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Going Home

31 May

Train station

I went home to visit my parents in the small suburban town I grew up in this past weekend. On Sunday, my Mom and I planned to go out to lunch at a tiny cafe on one of the two streets that comprise the downtown area. She told me that the Memorial Day Parade was going to be going on, and I was annoyed.

“I don’t want to get trapped downtown,” I said, worrying that the parade and its blocked off roads would mean her car would get stuck in its parking spot. “Trapped” may have been extreme and “downtown” an exaggeration given that it was only a five-minute walk from her house, but I had an agenda and I didn’t want to waste time: it was lunch with my Mom, then a quick dash to a nearby town for a mandatory Starbucks run, and then dinner at my Dad and Stepmom’s. Also, I was taking advantage of the luxury of suburban home washer/dryers and wanted to squeeze in a couple loads of laundry in between Starbucks and dinner.

While we were eating lunch, the parade started to go by in front of the restaurant we were at, and I kind of half paid attention and half didn’t. Afterwards, as we walked outside and were heading to her car, a group of bagpipers and drummers marched by. Entranced by the music and the beat of the drums, I told my Mom to stop, and that I wanted to stay and watch the parade for a little while. It was mesmerizing, looking the musicians and then the people driving by in convertibles and fire engines, honking and waving, and I got caught up in it, cheering for the police and firemen. We saw the father of one of the kids from my toddler playgroup who I grew up with standing at the side of the road, and said hi.

“The parade used to be bigger,” my Mom remarked, “and there used to be more of a crowd.”

I glanced around at the sparse bystanders and remembered being a little kid, and the Memorial Day Parade being a huge deal. I remembered the year it was the biggest deal of all, when I was four-years-old and in the parade with two of my nursery school buddies, wearing a brown dress with flowers on it and a floppy matching bonnet, drifting down the street in a baby blue convertible with a Co-Op Nursery School sign hanging over the side, smiling and waving to the crowd.

And other years, watching the cheerleaders and dance team march by to the beat of the high school band, wearing the coolest short shorts ever with yellow jackets, the school mascot, embroidered on the butt. Dreaming of the day I’d be a cheerleader, or on the dance team, marching in the parade in my own yellow jacket short shorts.

“Jenny Garam!” someone yelled, and I snapped back into today to see one of the firemen in the parade waving at me. It was a guy I went to high school with who was a few years older than me, and I smiled and waved back. I felt at home, and comforted by being from a small town where even though I hadn’t lived here for almost 20 years, someone in the parade still knew who I was, shouted my name, and waved.

It reminded me that I’m more than who I think I am right now. I’m bigger and more expansive than my worries, disappointments, struggles, and fears–worries about being broke and what actions I should take, disappointments from all the personal and professional rejections and life not turning out how I’d hoped or planned or assumed it would for me, struggles to make ends meet, pursue a creative path, cope with my obsessive thoughts, grasp onto shreds of serenity, and fears about what’s going to happen (or go wrong) next. I have this whole history, and memories, and hopes and dreams from when I was a child and teenager that are still alive in me somewhere, as much as they get drowned out in my day-to-day, 36-year-old, Brooklyn life.

I have all these other experiences and stories that look very different from my life now. As the fireman walked by waving, memories of when I knew him 20 years ago flashed into my mind. How daring I used to be, the crazy parties I went to and all the drinking I did. These days my life is a lot tamer, and usually too tame–I rarely drink which isn’t a problem, but I barely go out, which is. And I’m never the last person at the bar with the craziest stories of all anymore; I’m the first person to go home who hears about the stories the next day.

Thinking back to who I used to be, I remembered hanging out in the firehouse late one night with a group of guys, some of whom were volunteer firefighters, when one of them accidentally set off the fire alarm. The big, loud one. I remembered a substitute teacher from my high school who lived next door rushing in, angry and appalled. I remembered how soon afterwards, I learned that my town’s Fire Chief called a fire department meeting to address “the underage girl drinking in the firehouse,” and how I was mostly mortified, but also a little bit proud of my infamy.

I have this storyline that I was unpopular in high school, cast out, rejected, and alone. That I was invisible and didn’t matter. This is part of a larger narrative that goes, I’m still invisible, I still don’t matter. Except it wasn’t true when I was growing up; for most of my life my inner reality has been very different from my outer reality, and I can’t seem to make them match up. The fireman I went to high school with, shouting my name from the ranks of the parade, reminded me that I wasn’t invisible then. And that reminded me that my overarching storyline isn’t true today either–I’m actually not invisible now, and I do matter.

After the parade, I went to Starbucks. On the drive home, I wound my way through the hilly streets, past the house I grew up in that my Mom moved out of 14 years ago, past my high school best friends’ houses, past my high school, the parks, and the homes I used to walk by every day. I skipped doing laundry and relaxed, opting for a Real Housewives marathon instead. I hopped off my speeding agenda, and slowed down. I can do this when I go home in ways that I can never even come close to in grown-up life, in Brooklyn.

Every time I go home, I feel like I’m on some kind of excavation mission, unearthing shiny parts of myself that got covered up and clouded over with rushing and stressing and loss. Going home, I feel, finally, separate from the things that weigh me down daily. I feel at home and, at last, like me.

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Saying I’m a Writer

30 Apr

Nine years ago, I wrote one of my first published articles about a musician for a major magazine, and I was invited to the photo shoot. Sitting there, I excitedly watched the glamorous goings-on and chatted with other people on set when someone asked me what I did. I wrote the article. That the photos were being taken for. That’s why I was there. But instead of saying, “I wrote this article,” or even, “I’m a writer,” I said, “I wait tables. And I temp.”

“Why couldn’t I say, ‘I wrote the article!’?” I lamented to my therapist that week. And I knew this was something I had to work on.

Over the next several years, I worked as an administrative assistant in publishing as my day job while I continued to write on the side, and then I started my own business teaching writing classes. So I wrote, and I taught, and when people asked me what I did–or when my students asked me what I did–I could sometimes say, “I’m a writer and teacher.” Sometimes. But when I did, I felt like I was lying. So sometimes I bit my tongue and just forced myself to leave it at that. And other times I felt like I had to say, “But really I’m an administrative assistant.”

After years of living the parallel lives of assistant by day, writer and teacher by night, my careers finally collided and I got my first job as an editor. I’d been in the publishing industry for so long, but had always felt like I was on the sidelines. Instead of filing expenses reports and making copies, I’d longed to be an editor, to go to edit meetings, to sit around a table drinking coffee and discussing editorial ideas. I was finally doing it, and it felt like a dream come true.

By then, I had a different therapist, but she was well-versed in my insecurities. When I got this job, she told me I had to go places where people would ask me what I do so I could say, “I’m a writer and editor.”

A few weeks into my new job, I was at Pret on my lunch break. As I was perusing the sandwiches and trying to decide which one to buy, I ran into a woman I knew from high school and a woman I knew from college who happened to know each other and be having lunch together at Pret. They told me that they were lawyers and worked at the same firm, and asked me what I did.

“I work next door,” I said, nodding towards the publishing building. And left it at that.

“I missed my chance!” I said to my therapist that week. “‘I work next door??? That could mean anything! Doing what–washing windows?!”

Soon after, I was writing a freelance article for my favorite website one Sunday, and decided to take a break and get a cheeseburger at my favorite neighborhood burger joint. I usually chatted with the manager when I was there, and on this particular day she happened to ask me, “What do you do?”

Since I was spending the day writing an article I said, “I’m a writer,” and then, for practice, threw in, “And an editor.”

“That’s so cool!” she exclaimed. “What are you writing?”

“Today I’m writing an article for my favorite website,” I said.

“SO COOL!” she replied.

Yeah. It is, isn’t it?

So now, NINE YEARS AFTER my first published article, I can say, happily, proudly, “I’m a writer.” I can say it and not feel like I’m lying. I can say it and leave it at that. I can say it know that it’s true. That I belong–at the photo shoots, in the edit meetings–because that’s what I do. I write. I’m a writer.

Are you a writer but can’t say it? Why do you think it’s so hard to say, “I’m a writer”?

I Get Knocked Down, But I Get Up Again

21 Feb

A few months ago, I wrote a post about fighting the ball, you know, the one that you want to curl up in when it feels like life is just not going your way, that calls to you when everything is falling apart.  And when I wrote it, I was fresh off a victory against the ball; I did not succumb to it, I did not give up on myself or my dreams, and I kept moving forward.

Well, it turns out that the battle against the ball is far from a one time endeavor.  And it also turns out that the ball had some victories of its own in December and January (traditionally difficult months to fight the ball, see:  self-diagnosed Seasonal Affective Disorder).  Disappointments pummeled me back into ball formation.  My self-esteem has holes in it, where rejection can seep in and take root.  And then I believe in the disappointment and rejection, and lose my belief in myself.

And then there’s the thing about getting your hopes up.  People sometimes say that it’s better not to get your hopes up, because then the pain of disappointment will be even greater.  And people say this for a reason – it’s true.  There have been many times when I’ve dared to be hopeful, only to wind up being even more painfully disappointed, and the ball, which has been hanging out quietly in the background, maybe getting a soda at the refreshment stand or texting some friends, is instantly ready to step back into the ring swinging.

But here’s the other thing about hope – I don’t want to lose it.  I don’t want to stop hoping in order to protect myself from pain, in an attempt to shield myself from future run-ins with that ball.  Because that would mean becoming cynical and numbed out, and I refuse to live that way.  And besides, without hope, curled up in a ball could become a permanent destination.

I’ve been reminded over the past few months that fighting the ball is an ongoing battle.  It slowed me down in December and January.  But it did not stop me.  It knocked me down.  But I got up again.  It’s never gonna keep me down.

A few weeks ago I was at Starbucks and the barista asked the guy on line behind me how he was doing and he said, “Another day, another dream destroyed.”  I can relate.  It is staggering how much belief in yourself is required, in the face of how many people do not believe in you, and the countless disappointments and rejections.  How much I have to keep digging deeper and deeper to find more reserves of belief, more slivers of hope, when all signs point to curling up in that ball and giving up.  And this might seem obvious but it is rarely my default mode so I have to repeatedly remind myself –  at times like these it is helpful to reach out to the people who do believe in you!  So I dig deep, and I reach out.

The ball might have been ahead in the past two months, but I am back on my feet and pulling into the lead again.  And the fight is making me stronger.

Fight The Ball!

23 Nov

A few weeks ago, I was faced with the challenge of believing in myself even when I didn’t think I could anymore, when I was putting myself out there in what felt like every direction, and getting nothing back but rejection and radio silence.  I wanted to keep going, past the point where, historically, I would give up.  Past the point where, traditionally, I would curl up in a ball, on my bed or on the floor, whichever was closer at the time.  And cry.  And stop.  Trying.  Stop.  Doing.  What I hoped to do or longed to do or needed to do, because the rejection just hurt too much.

There’s nothing wrong with hanging out in a ball sometimes.  It can be very nurturing, and healing, and even exactly what I need, to take a time out, and allow myself to feel sad and disappointed and hurt and discouraged.  Just let it all out, and comfort myself and nurture myself and move through it.  But the problem is, I tend to get stuck in ball formation.  For a long, long time.  Like, one might say, at times, that I’ve spent years in various combinations and permutations of literal and metaphorical balls.  And while I’m there, I don’t believe in myself.  I believe the rejection.  And I stop trying, with whatever project or projects I was working on at the time, that I was so intensely passionate about and consumed by and determined to succeed with, pre-rejection.  I accept the apparent limitations of my life, painful as they may be, because that seems like the less painful alternative to pushing through the rejection.  Because doing that would require getting even more rejection.

And now for a word from my negative, critical, self-defeating internal voice:  I can’t do that.  I’m exhausted just thinking about it.  So don’t mind me, I’ll just be over here in the corner, curled up in my tight little ball.  Yeah, that’s cool, you can just step right over me.  Or step on me, whatever, I don’t care, nothing is ever going to work out anyway…

OK, now back to me.  As much as I appreciate her input, I’m pretty tired of listening to it.  Make that really tired.  So, a few weeks ago, when she started piping in with, “What’s the use?” this and “Why don’t you just give up?” that, and “Hey, doesn’t curling up in your favorite ball formation sound so good right now, I challenged myself to challenge that voice.  To reject the rejection that I was getting and keep going, anyway.  To believe in myself, past the point I had ever been able to believe in myself in the past.  To believe in myself when it didn’t feel like anyone else did (this wasn’t actually accurate as many people believe in me, but you know how that pesky, negative, critical, self-defeating internal voice just LOVES to distort the truth).  I made the choice to stay upright and moving forward, and to believe in myself even when I didn’t think I could.

And it was kind of touch and go there for a little while.  I was on uncharted ground and my legs were shaky.  They so wanted to give out and curl up.  But then, as I was wavering, my best friend started sending me emails and texts that said, “Fight the ball!”  And I started to catch that fighting spirit.  I started to feel feistier.  And then, when the rejections came in, instead of wanting to curl up into that ball I know and love and then on top of that, kicking myself when I was down, I found myself, in this other, feistier internal voice, defending myself against the rejections.  And I felt my belief in myself grow stronger and stronger, and not despite the rejections, but because of them.

And no, this was not the most fun way to strengthen my belief in myself.  I’d much prefer to grow my belief in myself while I receive glorious acceptance after acceptance.  But, that’s not how it happened for me, and I gotta work with what I’ve got/am getting in any given moment.

And then, some good things of the non-rejection variety happened!  (Imagine, that voice that said that that would never happen, LIED!)  While I want to enjoy them, I don’t want my self-esteem to get caught up in and tied to them either, because that, while temporarily better feeling, is just as much of a trap as tying your self-esteem to rejection.

So for now, I’ve made it past my historical wall and through my traditional limits.  I know that as I keep moving forward, I will encounter more walls, more limits, more seductive siren calls luring me to drop it all and curl up in a ball.  But now that I’ve proven to myself that I can do it, when the time comes, I will be well-armed with my feisty don’t mess with me internal belief in myself, and ready to fight the ball with all I’ve got.

What do you do when you want to curl up in a ball, call it a day/week/year, and give up?  How do you keep going, or get yourself out of the ball and back in the game?  What works for you, and what doesn’t?  When is curling up in a ball actually helpful, and when is it not?

The Believe In Yourself Even When You Don’t Think You Can Challenge

10 Nov

“Don’t stop believing, hold on to that feeling.” -Journey

Sometimes in my life, I feel like I am being tested.  Because I am getting the same lesson from so many different places, at so many different times, and in so many different ways, that it is just impossible for me to ignore it.  I have to pay attention to it.  I have to (sigh) learn my lesson.

Lately, I have been getting a lot of rejection.  On several different projects and ventures.  In my writing and in my business and in my life.  I am experiencing more rejection than I normally do.  A lot more.  And, on the bright side, this is because I am putting my writing, my business, and my life out there a lot more than I usually do.  Which is, usually, not a lot.  Because I don’t like rejection.  I actually have an extremely low tolerance for it.

But let me tell you, it does not feel good.  It feels really really really bad.  Especially because, even though I know on a logical, intellectual level that these rejections are not a rejection of me, as a person, that is not at all how it feels, on an emotional, rejected level.  And, I am at the point, or somewhat past the point actually, where, in the past, I would stop.  I would retreat.  I would curl up in a ball and tend to my emotional wounds, and maybe just…forget about that project or piece of writing or business venture or part of myself.  Maybe just…conveniently let it go.  Because it hurt too much to hold on and keep trying.  Because I couldn’t take anymore rejection.  So I might just go back to not trying that hard, not believing that much, in myself or what I could do, and smoosh myself into a smaller, more mediocre version of my life, and while I was there, smooshed in a ball, maybe I would chide myself for even hoping to believe for one second that more was possible.

So.  Here I am.  At that point, or slightly past it, where things are not feeling so good.  Where people are rejecting me (oops, I mean, my writing, my ideas, etc.) on what feels like a daily basis.  Or even worse, I am putting things out into a void, pouring my heart and soul into ideas and projects and just getting…the radio silence version of rejection.

However.  I am trying to break out of old patterns and limitations.  I am achy from being smooshed in a too small, disbelieving life.  My conditioning wants me to believe the rejection.  It is so convincing, and so seductive.  I can start to hear the (brash) internal voice piping in with, “See, what’s the point?  Why would you even think that this was possible?  You should just go back to that old way you know so well… don’t you like it in that cozy little ball?  It hurts so much less there!  Come on, do it do it do it!  Give up!”

And it occurred to me one day, when I felt the rejection sweeping in at me from so many different angles I felt like I was being pulverized by it, that I am being forced to raise my game.  I am being forced to have so much more internal strength than I’ve ever had before.  I am being forced to believe in myself when I do not think I can, when I don’t feel like I have it in me anymore, when all I want to do is make it not hurt and it seems like the only way to do that is to believe the rejection and give up.  And am being forced to cultivate a belief in myself that is so strong and fiery and fierce that it can persevere even in the face of this.

That I have a choice to go back to how I’ve always been, and put those ideas and projects and parts of myself in the back of a dark drawer and “forget” about them for a few years.  But I am achy from being smooshed, and I just can’t go back to that curled up ball again.  So I have to pick what’s behind Curtain #2, which is stoking the fire of my self-belief like you cannot believe!

Like most people, I get caught up in letting my self-image be determined by what others think of me.  So when I (I mean, my writing, my ideas, etc.) get rejected, that is what I believe.  But now I am being forced to doubt that, to say and feel and mean that I do not accept that as my internal reality.  That, no matter what is going on around me and no matter how many rejections or radio silences I get and no matter how bad it feels, I am going to make the radical decision to believe in myself anyway. I am going to stretch out and feel the full length of all my limbs, reaching for new possibilities, and refusing to accept the old limitations anymore.

What happens when your self-belief gets challenged?  How much rejection can you take, and when is your breaking point to revert to old patterns?  How you can break free from your former limitations and believe in yourself no matter what?  What strategies do you have for persevering even in the face of extreme rejection and disappointment?  Do you accept the rejection, or do you accept The Believe In Yourself Even When Don’t Think You Can Challenge? And post a comment if you’d simply like to pledge your belief in yourself, no matter what! I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on overcoming rejection and believing in yourself, please share your Journey 😉

Feel The Fear & Do It Anyway. No, Like NOW.

20 May

I recently attended the REVEAL Conference for young women spiritual leaders, and the keynote speaker was Sera Beak, bold and feisty writer of the Spiritual Cowgirl blog and author of “The Red Book: A Deliciously Unorthodox Approach to Igniting Your Divine Spark.”  As she stepped on stage she said, “I have a heavy pen but the voice of a shaky 12-year-old boy.  I’ll stop shaking half-way through, or tomorrow morning.”

Now, she did not at all appear to be a shaky nervous wreck nor did she sound like a 12-year-old boy, but I was struck by her honesty in fessing up to her anxiety about speaking, which she referred to several times throughout the day.  Because, while she may be shaking in her cowgirl boots, she is a speaker, that’s what she does.  And she doesn’t let the shakes stop her, or quiet her voice.

I love hearing about people’s struggles and the things that make them human, because, I don’t know about you, but I’m human and I struggle, and when people act like they have it all together and always have, I just can’t relate.  And I get angry.  So often successful people are presented to us as if they were just born that way, and if they do mention their struggles, they either gloss over them like they were a two second blip in an otherwise charmed life, or they toss their heads back and laugh about some hard time that occurred long ago and far away in the past – people rarely talk about difficulties as they are experiencing them in the present.  You might hear about someone who was afraid of public speaking, but then after years of coaching or breathing exercises or hypnosis or, as suggested on an episode of  The Brady Bunch, picturing the audience in their underwear, they overcame their fears and now can give inspiring charismatic talks at a millisecond’s notice without the merest flutter of nerves in their belly.

But Sera hasn’t gotten over her fear of public speaking yet, and she didn’t wait to overcome it before she started speaking.  She just STARTED because she had something to say, and she deals with her fear in the process.  And she acknowledges it openly, which tends to take the power away from fears that, when we try to repress them, throw parties like the ones people had in high school when their parents went out of town, with little mini-fears running around toilet papering the front steps and pouring Zima into the grand piano and doing keg stands.  Which is to say they go CRAZY and take over and trash the joint.

I have tons of fears.  And everyday I have to walk through them.  Sometimes I do a better job than others.  Sometimes I try to work it out and overcome my fear before I move forward.  Sometimes they stop me altogether.  But in other victorious moments, I feel the fear and do it anyway – whatever it is that I have to say or write or do – I just do it.  Like NOW.  Shaking in my Converse and all.

When I started Writeous Chicks four years ago, right after I began publicizing my first class, a lot of fears came up.  You know, of the who-do-you-think-you-are-what-do-you-have-to-say-that’s-so-important-you’re-obviously-going-to-fail-and-miserably variety.  And, shortly after the first fear arose, I developed a twitch.  A very visible twitch under my eye that lasted for weeks.  This brought about some concerns that the students who signed up for my class were going to, at the very least, seriously question my ability as a teacher when they saw what a twitchy mess I was.  But I kept going with what I had to do to prepare.  I didn’t let the twitch convince me to back out of doing the class, although it tried very hard to do just that, and was very persuasive in its pleas.  I continued to move forward despite it though, because I had something I needed to say and something I had to do.  And miraculously (and with the help of affirmations about how calm I was, recited in my mind approximately 24/7), my twitch disappeared a few weeks before my first session, and the students didn’t stage a walk-out.

So Sera’s speech at the conference was a powerful reminder that we don’t have to get everything together and overcome every single fear before we step out into the world with our actions and our words.  We can feel the fear and do it, whatever it is for us, anyway.  RIGHT NOW.  We don’t have to wait another second.  And the cool thing is, usually once you take action, the fear starts to subside half-way through.  Or tomorrow morning.

How do you deal with your fears?  When have you felt the fear and done your it anyway?

Lessons Learned from Julie & Julia

7 Sep

JuliaChild

WRITEOUS CHICKS NEWSLETTER – September 2009

Yesterday I saw the movie “Julie & Julia.”  Everything I had heard/read about it said that the Julia part was great and inspiring because she was driven by her passion and her desire to help people, but the Julie part was lacking because she was only driven by her desire for recognition and fame.  However, I didn’t feel this way about the movie, and I enjoyed and was inspired by both women’s stories unfolding.  I thought that Julie was definitely driven by more than just the ambition to catch-up with her established fancy Cobb-salad-eating corporately vice presidential friends and be famous for something, and she seemed to be fueled by a desire to add meaning to her life that was suffering from listless, passionless, ambivalent fatigue.  And as I watched the movie, I learned from both women, and found myself cataloging their lessons in my mind as the movie played on.

1)  Live In Gratitude

Julia Child’s character was bubbling over with gratitude throughout the movie.  Everything she experienced was THE MOST AMAZING THING EVER!  When she tasted food, she savored every bite.  When she prepared food, she delighted in every step of creation.  When she moved into her Parisian home, she ran around it throwing open windows and exclaiming, “It’s Versailles!”  Her husband Paul said that Parisians were known to be unfriendly, but Julia brought out the best in everyone so they were the opposite of that to her.  She was so grateful for every interaction with the Parisian shopkeepers that they couldn’t help but return her energy of kindness and generosity.

It’s easy to get jaded.  The fast pace of life contributes to this – running around, feeling overwhelmed, being overscheduled.  It’s easy to focus on the negative and what’s going wrong.  But running around in a busy tailspin and making ongoing mental notes of everything that’s going wrong blocks from our vision what’s going right, and all there is to be grateful for.  You truly have to slow waaaaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyyy down to see, smell, taste, touch, feel, appreciate, and delight in all of the simple pleasures in life.  But when you do slow down, the payoff is tremendous – there are boundless simple pleasures to enjoy and be grateful for. 

Julia Child had a child-like appreciation for things in life, and noticed these simple pleasures in the way that we did as children, before we got busy, and jaded.  And you don’t have to live in Paris or be a famous chef to follow her lead, to savor every bite of a meal, to enjoy a conversation with the person who made your coffee instead of grunting a half-hearted thanks, grabbing it without making eye contact, and racing out the door to catch a subway, to deeply connect with the people, places, and things in your environment every single day.  That kind of gratitude adds excitement and adventure to everything it touches, and will deepen and enrich your life immensely as a result.

2)  You Don’t Have To Have It All Figured Out Already – Experiment!

I have often felt like the clock is racing ahead and I fell behind long ago on some invisible timeline and I can never catch up.  It can seem like “everyone else has it all figured out,” and you are the only one who is struggling to find purpose, direction, and a meaningful path in your life.  And comparing yourself to others who are “ahead of you” on the invisible timeline always leaves you finding yourself lacking. 

However, first of all, everyone else doesn’t already have everything all figured out, and we are all searching on our own time and in our own way.  And Julia Child is a great example of someone who discovered her life’s passion on her own timeline.  She didn’t graduate from college with a degree in culinary arts and several impressive cooking internships already under her belt to immediately begin her rise up a culinary org chart at age 21.  She came to cooking in her late 30’s, and the movie showed her process of experimentation and discovery to get to this place.  Earlier in her career, she had worked as an advertising copywriter and in the government.  Where the movie picks up in France, Julia is continuing on her career exploration.  She liked hats, so she took a hat-making class.  It wasn’t for her, but she didn’t berate herself that she was falling behind on a timeline, and that her established friends were racing ahead of her.  Instead, she tried something else – playing cards, which also turned out to be not her thing, but no worries.  She moved onto cooking and at last it was a love connection!

Again, we can learn to employ Julia’s child-like sense of play, joy, wonder and experimentation as we search for our own true path in life.  There is no need to berate yourself for “wasting time” if what you are doing at the moment isn’t your true life’s passion, or if maybe you haven’t found it yet.  No worries, just keep trying, playing, experimenting, and learning what you do and don’t like.  Step off the Universal Timeline that compares you to everyone else, and instead make the choice to boldly accept that your pace and process of discovery, growth, achievement, and living, is absolutely perfect for you.

3)  If Someone Thinks You Can’t Do Something, Prove Them Wrong

When Julia attends Le Cordon Bleu, Madame Brassart, the school’s proprietress, seems to have it out for her and does not think she will succeed in a cooking course for “professionals.”  On the first day of class, all the students are masterfully and speedily chopping onions while Julia tentatively slices a few slivers.  She goes home and practices her speed-dicing skills until her table is piled high in a mountain of expertly diced onions and her husband can’t even walk in the kitchen door without crying.  When Julia fails the final exam she asks to take it again and then passes it.  Throughout her time at the school, Madame Brassart’s lack of belief in Julia only serves to fuel her own belief in herself even more.

When confronted with harsh criticism and/or someone who believes you will fail, you can do one of two things:  prove them right or prove them wrong.  People believing in you feels great and can motivate you to new heights of achievement.  People not believing in you feels terrible and can motivate you to curl up in a ball under your covers and give up.  Don’t give anyone that kind of power over your life.  Let all feedback – positive and negative – push you on to realize your dreams.  And, if you let it ignite you rather than stop you,  it is the negative criticism that can powerfully fire you up more than anything else to reach your goals.

4)  Never Give Up, Even In The Face Of Seemingly Insurmountable Obstacles

It took Julia over 7 years to write “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and many times it looked like her dream would not become a reality, but she stuck with it.  When she first got involved in this project, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle had already written an early draft of the cookbook that had been rejected because it was not American enough for Americans.  They could have thrown in the towel at this point, but instead, they asked Julia to collaborate on a rewrite with them.  Julia then slogged through a painstakingly slow process of testing recipes and writing the book over years and years.  Though there was no instant gratification in sight, she continued to have a positive attitude and maintain her connection to her enthusiasm for her project, even when she was doing the “grunt work” parts.  At one point when she had to type up a section, she didn’t bemoan this fact but rather, she cheerily exclaimed, “It will give me something to do in Oslo!”

When the first publishers who expressed interest in her book later rejected it, she didn’t let that stop her from believing in her vision, and she went on to find another publisher, get an even bigger advance, and see her book become published.  The final scene of the movie shows her unwrapping a package, seeing her book in print for the first time, and her and her husband Paul exploding in joyous laughter.  The movie ends with a freeze frame on this moment, her vision realized.

Achieving a dream can take a long time, and along the way, you can lose the connection to your enthusiasm and your intention and let obstacles stop you.  However, if you can step back and see the larger perspective and look at your whole life, the obstacles you confront today appear to be only little blips on the way to the tremendous joy of living in pursuit and realization of your dreams.  And if the road is long, arduous, and fraught with obstacles that make you want to give up but you don’t, then savoring your success will be all the sweeter!

5)  Writing Has The Power To Transform You & Your Life

I’m not talking about external transformation, like how Julie lived in a crappy apartment over a pizza place and worked at a miserable job trapped in a cubicle, and then she started to blog and got a book deal and then a movie deal and presumably a much nicer apartment, although that can happen.  I’m talking about inner transformation.  About how Julie was unhappy, lost, and felt like she was drowning, and then she started writing, and writing gave her life meaning, purpose, and direction, and saved her.  She felt alone, and then sharing her writing with others brought her connection.  Through her writing she confronts things about herself that she doesn’t like, like her meltdowns and her taking her husband for granted, and then once she sees these things, she can change them.

This world can be isolating.  It can leave us feeling separate from others and even from ourselves.  How many times have you felt like you don’t have a voice, even in your own life?  Like you have so many thoughts and opinions and wishes and hopes and dreams that just wither and die in your mind?  How many times have you felt dissatisfied with something or someone, but you muffle the voice inside that wants to say how you really feel and you remain mute, the nice, good person, doing the nice, good, right thing?

Writing is so powerful because through it you can reclaim your voice and therefore, one word at a time, you can reclaim your life.  You can build a bridge of words back to your true self, you can speak up and say this is what I’ve experienced and this is what I think and this is what I feel and it matters and I matter.  You can take up your rightful space in the world, and in doing so, you can reach out and connect to others, and then, as a result, we are all a little more powerful and a little less isolated.

A million things can happen in the course of a day to leave you feeling tossed about by the world and powerless in your own life.  Picking up a pen or turning on your computer is a simple way to take back your power, raise your voice, and claim your life as your own.  Every time you return to your writing, your writing returns you to yourself, and in this way, it will transform you and your life, from the inside out.

Have a delightful September and savor every sip of this crisp, delicious fall air – bon appétit!

Lots of love!

Jen xoxo

Copyright © 2009 by Jennifer Garam