself asking him how he managed with his plate so full. How he sounded like an amazing father with the strength to move mountains. I knew I stumbled upon not just a man, a body who needed a job, but a soul with an open heart, who was suddenly touching mine.

Through his tears, he voiced how he could not understand why nobody has given him a chance. That he was a good person and a hard worker. That being out of work for over a year was chipping away at his self esteem.

As I took a breath, I could no longer deny how I was immeasurably touched by his vulnerability. I wanted to toss my pen and paper, and reach out and hug him, thank him for his openness. I wanted to explain to him that most people who interview for a job, have created a hard professionalism, surrounding their heart with armour. They think there is a “right way” to go on an interview, and too often, it is an act, an image thrown out at an employer, fooling them into hiring a drone, one seemingly without a heart.

But life is not exactly like the movies, so I did not hug him, or give him a high-five. I simply allowed the shift inside myself to settle. And awareness came to the forefront of my mind. Life has thrown this man so many curve balls that he has forgotten how to hold up his shield, put on his mask.

Nobody had hired him, despite his good experience. Perhaps, they were afraid—their own armor snugly in place. I do not judge. It is just an observation, because that was me. In my professional life as a recruiter, I interviewed thousands of people, all with my heart deeply buried. I checked them each off my list like they were pieces of scrap metal and I was the junkyard dog. And I got paid a lot of money.

But somewhere over the course of my soul-searching, I must have woken up. And when we wake up, life gives us beautiful gifts disguised as reminders, teachers and messengers—to confirm we are on the right path. Intuitively, I knew why this man was sitting in front of me. A gentle soul, he was there to teach me to listen to my heart. To tell me that I am on the right path, that it is my mission to show others how we all need to bring our hearts back into our businesses.

It is time we start merging our outer and inner lives. To not wait until somebody shows up at the office with a gun or for terrorists who tear apart our families, shaking the foundation of our lives, to wake up and listen to one another. To allow our vulnerability and hearts to remain open, whether we are pouring coffee, selling commodities or creating websites.

After all, it is all too easy to let our hearts open in the safety of a dark movie theater or beneath the security of our blankets at night. But how does this look in real life? What about in those hard to reach places like behind a desk? What if we all began to merge this outer and inner life? To ask the person making our coffee at our local hang out how he is doing, and mean it. Instead of cursing them out silently, to see another who is complaining, as someone who needs more understanding and love, not less.

If we stop trying so hard to look a certain way, and turn inward to how we feel, might we all breathe a little easier? There are teachers and messengers everywhere we go, reminding us, we are all here to open our hearts more, and feeling is simply human. This man who sat in front of me was not just another resume, but a check mark in the employment box of life; a yes in favor of humanity.

I hired this gentle soul. I look forward to all he has to teach me, for he is truly, an angel in disguise