This is for the start-up founder before she’s raised her millions, right before she’s about to give up. The woman who left her boyfriend for something more, risking being alone over being just okay. The one right about to travel the world for a year, that’s only been to Canada in the last ten years. The one raising sensitive and savvy sons, humbled daily by motherhood. The woman who quit her VP job to go work on a farm in New England. The woman who left her country in search of more.
The woman who long ago started doing things according to a call she could barely hear but couldn’t ignore. This is for you.
When you set off, whenever it was, 12, 8, or 20 years ago, in a different direction, however minute it was, whether you didn’t want to wear that skirt, or only wore mismatched clothes or enjoyed mowing the lawn more than playing with your dolls, whatever it was, whenever it was, you knew you were doing something difficult. But doing what was expected was somehow even more difficult. It was a choice. Go it alone and be more at home inside yourself, or go with a crowd and feel good until the crowd left. Which one?
But each time, you chose to go it alone, not because you liked all that loneliness, but because you couldn’t bear faking it. And you kept waiting for something to show up to say, ‘YES YOU CHOSE THE RIGHT WAY! You win!!! Here’s your reward!’
But nothing like that came. In fact, a lot of the time a lot of shittiness came. Weddings of so many others, babies, of still so many others, holidays alone all were on offer. You climbed down Machu Pichu and looked at your phone and there was a picture of your best friends together at their kids’ first birthday parties.
The adventurer, the person you loved, he, too, left, as he was prone to do. You sought him out likely because you didn’t want to be alone in this strange life. He made you feel good about being so odd. Or at least gave you some purpose when you were directionless.
The businesses you started, most of them died. The one that stuck, well it's barely floating. Never made it on the cover of Wired. All the wrinkles on your face to just keeping it going over the years wouldn’t look great on Wired anyways.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. You were supposed to take these risks and then there was going to be a reward ceremony for you, the Grand Risk Taker, the Winner of Difficult Things. Grit Queen.
So why? Why take this horrible route? Without the benefit of walking down the red carpet of the Jedi Mind Awards with Brene Brown waiting to give you a hug and a gold plaque. This rocky, messy road with no real guaranteed reward at the end?
Because life, while it can be cut sadly short, can also be long. And you can live it like someone who can only drive an automatic transmission four door sedan, or you can live it like someone who can drive a manual, a truck and maybe even a tractor, if needed. The more you risk, the more uncomfortable you are, the more you can do. The more you can do, the more you live. Though our lives feel like they exist in our heads, they really happen in our actions.
I took an odd route towards a truth that I was seeking. I traveled alone to over 40 countries, spent Valentine’s day in airport lounges filled predominantly with men significantly older than me, I quit fancy jobs, without other jobs in waiting, I got a mortgage and then moved out, I fell in love recklessly and suffered in its wake, I went broke over and over again.
What I learned from this was not intended for a resume though would prove useful in leading a company, it’s not necessary for romance or partnership, though it’s humbled me enough to not have too high expectations of anyone, my lessons aren’t necessarily marketable though I’ve found that they come in handy while coaching others that are also going out on a limb.
What I learned actually is more useful in another realm. In living life. Which no one seems to really worry about. But that is what we are really here to do. Live.
When you are tested at the extremes, the middles just become so much easier. And that’s what the lionesses are in search of, we seek to test our extremes, because we seek to know the realm of our possibility. Because life is long, because we know inside that we are capable of more than what is expected of us. And after a period of intense expansion and risk, clarity on the essentials is assured. We no longer chase shiny objects or people.
And that’s what is to be gained.
With the gritty lessons of an uncertain life, one finds immense grounding in oneself. When the anxiety comes, you know where it’s from, what it wants, and how to shut it up. You don’t listen to your head convincing you to give up or be a victim to your circumstance, you don’t spend too much time worrying about whose at fault either. You’re good at things changing, you can laugh at almost anything. You face life and yourself full frontally. You seek little. You have all of it in inventory, inside. You are free.