Friday, May 30, 2014

The Power of You

Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.
-Judy Garland

We all have people we want to emulate. Something about them inspires us- their confidence, their ability, their humor, their energy. Whatever it is, we see something special and different about them and we want it for ourselves. It seems the best way to attain what they have is to study them, rehearse them, and then try to be just like them. That seems like it makes sense at first. The only problem is that it inevitably fails. Why? Because we’re not them.
It kind of reminds me of when I first became a counselor. I was so anxious about doing everything right and being just like the professors who taught me, that I struggled to just be with a client and relate like a normal human being. I was stiff and awkward and spent more time acting like a counselor than just being one. I’m not sure when it shifted for me, but eventually I let go and decided to be myself. I related to clients the way I would a friend or family member. I started integrating my style of humor wrought with hyperbole and dry wit. If a client told me something ridiculous, I would laugh at/with them and reply with a loving, smart aleck quip just like I would with a friend. Of course, this would depend on the person and the presenting issue. I would never make light of someone’s pain. But the point is, once I became a real person in the room, once I was me, people responded favorably.

I mention this only because I’m faced with a similar situation as I return to the creative arts. When it comes to music and dance I feel that pull again to mimic people I really admire. If I could just bottle up the best qualities of each of my role models and imbibe a potion of all of their awesomeness, I would be good to go. But if I’ve learned anything about human nature, it’s that people don’t want another copycat. We inherently distrust incongruence. The antennas go up when something about a person doesn’t seem genuine. We want to know you actually are who you say you are. You’ll be hard pressed to convince someone you’re genuine if you’re working overtime to be someone else.

What I’m realizing is this. Authenticity reigns supreme. Embrace all your quirks and idiosyncrasies. Wear them like a badge of honor. Embrace your way of connecting and relating in the world. People will appreciate you for it because you’re being yourself. We each have a unique light. It doesn’t matter if someone does that exact same thing we do. When we approach it we breathe a whole new life and energy to it because there is no one else like us. But that only happens when you stop spending your time trying to be someone else and you recognize the power of you.

Friday, May 16, 2014

After pomp and circumstance

I participated in graduation exercises last weekend. It was kind of surreal because I wasn’t a student anymore. I was a faculty member leading the way in full doctoral regalia. A friend of mind had commented that it was crazy to think it had been 10 years to the day we all graduated from college. I had no idea and the thought blew my mind. 10 years since college graduation? Seriously? In some ways, it felt like a lot had happened in my life. In other ways, it felt like I just blinked and I was in my 30s. How did I get here? Where did the time go?

Anyway, in typical commencement address fashion, the message was inspirational and it charged the graduating class to follow their dreams. Be open to possibilities. You never know where life will take you. You have a unique gift to share with the world. Blah, blah, blah. Don’t get me wrong. It’s all good stuff. I’m queen of inspiration, believe me. I just couldn’t help but notice that in addition to 10 years of gaining…uhm…maturity, I also gained a fair dose of cynicism. Life rarely ends up the way you expect.

Personally, I figured I’d be married with at least one kid in tow by now. I haven’t quite sealed the deal in the matrimony department though. Educationally, I knew I would go to grad school but never planned to get my doctorate. Now I have some big girl degrees and credentials behind my name that I only mention to highlight how weird it still is to me. I don’t have the six figure salary a lot of college grads want to make in their 30s. I do have a six figure loan debt, so go figure. I’ve met some awesome people and a whole lot of jerks. I’ve fallen in love and lost love. I’ve had a ton of crappy jobs and some impressive ones. I’d say I’m doing fairly well in life 10 years out of college. I’m thankful for my life thus far. But am I living my dream?


As I reflect on this year’s commencement, I feel like I received the same invitation as the class of 2014. I’m invited to consider the following questions: Am I doing what moves me? Am I living on purpose? Do I feel energized and renewed each day? Is my life fueled by passion and joy? Are there pockets of adventure amidst the daily routine? Is my soul truly satisfied or do I thirst for more? And if the pursuit of more (not money or things but soul satisfaction) requires me to deviate from the path of convention, do I have the courage to move anyway? These are the questions on my heart these days…questions that I hope will guide the next 10 years and allow me to say at the end of it, ‘I’m fulfilling my purpose and I’m truly alive.’


Saturday, May 3, 2014

What's next?

This is the question on my mind these days. The friends that I mentioned a couple of posts ago are now married. Another good friend who spent years on her PhD now has it. The personal training sessions I started in January are now over and the 5k race I spent months training for is now complete. After you wait, anticipate, work toward a goal and then finally meet it, what’s next?

If I’m completely honest, I usually feel a little down after I meet a goal. Sure, my initial feelings are elation and accomplishment. I relish in it for a couple of days. But then, not too long after, I feel a bit deflated. I wrestle with “what’s next?” It’s not that I’m a discontent person. I’m generally satisfied with my life and thankful for my blessings. I think I just miss the process of getting there.

When you work toward a goal it fills space in your life. Whether it’s getting a degree, taking on a fitness challenge, or planning for a significant event, it requires discipline, energy, and focus. It enlivens you in a way, because it allows you to escape from the monotony of your usual routine. Regardless of what else is going on, you have something that inspires you and gives you something to look forward to. Dreams and goals give you hope and that rare commodity is something our souls crave.

So, what’s next for me? Well, I’m pretty sure I’ll keep challenging myself in exercise and fitness. I’d like to develop musically now that I’m singing more regularly. I have some spiritual goals on my radar as well. But really, all of these are secondary to the process of learning about myself, forming new relationships, and growing in ways I never realized I could. Goals themselves are secondary to the hope they put your my heart. It’s the possibility of what could be that feeds you from the inside out and gives you a mental picture to strive for. And when you’re continually “nourished by the spirit of the future,” as Kim Clement says, you’re ever empowered to keep moving, progressing, and becoming the person you were meant to be.