For those of you that don’t already know, in October, I stepped down as co-owner of Live. Breathe. Grow. I haven’t talked about it, because it has been an extremely painful process for me. I have been struggling with my emotional response. Breaking up with a business partner is pretty analogous to divorce; it has all the pain, disappointment and regret. I’ve also felt exceptionally isolated. Our lives and friendships are so intertwined, leaving me with very few shoulders to cry on or women to commune with. I haven’t felt this isolated in a very, very long time…college maybe?
Those that know me best, know that I am not an introverted person. I wear my heart on my sleeve and express my feelings and opinions openly [to anyone who will listen]. When I’m happy, you know about it and when I’m hurting, you hear about it. In the past year or two, I haven’t been able to do this. I’ve been tight lipped about my gut feelings, and emotions, unable to voice them or take charge in a(ny) direction with confidence. After a number of weeks of introspection, a little digging back into the Firestarter Sessions and Desire Mapping [thank you, Danielle] I now realize I stifled my emotional voice (and my power) because I was following someone else’s footsteps. I was walking on a path and living a dream that wasn’t my own.
My business partner and I originally connected because we are feminists and passionate do-gooders (that like yoga a whole lot). We believe that women deserve and require a community of other women. We believe that women’s strength is immeasurable and given the ability we will change the world in drastic ways. It’s such a core part of our belief system that we began developing a non-profit organization; program workshops and a forum for underprivileged women to commune, to transform and to create change. That organization never came to fruition because I joined LBG.
As I immersed myself in the trenches of LBG, I moved further away from my path, my core desires and losing a little bit of myself in the process. When you’re following someone else’s dream, you don’t have the confidence to step forward boldly. You need reassurance. You seek approval. You forget what you’re truly good at. You forget what lights you up and what makes you tick. You survive on the passion of the other person until one day, there just isn’t enough left for the both of you.
(and eventually, you open your eyes to the NEON signs the Universe had been sending you the entire time).
Walking away from a business doesn’t feel like an accomplishment. You don’t get paid for your blood, sweat and tears. You don’t get an acknowledgement or a thank you note and a hug for all your hard work and sacrifice. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s a cold separation. It feels like failure. And then you wander around, lost, trying to remember what your dream was or what it is I you’re good at.
In my youth, I wanted to be a Broadway actress, an ecologist and a Senator. I dreamed of hiking the 46 before my 25th birthday. I dreamed of prominently displaying my first Tony in my office in the Russel Senate Office Building. The walls were painted light blue and lined with pictures of my hiking boots atop the surveyor button; posing with Anne Labastille, Gloria Steinem, Teddy Kennedy. It was a big dream. It was diverse. It was environment, politics and oratory (of sorts) but it never involved tee shirts, look books, trunk shows or sales. I never dreamed of creating tee shirts to inspire women. The path was fun for a while, but it wasn’t my dream.
I always said if I won the lottery, I would go to school forever (that choice and my love of grapefruit makes me weird). I wouldn’t spend money on clothing or luxuries. I would spend it on tuition (traditional and non-traditional) and books. Right now, I’m working at an institution of higher learning, my benefits include tuition remission, 100% tuition remission. I literally won the education lottery. It just took the feeling of failure (and 30 days of Gratitude in pictures) for me to realize it. So, I’m getting a PhD. First comes MCIS (Environmental Communications) and then comes the PhD (American Politics/Women & Politics/Environmental/Social Movements).
I had to develop a list of my accomplishments and academic resume for my former manager so she could write a letter of recommendation. Here it is:
I have a B.S.Sp. in Political Communication/Campaign Management and a minor in Women’s Studies. My senior thesis was a campaign analysis of the 1970s Equal Rights Amendment. I was a Student Government Association Senator for 3 years, appointed to the College Judicial Board by the Dean of Students, President of my National Sorority, President of the Association for Women Students at Emerson and Secretary of the Communications Politics and Law Association. I interned for the DNC, AIDS Action and I was the Greater Boston university and college liaison for the National Organization for Women. (Oh and I started off as a musical theatre major). I went to law school, won the American Jurisprudence Award for Excellence in the Regulation of Toxic and Hazardous Substances, and worked for 3 years as a research assistant and Student Attorney for the Mid Atlantic Environmental Law Center. I earned an LL.M in in Environmental and Natural Resource Law, my thesis was published and has since been cited by numerous scholars including the United Nations Environmental Programme.
You may wonder why I just listed all of that in this blog entry. It’s totally superfluous, what’s the point, right? The point is, remembering that list, physically writing that list was the first time in the past 6 months that I realized I wasn’t a failure. I deserve that feeling. Every person does. You should get a pen and write out your list of accomplishments (when you’re finished reading and commenting on this blog, of course). Remind yourself.
The past 2 1/2 months have been remarkable. As a country, we had vaginas with ways of “shutting that whole thing down”, binders filled with women, a presidential election and a super storm exacerbated by climate change. As an individual, I left a business and a version of my identity, was ‘de-friended‘ for my opinion, reminded that sisterhood is powerful and I dug inside the creeky spaces of my heart and mind searching for my path and illumination.
I also found acceptance.
In myself….and in the form of a letter from the Dean of Graduate Admissions at Rutgers University.