The dreaded question. Deer in headlights was about all I could muster in response throughout school and well into my twenties. How was one supposed to know?
I liked a lot of things. Too many things. In fact, the endless possibilities and “you can be whatever you want to be” urgings of my generation’s supporters felt like an unbearable burden most of the time. Being a positive thinker and dreamer, I appreciated the sentiment, but my own inability to narrow it down to even a small list of options left me paralyzed.
Fast forward to the start of my decade in San Francisco when I was about 26 years old.
“Adventure travel host,” I wrote in my journal. Underneath the title of yet another far fetched career idea, I scribbled down my thoughts about why this job appealed to me and what the obvious stumbling blocks were (“How the hell would I get my foot in the door of that industry??”)
Next up was “Performer/Entertainer” followed by wistful dreams of acting, dancing, singing, painting, doing voice over work… followed by the inevitable insecurities (“What if I don’t make it in Hollywood? Do I really want to be a starving artist?”)
“Should I just suck it up and get a normal job? Something more professional? Am I wasting precious time exploring this other stuff that I should really be spending in a corporate setting getting real life experience?”
These are just a few of the thoughts that were swimming around in my head, back in 2007, near the end of my short-lived 2-year career in financial planning. I had taken some improv classes, was doing a lot of writing for a music tech startup, had started bartending, and was enthusiastically exploring other interests, but ultimately I was basically still completely lost.
I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up.
Two years later, in 2009, I still didn’t know. I had stumbled into fitness, which was closer than any of my previous jobs. But I still found myself agonizing over that brutal mix of uncertainty and indecision, coupled with a sense of unfulfilled potential and a refusal to settle.
A typical week often looked like this:
Monday: convinced that I needed to spend a year abroad traveling while I was still young
Tuesday: excited about the prospect of being an entrepreneur and ready to figure out how
Wednesday: researching grad school, especially INSEAD, 100% sure I wanted to apply
Thursday: still dreaming of being an artist and looking for auditions on craigslist
Friday: exhausted, discouraged, and confused, crying in frustration
Saturday: convinced my dreams were silly, ready to give up and get a corporate job
Sunday: pissed and ready to do whatever it took to find a meaningful path
That year I made a commitment to myself. I was going to make “figuring out what I want to be when I grow up” my biggest priority. I didn’t care how long it was going to take, I just knew I couldn’t take any more of the back and forth.
Figuring out my purpose became my purpose.
I started reading countless books, blogs, and articles. I saw a hypnotherapist who was also an EFT practitioner. I attended workshops, seminars, and retreats. I hired coaches. I interviewed anyone who seemed like they liked their job. I talked to anyone who would listen. I journaled, and journaled, and journaled.
And the beautiful thing is, it totally worked. It was a messy, clumsy, disjointed process, but I found my way. Had I known half of what I know now, I would do things very differently. But looking back, I’m not ashamed of any of it. Instead, it all seems somehow delightfully earnest. It was my perfectly imperfect journey and it got me to where I am today. For that I will be eternally grateful.
Years of people pleasing, approval seeking, and caring way too much what other people think of me pushed me to a breaking point where my own lack of direction became so exasperating and exhausting that something had to change.
And it did. Once I stopped looked outside of myself for validation and got quiet enough to hear the wisdom in my heart (that had, of course, been there all along) it was obvious. All those years of voraciously reading self-help books and devouring anything and everything motivational, inspiration, and chicken soup for the soul-y suddenly made sense…
I finally started being honest enough with myself to admit that I wanted to be a life coach.
Even though the words made me cringe at the time, I had to face the truth. It had actually been there all along – the rather radical calling. But it was expressed only as a gentle whisper underneath the loud, obnoxious voices of my inner critics, so I couldn’t hear it for so long.
Luckily, I ultimately made that powerful choice and started to listen to what my heart was trying to say. Given my hesitant nature, it actually took me several years to really go there. Even once I had broken the seal and headed down the path, I still only dipped in a toe or two at a time. I played it safe and dabbled carefully, but I DID move forward.
Of course, at the time, I had NO idea what I was getting into. I didn’t realize that becoming a life coach also meant becoming an entrepreneur. And that holy crap, that shit is hard! Or how profoundly life changing and fulfilling it would be.
I had no idea that I was embarking on my very own journey to personal freedom.
That’s the journey that I’m on now. Everything I do is about freedom. Freedom to live a life by my own design, to be consciously creating my own reality, and to take full responsibility for every damn part of it. It’s also about freedom from my own self-imposed limitations and the old stories that used to hold me back.
This is what I’m about and it’s what my business is all about too. The cool thing about my story is that I had to slog my way through all that self-doubt, indecision, and fear in order to get here. So I get it. And now that I have the distinct honor of helping other people build their own paths to freedom and start to unleash their own beauty and brilliance out in the world, my tears of frustration have been replaced by tears of joy and gratitude.
Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, many of the elements of those things that I thought I wanted (i.e. going to business school, traveling the world, performing and entertaining), even though they weren’t pointing me in any particular career direction at the time, were clues to values and passions that were alive and well in me already back then.
I’m happy to be able to say that now, in my business and in my life, I get to do some degree of all those things that make me feel alive. My wish for anyone who is reading this and feeling similarly lost is that you start listening to all the clues, the whispers, and the dreams that are already there, if you get quiet and calm enough to access them.