This is 35: Done Is Better Than Perfect
I guess this is a milestone birthday. I’m not sure, but it ends in a five and it feels like I’ve earned this year. It’s definitely not what I thought it would be, but I think I’m happy with where I am (there’s been a lot of changes, so I still am navigating these shifting waters, but at least it feels like I’m learning to sail the ship.) At this point, I can’t tell if I’ve said too much or not enough. I don’t know if anybody cares to hear this perspective, or if these words even matter anymore.
This is coming from a place of truth and honesty. This is the only place I can authentically be anymore. I can no longer hide myself, my truth, or the messiness and sometimes confusing road along this journey. This requires me to overcome the fear I have with my own writing, and my ability to competently and honestly express myself through written word, and at this point, it feels done is better than perfect. We’re told many things throughout this ride, and I guess the only thing that really matters is if you choose to believe them.
Growing up on a pretty standard, predominately white suburban schooling, I experienced, like many others, an education of standardized tests where teachers would prep students, and students would affirm or deny their dominant skills. I was off the charts in math, and a total mess with ‘English.’ It didn’t matter if it was writing, reading comprehension, grammar or any other aspect, unequivocally; every tests told me I was horrible. I choose to believe this, and took to overcompensating by obsessing over proper grammar rules (I am not nearly as seriously about this now, and this story, probably has many mistakes) and taking writing classes such as The Writing Pad (which I cannot recommend enough!).
I’ll guess I’ll never know if I was actually that horrible, or if it was the feedback from teachers, and standardized testing that discouraged me from exploring the expression of self through words. Either way, at this point, it seems mandatory to move beyond the limits I’ve believed for so long and simply find some words. They may not be the best words, but they are the words for me right now. I’m choosing to not believe the story, and recreate a new one.
Another story that I’ve long since let go was that I thought I would be married by now. I remember as a child, while growing up in an open and loving family, the cultural expectation was still very hetero-normative. I believed the story and assumed I would be engaged by 25, married by 27 and pop out the first kid by 30. Here we are at 35 with quite a different story.
Our mothers were the first ones in the workforce. They forged the path and hit the glass ceiling first. I believe they saw the potential of equality — in business, finances, the home, and life, and challenged us all to be all we could be. We grew up hearing that we could be anything and do anything. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” I believed this, but for so long I had no idea what my thing would be. They said … ‘ find your passion’ — ‘ find your purpose’ — ‘do what you love,’ and yet when trying to follow that path of expression, communication and creativity, it was always met with fear and the need to secure a more financially stable option — like business.
During these formative college years, I stumbled across the idea of advertising, but heard the naysayers again. They said, ‘it’s a hard industry to break into,’ or that ‘you’ll never make any money,’ and again, I listened and believed them because there was nobody in my life to prove me otherwise. I believed this for a while, and then remembered that at my soul, I’m a rebel, and never been good at playing by anybody else’s rules.
It wasn’t long after college that I finally made it into my first taste of advertising (thank you Sage Island, and Mike Duncan for believing in me.) I still believe the only reason he took a chance on a young, ambition person like me was because I sold frozen meat door-to-door as my first job out of college. (*They also don’t tell you marketing degrees get you sales jobs. Good for character building, I guess.)
I met this world with unbound ambition and followed my dream of working in advertising in New York City. This was the big league, the place I was destined and where I would a whole lot more than what makes a great brand campaign. My ambition showed up as a master’s degree in Creative Brand Management from the VCU Brandcenter, and the beginnings of a strategy career in LA. My dreams finally came true when I landed a strategy gig at an agency that I had followed for years and watched grow from afar, Carrot Creative.
I came into this new beginning fully alive. I was 28, confident and ready to take on anything that came my way. There was no bar high enough. With inspiration from the likes of Cindy Gallop, Heidi Hackemer and Thas Naseemuddeen (to name a few), I wanted to be successful, break boundaries, and be a leader in the industry I loved so much. I fondly remember attending my first Stratfest, and Jay Chiat Awards and being filled with optimism and excitement for the future. I was in love — with creativity, with business, and with finally having a passion and place to grow. I came into this industry eager, ready to learn, and with the desire to be a leader in it one day.
Unfortunately, I met that same glass ceiling that our mothers know all too well. I would clearly articulate my ambition to grow and be a leader within the company, and yet there was no pathway to that ambition. Carrot was the type of place that encouraged people to treat the company like their own. It was my life, my support system, and my family. I wanted to grow, lead and stay there forever. I was the type of employee that every boss should wish for — ambitious, eager to learn, confident, opinionated, and most importantly, deeply concerned and connected with the future and well-being of the company itself.
This world destroyed the ambition that first brought me to this industry. The system and people in charge, while perhaps they saw the potential in me, could not realize the role they played in realizing ambition into reality. Perhaps they saw the heart I brought every day, but devalued the importance of passion, and purpose on the bottom line. The system knew that despite every ambition I had, it would be met with a caveat and a man who ‘was a better fit for the role,’ or that I was ‘too emotional’ — but this is not a pity party. This is the same story that many women have told time and time again about the systemic patriarchal framework and how it has silenced them for years. The story became about my personality, not my work ethic or character. The men in charge fed their egos instead of my soul. Their appetite for growth shifted the focus from people to profit. But again, none of that matters (or perhaps is a story for another time), and I moved on.
What was even more challenging this year was facing the fact that I was terminated from my job last year (again, a full story for another time). I haven’t spoken to many about how difficult that firing was for me. It was a defining moment in my last year, and felt like a necessary but terrifying atomic bomb going off in my life.
That was the last straw — the end of me — and the death of my passion in this industry. I thought I was a voice — fighting for equality, more diverse representation, and tried to speak up when it was hard, but the right thing to do. Now I am silenced. The system has destroyed me, and the love I once felt is gone, or at the least asleep. My heart broke when I was fired, ironically not because I was fired, but because I knew this was an end. I threw in my towel when I realized this industry will not support me, value me, or be a safe space to for me to grow professionally in the same way I had before.
It was in August, and I broke from the ordinary world, the familiar, and everything I had known. This world did not work for me anymore. It did not care for me, and it definitely did not appreciate me.
I embraced the unknown, and fortunately had setup an LLC for the business I wanted to start and threw all my ambition in there. I didn’t know what to do with the unbound energy and ambition that I had dedicated to my career for so long. The thought of entering another agency was debilitating, and I had never been free to explore New York City outside of the confines of a full-time job.
I spend the last six months exploring. I completed all twelve weeks of The Artist’s Way, and went to a workshop with Julia Cameron. I went to museums I’ve never been able to visit during normal hours, found workspaces and wifi throughout the city, and tried to make a go at a new business — which is ‘holy f*cking difficult.’ (Please check out www.theshiftworkshop.com to book me for this work!!)
Luckily I found a little freelance work, and found my way to a new opportunity that was as unexpected as it was welcomed.
I haven’t spoken much about this world to many because I am still very much exploring how I feel about this experience, and how it aligns with my personal truth. It is a new exploration, one that came very much like any good new door — entirely unexpected, and requiring my boldness to materialize it into reality. It has created the backdrop for my exploration while providing a means of survival (a little paycheck to get by), magical new humans and connections, and meaningful education regarding consent, sexuality and censorship in the US.
My life feels different now — more expansive, open and free. I’ve grown an interest in the art of Japanese rope bondage, Shibari, so much so that somehow it became integrated and aligned with my reiki practice. (I’ll selfishly use this moment to softly launch my site for Reiki Bondage.) I’ve found it transformative in creating a space of grounding, connection and surrender that is conducive to healing. I’ve explored my expression through a new Instagram account for my version of Sasha Fierce, and have done a few amazing photo shoots to explore my own self-expression and comfortably in my own skin.
And yet, I still wake up and wonder what the f*ck I’m doing and if there’s a purpose behind this path. I’m unsure, but I do know at this age that I trust my instincts and my intuition and believe in the goodness of the universe. It doesn’t make sense to me all the time, but in those moments of uncertainty I invite faith to surprise me.
All I know is that at this moment, at this time and this stage, I must release all shame related to my authentic and true presence — of who I have been, who I am today, and who I will be tomorrow. I trust deeply in this exploration, and know that if I am doing what is right and true for me in this moment, and if does not hurt myself or others, I am in divine harmony and following the vast intelligence of a universe that exists beyond my understanding.
So here’s to another year of unknowns, magical discoveries and big adventures. As I continue to take my mom’s advice of taking just doing ‘the next right thing,’ I welcome the universe to continue to surprise me, and if all else fails, there’s always Mexico.
And for reading this far, here’s the 35 songs that walked with me this last year.