On the Right Path, with Curves
I’ve been coaching for a long time.
I started in 1999, and I called myself a creativity coach. Soon after, I heard that the work I was doing was an actual emerging profession and that I could get trained and credentialed. So I did; and in 2002, I became one of Georgia’s first certified coaches. And in the years since, I’ve sought out the finest coaching programs and coaches in the country to continue my education. I love the life-transforming experiences I’ve had through coaching, and those of my clients, too.
But my path here has had its share of twists and turns….
Beginning on a High Note
I began my career as an opera singer. Not exactly what you’d call a safe, conservative career choice.
Well-meaning loved-ones asked, “What will you do if you fail?” They advised me to get an education degree so I could teach music as a fall-back plan. So practical, so cautious, so… dull (for me)! I knew I might not succeed as an opera singer. But I instinctively knew I had to take the risk… or risk later regret.
So I leapt, and became that opera singer. I studied with great voice teachers, I got up on the stages, sang the notes, and wore the fabulous costumes. I was indeed living my dream and not letting the cautious fall-back plan stifle me.
Sounds like a fairy tale ending, right? Well, it turns out my career path was meant to take a number of sharp turns.
From High Notes to High Rises
I moved to Atlanta from Houston to pursue my singing career. I wanted to sing, but I also needed a way to pay the bills until my “big break.” So, I got a job as a receptionist with a large, well-known law firm while also pursuing my singing career.
Eventually, I realized I didn’t have the temperament to be both happy and successful as an opera singer. I still loved singing, but had to be honest with myself that this was no longer my profession of choice. I decided to stay at the law firm – I stayed at the law firm (for 13 years)! I was good at my work and enjoyed it. I worked my way up, became a certified paralegal, worked as a legal recruiter and then in professional development. The business and management experience I gained was invaluable, and I simply adored many of my co-workers.
During my time at the firm, I became particularly enthralled with the professional development work I was doing with the lawyers and began discovering that I had a strong passion for helping people explore and pursue their own dreams.
Leaping Without a Net
While I loved working at the law firm, I also knew I just had to follow the inner yearning that was beckoning me to make a change. I made the difficult – and risky – decision to leave my secure job with the firm. I didn’t even know quite exactly where I was going! Following my heart and making that leap is one of the bravest things I have done in my life.
As it turns out, making that courageous move, along with honoring my passion for working with people lead me straight to becoming a professional coach, where I am privileged to help others find their true voices. Oh, the beautiful irony that it took leaving the opera to find my true voice!
The Power of Vulnerability
More risks. More bravery. After years of dealing with an eating disorder, I made another vulnerable choice – the choice of putting myself in treatment. I knew I had the chance for a really good life, so as scary as it was, I went to the hospital and got on the road to recovery. I was finally dealing with the food and body image issues from which I had been suffering from for so long.
Sometime after that, I saw a one-woman show, most of it performed in the nude. The way the performer, Aviva Jane Carlin, claimed the power in her vulnerability – it simply blew me away! I was struck by her wisdom as she conveyed her experience of the first time she appeared naked on stage. She said that she realized in that moment she was both the most vulnerable and the most powerful person in the room. In that instant, it hit me that vulnerability and power are two sides of the same coin.
I thought wow, wow, wow! What could I learn about myself from this? How might I benefit, were I able to do this? I wanted to know what it would feel like to get in front of people without my clothes and not crumble or disappear. I knew in my heart that it would bring me more alive, not less. So I bolstered my courage, shed my clothes, and began posing as a nude model for life drawing classes and classes at a celebrated sculpture studio.
There is such amazing power in having something to “bump up against.” In this case, that “something” was the art students’ reactions to my body and their renderings of it, and hearing the teacher describe my body while instructing the students. These experiences and more forced me to see myself in new and more liberating ways, ways that were invaluable in helping me to conquer seemingly unconquerable demons about my own body and image.
These brave risks have certainly altered the course of my life for the better. I’m a much stronger person today and more alive than I could ever be living under a shroud of “shoulds” and “fall-back plans.”
Taking risks – not for the heck of it – but for learning and growth, really pay off!