One of the great gifts of the journey are the people you meet along the way, and last week was no exception. Thanks to a year-long series of serendipitous connections I could not have foreseen, last Wednesday I had the privilege of speaking to a group of dynamic women — sharing a piece of my own story, while offering insights and practical wisdom for living an empowered, authentic life.
In truth, I was unusually nervous, though not for the usual reasons. I was nervous because people like neat, happy endings and I didn’t have one to offer — at least not in the way people traditionally like things packaged.
I could not tell them, for example, that my journey toward authenticity has come without cost, for the costs have been plenty and some of them dear. I could not tell them of the illusory dream job, the perfect marriage, or a life of total ease, for while these words once described my own false truths, they certainly no longer applied.
Instead, I shared with them some of what I do know to be true and why the journey is still one worth taking. I told them that when we finally know who and what we stand for, we no longer need to live in fear; that when we stop looking to others for acceptance and approval, we find within what we were looking for all along. I reminded them of the power of stories we tell ourselves and others — that if we want a different outcome, we must learn the art of re-framing. Significantly, I remarked that although life is filled with detours, disappointments and distractions, as we grow in our belief in ourselves, anything becomes possible, and when we find the courage to honor our own truths and convictions, the path forward becomes clear.
(Still, even in the knowing, we sometimes need reminding of these truths we share with others.)
At the end of the program, I found myself deeply touched and moved in a way I could not have imagined. One woman told me my words resonated because I spoke from my heart; another shared her story of cancer and how my own family’s story touched her own.
As more approached, I could see from the corner of my eye a woman who was waiting quietly to speak, standing patiently off to the side. I recalled from early introductions that she was visiting that day, later learning that she had never attended before. When the room had all but cleared, she shyly stepped toward me, and then softly began:
“My whole life I’ve lived as a chameleon,” she tearfully spoke.
“I’ve watched my friends realize their dreams, as I watched my own pass me by.”
She continued as her words penetrated my heart, and I hardly knew how to respond. I wanted to say something reassuring and hope that I did, though I honestly don’t recall. For a moment we hugged, and in that brief space of time, I knew why we’d met.
Just as my story spoke to her, her own touched my heart.
Determined to live her own voice out loud, her tears reminded me to stay the course, even when the going get’s tough; to stay true, even in the midst of falsehood; to stay courageous, even when fearful; to stay on purpose, even when my own faith is faltering. She reminded me that although our stories differ, through the gift of connection and the journey itself, we can each support the other along life’s way.
In what ways have your connections with others inspired or enabled your own growth? What role has serendipity played in your own journey? In what ways has your own story been an inspiration to others?