I’ve got a really embarrassing secret to tell you that I’m only revealing because it’s important for today’s topic.
Before I get to the embarrassing part, you need some background:
Right after I finished grad school, I found myself in this weird phase of life.
For the first time in years and years, I wasn’t in school and the transition felt really strange. I no longer had professors to turn to whenever I had a question. I no longer had other students to commiserate and bond with during and between classes. I no longer had a safety net.
Within a month of my last final, I found myself riding the subway from my one-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn to the Bronx to go to work at my first out-of-school job.
I was thrilled that I found a job that paid well and was in my field of study.
I worked with at-risk kids and adolescents whose parents would bring them to court to try to discard them. I know. It’s sad to think about.
One mom brought her teenage son to us, hoping that we would “take him” because every time she went grocery shopping, he would eat all the food.
I wanted to say, “Yeah. He’s a growing boy. He’s going to be hungry and eat a lot.” But, I could also see that she was drowning as a single mom to three kids.
Regardless of how frustrating the work was, I was determined to make the most of it. I had worked extremely hard to get there, and I wanted to love my work and make a difference in the world.
I was bright eyed and ready to conquer the world as many of us are right out of school.
Day after day, I’d travel for 60-90 minutes on the subway each way to work. Many days, this period of time would be filled with nail-biting anxiety.
I wondered what I would hear when I listened to my voicemail. Would one of the teenagers I was working with be in jail or in the hospital? Would I hear back a bunch of ‘no, we can’t help’ and ‘sorry, we don’t have any openings’ type of responses from different services I was trying to get for the families I worked with?
And, if it was my turn in court that day, would I be overwhelmed by frazzled mom after frazzled mom who just wanted help for their kids, knowing there wasn’t much I could do in the four weeks I was allowed to work with the families before I had to refer them on?
On a random weekend after a few months of starting my new career, I walked by the Barnes and Noble near Union Square (if you haven’t been in this bookstore and you’re a book lover and have the chance to check it out, you should—it’s enormous and lovely).
I thought about how much I used to love reading novels before the DSM and other clinical social work texts took over all of my reading time and I went inside.
I specifically remember riding up the escalator to the second floor and seeing a section for “young adults.” This is a typical section in most bookstores nowadays, but when I was a teenager, there were no young adult sections in my bookstores.
This section called to me—maybe because I worked with lots of teens or maybe because I’ve always been a teenybopper at heart. (Taylor Swift…The Vampire Diaries…blue nail polish…I’m in!)
I browsed for a while, losing myself in reading the synopses on the backs of many books. After going up and down every aisle, I noticed a table near the front of the aisles.
Here comes the embarrassing part…
The table was filled with copies of Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.
I picked it up and read the synopsis. Vampires…sounds interesting. Being in love with a vampire who thirsts for your blood…sold! I bought it and on Monday morning as I rode the subway to work, I lost myself in the story of Edward and Bella.
I know that Twilight isn’t even close to one of the best pieces of literature, but it was exactly what I needed at that time in my life: an engrossing book that would spark my love for reading fiction all over again.
Every day after that, I read on my way to and from work. It started to become my favorite part of the day.
I couldn’t wait for the subway to pull up in front of me, find a seat, plop down and pull out the book of the day. I even missed my stop a few times because I was so enthralled with the novels I was reading.
I started bringing a book with me on court days, because the only thing you could do while waiting for families to come in for help was sit there. We didn’t have a way to do much work there, because we only had a tiny room with one computer that we all had to share. Might as well read, right?
The reason I’m telling you this is because falling back into love with fiction helped me through a part of my life filled with anxiety.
If I had gone to see a therapist during those couple of years post grad school, I’m certain I would’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.
My work was tough and filled with clients living real life nightmares.
Reading provided me with an outlet to release the built up anxiety and Twilight was the catalyst.
Also, reading fiction for years now has changed me as a person. I could name a very long list of books that I’ve read over the past 10 years that have helped me see life from another person’s perspective in such a soul-touching way that it’s changed my viewpoints or values or beliefs.
Reading makes me more compassionate and thoughtful and kind.
And, I’m not sure how many months or years I would’ve wasted without Twilight sparking that passion.
Reading is still one of my favorite parts of every day. When my husband and I tuck into bed for the night, I often pull a book from the stack on my nightstand, switch on my book light and read for an hour or two.
It makes me happy and helps me decompress. It allows me to get out of my own head and into a new world.
Now for the real point of this blog post.
When I’m hard on you, telling you to stop making excuses about why you can’t do x, y or z, it’s inspired by me knowing that you have something unique to offer the world.
One day, very soon or many years from now, you might create something that does for someone what Twilight did for me. You could very well change someone’s life (or many someones).
I imagine what that year after grad school would’ve been like for me if I didn’t have all of the amazing worlds of those novels to lose myself in created by people just like you.
What if your art is the thing that gives your customers a boost of happiness every time they look at it?
What if your website design changes your clients’ lives completely because they start making good money and finally get to leave their miserable day jobs?
What if your blog post is the thing that inspires women to finally improve their health this New Year, which then tacks on more years at the end of their lives to spend with their grandkids and great grandkids?
What you have to offer is important. It’s special.
I often tell people that I don’t have time for their excuses—that I don’t want to hear why they can’t make time for something or why they didn’t do something they know they need to be doing to reach their business goals.
And, a lot of times, I think people take this as me telling them that they’re lazy.
Laziness is only the issue a very small percentage of the time.
Women who work full-time jobs, have families, have spouses, have health issues (or any combination of these things) and take on entrepreneurship are often the furthest thing from lazy.
But, they still make excuses.
Usually these excuses are ground in confidence. Or, better yet, a lack of confidence.
“I didn’t send out my email newsletter this week because I didn’t think anyone would care.”
“I didn’t blog for the past three months because I didn’t have the right focus.”
“I didn’t spend time painting (even though that’s why I started my business in the first place) for the past two months, because I got lost in the day-to-day drudgery of my life.”
Or, my favorite. “I didn’t create because I spent too much time consuming what other people are creating."
You’re NOT lazy or stupid or thoughtless.
You wonder if anyone will really care about your art or writing or creation.
You think you should be spending time with your kids instead of building a business that may never even pay the electricity bill.
You lie awake at night wishing that you loved your day job, so you wouldn’t feel pulled in so many directions.
You wonder what it would be like to be passionate about just one thing and be able to focus all your time and energy on that thing.
You get caught up in watching Stranger Things because you’re exhausted in the evenings and you just want to relax and the next thing you know, it’s been three weeks since you’ve really done anything substantial for your business.
I get you.
And, can we all be honest for a moment and admit that it’s usually harder for us girl bosses of the world?
We’re usually the ones in charge of cleaning, taking care of the kids, running the errands—like grocery shopping and picking up prescriptions and running the kids to soccer practice.
Not always. I’m not trying to offend anyone, but often we have a lot obligations, and even with all of them, we’re trying to take care of ourselves (and families) by building businesses we love.
We want to be happy. We know that we’re better spouses and moms and friends when we’re happy and that means doing work that we care about.
This is one of the reasons that I started my membership program for female creative entrepreneurs, Sunday Society.
We all need a place to get support and encouragement—to get helpful (and nice because helpful doesn’t mean being a jerk face) feedback. To find inspiration and motivation from other women working towards similar goals.
We all need a group that keeps us accountable when we start making excuses—a group that tells us that we need to push through because we have something unique to offer that could literally change someone’s day or week or life.
Regardless of whether you ever join Sunday Society, I want you to think about this the next time you start to make excuses for why you aren’t doing the work that lights you up.
Would you still make excuses if you could see the future and in that future, read a blog post like this where someone tells you that your work changed her life?
Imagine this every time you hit a roadblock, every time someone puts you down for focusing on your passion, every time you fail. Hopefully, it’ll give you the push to keep going.
Thanks for reading this post all the way to the end and for giving me your time. I know you’re busy.
I just wanted you to hear from someone today that you’re special and whatever you have to offer the world matters.