When I finished my M.A. degree at the end of 2014, I told myself that I would never again pursue higher education or additional certifications. In fact, I swore that I would never read another book because I didn’t have the bandwidth to take anything else in. I made it about 6 months.
The inherent problem with having Achiever and Learner as two of my top 5 StrengthFinders themes is that, by nature, I am drawn to continuing education. Add in Input and Strategic to the mix, and it is a recipe for life-long learning no matter what misguided declarations I make. And it has made it possible for me to do some serious soul-searching.
Have you gone through the mid-life unravel? Have you started to see things fray at the edges and question where things went wrong? Has doubt crept in with just about everything in your life – your choices, your relationships, your contributions, your trajectory? You aren’t alone.
I’ve been unraveling since I completed my degree. Trying to figure out “what’s next” when you leave everything on the table for everyone but yourself is an impossible situation. Anything seems better than the reality you’ve created and everything sounds seductive. I’ve seriously tossed around the idea of going to law school. I’ve actively sourced university programs and debated pivoting my career completely: marketing/communications, psychology and teaching in higher education made the short list.
When Dare to Lead was published, I was in a pretty desperate mindset. My relationships had deteriorated, my stress levels at work were higher than they ever had been, and life just felt hard. It wasn’t for lack of trying to make things better, it was just everything I tried turned out to be a spectacular failure. I had heard “no” more times than many people hear in a lifetime and I was feeling pretty discouraged. Add in the fact that I was battling lyme disease and hadn’t slept through the night in 6 months, it is easy to look back and see how things felt so dark.
I started reading DTL in the fall of 2018. And then it happened: magic. I got to page 142 and three important messages lept off the page at me: connection heals, boundaries are critical, and I need to pay attention. Specifically, “paying attention” stopped me in my tracks, as it had the last time I ran across that phrase in another book. Brené calls them “God moments” – where there is no other explanation for the impact or meaning-making of a seemingly insignificant moment or chance encounter.
It was like a wake up call – PAY ATTENTION Paula. I sat back in my chair, took a deep breath, and closed my book. I immediately went to the DTL section on her website and discovered that she was going to be training people to facilitate the DTL content. And my heart skipped a beat – literally.
You know when something literally changes the rhythm of your heart that there is meaning-making happening and you need to PAY ATTENTION. In an instant, I knew my way forward. This was the next step, without a single doubt. I felt called to this work, as it was both an extension of the work I had been doing and platform to truly utilize the best of my natural gifts – Cultivating Insight and Influencing Change for both myself and others.
Insert brain meltdown. I was caught up in the pseudo-realization that – duh – I was going to study with Brené – just like that. Fueled by too much caffeine and a wicked adrenaline rush, I went to joyously spread the news to colleagues.
Fast forward to the next day and enter the reality check – it’s an application process and you have to be chosen. How did that not even cross my mind? Ouch – talk about ripping the band-aid off my fantasy.
The day after the applications were released, I applied. Filling out the questionnaire was exhilarating and nerve-wracking. It was a moment of reckoning and not one to play it safe; I was making my case why I was someone who is worthy of and equipped to facilitate this work. It was a strange, dichotomous space to inhabit: one of grounded confidence and excruciating vulnerability. I was courageous, and told the story of who I was with my whole heart.
All applicants were told they would be notified on or before 5pm on December 14th. Fast forward to December 14th. I’m compulsively checking my email, waiting for the news. My SFD’s were on lockdown and they had become rhetoric. I was wallowing in self-pity, disappointed by the obvious: it was 5pm and I hadn’t heard anything. It went a little like, “Of course they were going to wait to send out the rejections until after they send the congratulatory emails. I give up.” Whomp-whomp.
At 5:25pm, the email came through. I took a deep breath, logged in, and in short order, gave up my “keep it together” card. I screamed a “WOO HOO”, scared my already-meek cats half to death, and ran around my house dancing – the energy surge was unreal. I could barely contain my joy, and it was pure joy. I called 9 people to share my news – completely out of character for this introvert.
And so it began. The next chapter of my story. The support, love, and encouragement I got from my community was humbling, and exactly what I needed. It was a reminder that no matter how alone I was feeling, I was never truly alone. It was a gift to be reminded of that.
My time in Texas was awe-inspiring, life-changing and profound. Really, another story all together, Part 2 if you will. Look for the continuation of my story in the coming weeks.
In other news: Calling all Wholehearted people being brave with their lives! I’m thrilled to share that I will be hosting a series of FREE online Dare to Lead book discussions via Zoom. Details are being finalized, sign up below to be notified for next steps!
September 11, 7pm-8pm CST- Rumbling with Vulnerability
September 25, 7pm-8pm CST – Living Into Our Values
October 9, 7pm-8pm CST – Braving Trust
October 23, 7pm-8pm CST – Learning to Rise
QOTD: “Own the story and you get to write the ending. Deny the story and it owns you. ~ Brené Brown, Dare to Lead
Share: Have you gone through the mid-life unravel? What did your rebirth look like?