Growing up in Ashland, Oregon (home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival!) I was given a wealth of opportunities to study the visual and performing arts, everything from music to improvisational theater to tap dance to ceramics and painting. As a young child and then a young adult, I discovered again and again that there were many ways of approaching any project. Bringing concepts and lessons from my theater, dance, and music lessons into other parts of my life invariably allowed me to be more effective, successful, and motivated.
As I got older, I found it increasingly difficult to stay balanced in the face of increasing demands on my time. The harder I worked, the more I began to recognize a pattern within my life of ‘boom and bust’, in which a period of intense productivity would be followed by an energetic crash.
Because I was so dedicated to self-care and balanced living, I went to Harvard for my undergraduate degree (lol that last part was a joke). There, I found myself in an atmosphere that was both enlivening and also lopsided to the extreme. The parts of me that loved glitter, finger paint, interpretive dance, and nap time felt unwelcome and even laughable in the academic atmosphere there. While I found a small corner of friendly people and kindred spirits, I felt myself to be swimming upstream and floundering around as I sought balance and academic success on my own terms.
In the first six years following graduation, I worked a variety of part-time jobs and made time to be with my family during my father’s extended illness. All throughout this time, I found myself routinely mired in self-doubt. Existential crises recurred with alarming frequency. I felt committed to the part-time work schedule I had chosen in order to make time for my own creative work and my family, but I worried that I was sabotaging my career prospects. I watched anxiously as the debate between the “Lean In-ers” and the “Women Can’t Have it All, Stop Lying to Yourself Because That Just Makes It Worse” debate played itself out on the front pages of various publications. I had worked (foolishly) hard in high school, and had had the great privilege to attend a “top university”…so why couldn’t I get my act together? Was I destined to feel lost at sea, to never quite find my footing in my career? Why was I so capable and intelligent in certain areas of my life, and so childish, unrealistic, and ill-equipped in others? I felt that I had been given everything in my life to be put in a position to succeed, and consequently, I felt like a flop and a fraud most days.
Thank goodness there was part of me that knew that there had to be a better way forward than spiraling downward into a black hole of anxiety and despair and taking out all my fear-based aggression on myself. I gradually began to find other young people in my new community of San Francisco who were asking the same questions. I also took part in a variety of workshops and seminars that provided a safe and supportive container for me to look closely at my patterns of self-sabotage. I also worked to develop greater self-compassion, as I recognized that my tendency to beat myself up over the slightest misstep never helped me move forward. I developed more awareness around my blind spots and my particular patterns of tripping myself up. I began to experiment with ways of circumventing these well-worn pathways and interrupting my old habits through creativity. In this process, I found a handful of approaches to be more reliable, less stressful, and more enjoyable.
Over the past 10 years or so, I have continued to develop these techniques and practices, and I have also reconnected with my love of art, music, play, creativity, and movement. As I continue to practice managing my energy more sustainably and cultivating self-compassion, I have begun to share my findings in my writing and I also with my coaching clients in 1-on-1 sessions and in group events.
In broad strokes, I have found that I am more effective when I:
- SLOOOOWWWWWW DOOOOOOWWWWWNWNNNN.
- Put my own health, well-being, and happiness first.
- Give myself time and space to develop authentic career goals that resonate for me personally.
- Stop and rest and spend time in stillness way more than I think I need to.
- Give and receive support from others and give back to communities I am a part of.