October 15, 2014

Remembering My True Self (Or Who I Always Have Been)

I often wonder where I will be and what will be happening in my life in a year from the current moment.

When a year has passed and I reflect on it, I’m usually amazed by how much has changed. A year ago I never would have imagined being a student again, at age 37. But then, I’ve always had an adventurous streak.

I grew up two hours east of New York City on Long Island and, during my high school years, in the Boston suburbs. I was the only child of college sweethearts who married each other at ages 20 and 22. They worked hard to build careers and make a nice life for us. On the weekends during my formative years, we spent long days in stores where I watched my parents carefully select items to furnish our home. After my Saturday morning ballet and tap dance classes, I’d hang out with my mom on shopping trips at the mall. She loved clothes. So did I. I believe these early experiences informed my appreciation for visual arts and aesthetics. Particularly interior design and fashion.

Yet it never occurred to me to explore either field as a career. Like many college graduates, I relocated to a major metropolitan area (Washington, DC) and pursued corporate careers at big brand name companies. I held highly analytical roles in retail merchandising and management consulting, and sold software. They were good jobs. I had great experiences. And nearly the whole time I craved something else. More excitement, more creativity, more glamour, more art. I’ve heard this feeling called “The Sacred Ache.” It’s when you seem to “have everything,” but at the same time you suffer a chronic feeling that something is “off” because you need to and would rather be doing something else. For me, that something else is satisfying a desire to work in the fashion world in a role merging my business and artistic sensibilities. I came to Experience Institute to explore ways to do this.

I reaped many residual benefits from the comfortable and convenient life my parents provided during my upbringing. I’m so grateful for them. I’ve enjoyed the benefits of a tidy and predictable life, which has influenced my transition to Experience Institute. It is challenging to live differently than I lived for 37 years. I’m used to the suburbs. Now I live in the city of Chicago. The weather is cooler and will quickly become colder—for a long time. I’m in new situations with new personalities and businesses. I’m observing work styles quite different from mine. I’m navigating unfamiliar environments. I used to live alone. Now I live in a lovely stranger’s home with her, her children, visitors, and other guests through an Airbnb rental. I’m way out of my comfort zone. It feels disorienting and strange. Sometimes it hurts. And it is a gift. It is a gift to be in a position to intentionally immerse myself in uncertainty at this point in life. I believe it is worth it to exchange comfort and convenience for the deep satisfaction that will come from listening to myself and choosing to pursue work that is closely aligned with who I am.

At first glance, it seems uncharacteristic of me to make such a big change. When I look more closely, I realize there’s always been a sense of adventure underlying the comfort I sought in predictability. When I was a little girl I would ride my bike a long distance to the convenience store at the entrance to my neighborhood where I spent allowance money on teenage fashion magazines. As a teenager and new driver, I’d drive for two hours on my own to Maine or Cape Cod because I liked to wander and see what other places were like. And to shop the outlets, of course. Four years ago I took my first trips to Europe alone on vacations to London and Paris. So it really is no surprise that I answered another call to adventure by joining Experience Institute. The clues have been there my entire life. I’ve come full circle to pursue the dreams and adventures I imagined while sitting in the backseat of the car as my parents drove from one store after another on those long days of shopping. I’m very curious about the year ahead, and wonder where I will be at this time next.

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