Follow your heart. We’ve heard it all before. We’ve read quotes posted all over Facebook or have seen movies and read books about it. We’ve given the advice and received the advice from family, friends and even our own children. For me, that’s how it happened. The words of a 10-year old little girl rang in my head every time I thought about reversing my decisions or choices. “Mum – I know quitting your job took courage. Following your heart makes me so proud.” Crap, now I was truly accountable. I couldn’t let her down. She told her teachers and friends how my choice had inspired her to work on her own writing passions. No pressure here, none.
Two years ago I made the decision to leave an 18-year career in a great industry that afforded me the ability to take care of myself and my daughter. But I hit a big crossroads and woke up a few weeks before my 40th birthday realizing I wasn’t happy – genuinely happy. Call it a midlife crisis, divine intervention, wanting more time with my daughter (who watched her mom sit on endless conference calls her entire young life), or meeting the man I was going to spend the rest of my life with. Whatever it was, all of it came crashing down on me hard and something inside was telling me to get off the corporate hamster wheel. Where did I go wrong? Got the college degree, followed the career path and invested in an MBA. But still, was never fulfilled professionally and found myself consistently asking “What if?” My mind wandered to “follow your heart, chase your dreams – time to ignore the skeptics, time to ignore convention.” But the life I was about to choose was unconventional and risky. It wasn’t part of my plan. Though I’m realizing now, all of the choices I made in my life (good and bad), led me to where I am now. A new plan. An authentic path.
For much of my adult life I had something in the pit of my stomach tugging at me. Have you ever had that feeling? For me, it was this dream of becoming a writer. A screenwriter. Perhaps it was my love of movies. Though over the last few years, I’ve realized it’s something much more than sitting with an overpriced bucket of popcorn watching DeNiro, Hanks, Barrymore, Malkovich or Streep move me to another place and time. It was my love of people and their stories. The stories that changed them, shaped their character, propelled them down a path they never thought imaginable – stories that changed their perspective and helped themselves, or even better, helped others. I found myself wanting to write about people who touched me or changed my own perspective – family, friends and even random strangers that shared something about who they were, and why they were. Happy stories, sad stories, triumphant stories, tragic stories – all of them enabling them to become who they were meant to be. Many of their stories reminding me that it’s ok to fall hard or fail and be human – but not ok to ignore the lesson or inspiration in it. I guess I believe everyone has a story within them. I believe these are the true gems in life, that if we listen closely, we can grow from the experiences. We can expand our hearts and purpose with these gifts of story.
What the hell does this have to do with bartenders and baristas? This isn’t about how many trenta unsweetened black ice teas or grey goose cocktails I can consume while writing and learning a new craft, though that might be a fun experiment someday. You see, what nobody told me when I entered into this writing dream, was how incredibly lonely of a profession it was and is. I was so used to team meetings, team calls, team lunches, “team, team, team.” In all aspects of my prior profession, I had a “community or team” cheering me on to the finish line or deadline and picking me up through failures – pretty much daily. I had amazing mentors within those teams teaching me to become a successful contributor, helping me and team members reach our collective goals. The baristas in the mornings, and the bartenders in the evenings, have become my new community when having writer’s block or wondering if chasing this was the right path. These baristas and bartenders became my friends, my cheering squad, my “new team,” especially on the days I needed to keep the dream alive and to keep on going.
So I dedicate this launch post to my new team, the bartenders and baristas, as well as to all of the prior teams in my life – who kept me going when I felt like I should throw in the towel or had fear and doubts. There is a character in one of my favorite movies that I channel when I need a cheerleader on the team. “Oh Captain, my captain.” Thank you, Mr. Keating. Thank you for reminding us all to have our own voice, break out and seek new perspective even if it goes against what’s expected of us. And thank you Tom Schulman, for writing and sharing a great story.
Below, probably one of my favorite endings in all films (still gives me chills to watch even though I’ve seen it a million times). With little dialog, the boys had a perspective different than the administration’s conservative views of Mr. Keating.