I’ve been thinking a lot about these last couple of months and how much has changed in my life since then. More than a few times, I have felt lost. This is my encouragement to my past-year self.
Last year I moved to Vancouver and, while I was thrilled and embracing of all that comes with uprooting one’s life, I had not quite realized the amount of courage it takes to press forth through the tough times of integration. I expect I will write in future posts more specifically on the vulnerability and growth that I experienced this last year because of the move, but in this post, I want to focus on the more recent adventure of becoming reacquainted with myself.
To give a bit of context, the past months have been wrought with transition. Relationships, careers, activities, and seasons. These changes have me reflecting on the struggles and wins of this past while and what I have learned because of them. Were I to write to my past-year self, I would assert with the gentlest of compassion these key learnings:
- Take time to step away, reflect, and build your tribe
- Know your values and what drives you
- Spend time with those who challenge and inspire you
- Feeding one’s soul is the best medicine
1. Take time to step away, reflect, and build your tribe
Sometimes I compare my life to reading a book up close. When the pages are too near to my face, I can’t read the words. But if I were to just step back a bit, they become clearer and the solution more apparent. In this way, I find that when I’m too focused on the daily grind, worries, and issues, I need to take a step back. My trip to Tofino this year was so timely.
My good friend and I spent some time surfing, climbing, and camping and it was a game changer this year. I was able to reset my attitude and process a number of things I had on my mind. Having the time away from home, reflecting on relationships, and bonding with another woman allowed me to come to a deeper understanding of who I am, where I wanted to be, and where I needed to adjust.
There’s something about female bonding that clarifies self-doubt and strengthens the spirit. It was this time away that I had a greater gratitude for tribes and the role that they play in human relationships and survival. It is your tribe of strong women that will ground you during those times of self-doubt and empower you as you reflect. Build your tribe.
2. Know your values and what drives you
Specifically in my career, it has become increasingly evident how important my values and sense of purpose are to me. One of these values, in particular, is building authentic relationships and making each interaction count. Every. Single. One. Maya Angelou’s words resonate deeply with me: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
While I have always worked in customer success in some capacity, I hadn’t realized the amount of passion and drive that I feel towards those relationship-building interactions until recently. Of course, there are often challenging moments, but those precious few when you’re able to successfully support or celebrate wins (no matter how small) with others, those are the moments that I live for and make everything worth it. Those are the moments which drive me towards the pursuit of exceeding expectations and the happiness of others.
This philosophy has permeated every aspect of my life lately and I am ever grateful for it: it is your values that will drive you. This does not mean that values will never change, in fact, they probably will change or change priority, but whatever they may be, values motivate you to do the things you do. Having clarity on your values illuminates every other aspect of life.
3. Spend time with those who challenge and inspire you
I am guilty of being complacent. This has manifested itself in a number of areas lately: climbing, dance, work, life, relationships, self. In order to fight this, one must lean into discomfort as a necessary adventure to understanding more of the world, more of oneself, more of those around you. Because, ultimately, discomfort begets growth; a recurring and relentless theme of this past year.
I’ve been fortunate in these past months to develop close relationships with individuals whom I admire greatly. It is often their strength, sense of self, and adventurous spirits that inspire me towards growth and self-improvement. They consistently challenge me to become more of myself and remind me who I am.
One dear friend is constantly travelling, learning, and enjoying life. What I admire about her is how she is always pushing her limits; going on multi-day kayaking or canoeing excursions, learning how to windsurf, and attending networking events. Another friend spent weeks in another city, pursuing his passion for performing arts, refining his skills and building relationships. Regardless of what seems “practical” or “safe”, his brave heart reminds me that the pursuit of passion is never wasted. One of my kindred spirits loves with compassionate abandon and emboldens me to do likewise, despite fear of the unknown. She empowers me by example, with her gentle soul, to have faith in humanity and practice self-care when I need it. These individuals, and more, instill inspiration within and remind me that life is best when lived to its fullest.
4. Feeding one’s soul is the best medicine
This last year has been full of trials and I often wasn’t feeling like myself. There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed, days when I was alone and didn’t talk to anyone, days when I didn’t do anything at all. While there are times where these activities can be replenishing, they are not sustainable in themselves. Nor are they who I know myself to be.
Nothing feeds my soul like social justice. After taking a number of months to step back from volunteering to dive into self-care, I have realized that giving and being a part of a cause greater than myself feeds my soul like nothing else can. There’s something magical in selflessness. When communities band together for a social purpose whereby the welfare of others is the main goal, that’s where my love for life flourishes. I’ve been fortunate in the last few weeks to have found a group of warriors who believe in such radical love.
Also this past year, I had taken a break from climbing and dance for a number of months. Taking a break afforded me the opportunity to re-examine why I do what I do and why I love what I love, and more importantly, to fall back in love with climbing and dance again. Absence does make the heart grow fonder and I have a greater sense of appreciation and love for the fire ignited in me to climb and dance.
Thinking through these changes, challenges, and successes, I’ve become increasingly thankful for a number of lessons learned and for the incredible people around me. In particular, there was one conversation with my climbing coach a couple of months ago that echoes in my mind and inspires me for life’s journey. As a previous competition climber, he said: you have to understand that the competition is just one day. The hours and days, weeks and months that go into training; those are the days that truly count. If you don’t truly love that process, what are you doing it all for?
These days, I’m embracing that process. Or at least in the spirit of trying to, I’m getting to know myself deeper each day. After all, isn’t that what life’s all about?