New Years Tears: Grieving the Old Stories While Welcoming The New

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I have New Year’s tears.

I didn’t expect them.

December 31st represented the end of my career in finance. It was the job I started when I was 18, making $7.35/hour. It was the mentors and the five year plans and the rejections and the assertions and the decisions. It was the people who told a poor girl from the violent neighborhood who had seen too much bad that she’d never get to more than customer service and shift differential. Who then congratulated her when she became a Senior Vice President and managed billions of dollars. The girl who barely made ends meet and lived off of cans of corn and potato flakes from the scratch and dent store who just facilitated the largest single gift the Girl Scouts have ever received in their history. A new camp for generations of girls to learn how to be the girl she never thought she could be, but the girl she had to become, because you can’t go back once you leave. You keep going.

I’ve been going since the day I learned what happened to the women in my neighborhood if they didn’t get out.

That girl died on December 31st.

I officially changed my title on Linked In to represent the life I am creating out of purpose as opposed to fear. I am so grateful for the company that raised me, the bosses that led me, the mentors who changed me. I am thankful to them for parenting a girl from the worst part of town who had no direction. A girl with a need to survive and never go back. A girl who turned that into a beautiful life.

A girl who is now harnessing those years of experience, drive, and success to make a difference for the ones who come next.

On her terms.

 

Unraveling: The Messy Business of Letting Go

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I am currently between lives. In the best way possible, so it stunned me when I found out that changing careers would bring about a bit of a catharsis.

There are a lot of cliches being thrown at me about endings, beginnings and letting go. I want to shake the people and say, “I may be just a number to you, a cog in the wheel, a person who took up space, but this was my LIFE.”

Or more correctly, my identity.

This process of unraveling has helped me understand that in the end, it is the person moving on who has wrapped their identity in their title, their paycheck, their perception of their own value. It was my choice to change gears, and don’t get me wrong, I am inordinately excited about what is next. But, there is the withering away, the dying of the aspiration to achieve this career that is ending, the closing up of the office you once walked into with big eyes and a sense of utter accomplishment. But you got used to coming into that office and sitting at that desk, and it lost its shine. You realized there is something bigger for you than that desk, and the chair you spun around in, and the view you had out of your window.

Then one day you pack up that office and it feels…. like a little death.

You are dying to the you that you imagined in other daydreams, other vision boards, other meditations, and visualizations. You are dying to the person you built with blood, sweat, tears and a hell of a lot of regulatory permissions and licenses. You built something, but you are dismantling it. On purpose.

And you grieve alone.

A business, an institution, does not have the ability to grieve you in the same way you grieve who you have become within their hallways and offices.

In the process of the dying is the birth of new. The renewed excitement as the seedlings take root. The realization that I may just have a style that doesn’t include lined dresses and razor-sharp high heels. The realization that I don’t have to spend so much energy figuring out how to hide the tattoo I thought was such a great idea when I was 22, but that I’ve spent my career disavowing and hiding under well-placed straps and high backs, never wearing white.

I thought that maybe I should get a new tattoo to mark my new life, which caused my boyfriend to look at me sideways, “This is a career change, not a life crisis, right?”

I suggested it only be a half sleeve of the dragon I’m becoming and then he breathed really heavy as I laughed, “Just a little word or something, something small, that means something big to me.”

I’m not married to the tattoo. It was a waxing and waning moment that reminded me I’m still a rebellious teen somewhere in there, my parents would not be surprised. What I am married to is the new. This big, beautiful new life that I am building with one word, comma, and paragraph at a time. This new platform where I get to say the things that burn within my chest to help even one girl or woman at a time to be the biggest, baddest versions of themselves.

This new life I am choosing.

It always comes down to choice.

Once upon a time, I chose a path that I explored, and God I made it something. There were castles and beautiful hills, and yes, some treacherous valleys, but I chose and then I created.

Now, I’m choosing again and I have faith in the power of my choices and my ability to co-create with that which is bigger than I am.

So, I will die the deaths and unravel. I will surrender to what is pulling me through to the other side. It will be messy and glorious much like childbirth – ugly and magical all the same.

In my unraveling is brilliance, faith, and choice and to be honest….

I can’t wait to meet the version of myself I am becoming.

 

The Best Things In Life: Moving Toward Purpose

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“What is the best thing that has ever happened to you?

It is a question that continues to surface. I’ve answered it a thousand times, yet, again and again, when life seems difficult, it arises. I’ve included it in my book as a guidepost when understanding self, and offer it as same in workshops I’ve facilitated.

Yet, here I am again, ruminating on the same question.

At first, and much like most parents, I immediately answered, “My daughter,” when I thought about the best events or experiences in my life. Becoming Olivia’s mother, has been the best, albeit hardest, thing I’ve ever done. This little person made me a mother and a much better woman. I am calmer, more insightful, and conscious of the being I’m gifting to the world. When once asked what my job is, she told her teacher, “My mom is my guide and protector.”

Olivia knows I’m a banker and an author, but to her, my job is far more complex and soulful. I have written since I was thirteen years old, but becoming her mother created a focus I never had before. I always knew my words were powerful, but raising a girl in a world made for men gave them direction and clarity.

The next thing that came to mind was my faith. I was raised in a very religious family, but never once felt as if I was connected to the God of my childhood. Everything was rote, prayers were memorized, allegiances feigned. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties and someone asked, “Jeanette, you keep saying ‘I was taught to believe.’ What do you believe?” that I realized I had no foundation of faith.  I was stunned, “I’ve been told what to believe my entire life. I have no idea.”

I was connected to nothing. I was jealous of those who would kneel before alters or offer their supplications to a God I couldn’t wrap my head around. I wondered what it was like to have that feeling and to believe in something. Then, in a very quick span of time I lost three friends in death, one to the messiness of life, and my husband in divorce. I needed to hurt, to bleed my stories and be stripped down to the flesh and marrow before I was ready or able to fully open myself up to something bigger than me. I have often said, “I found my faith,” but it would be more correct to say that faith found me and has not let me go.

The third best thing that has ever happened to me was finding my voice. They say you pick your parents. If I did, I picked a mother who kept me small, quiet and frightened, so that I could rise above, squeak, warble and then sing. I had to be held tight, silenced and shushed so that I could truly understand the power behind the words that sit so deeply within my chest. She once asked me not to write about her when I’d posted about being raised in the shadow of addiction. Rather than fight, I asked her to allow me to own my story. She thought I was writing about her, not realizing that she gifted me this story as it was the framework of my childhood. I’d received three messages from women who were also raised by alcoholics and addicts just that day, thanking me for finding the words they themselves couldn’t. I shared that with my mother, explaining that by using my voice I’d helped someone else.

My voice, it seems, is my most powerful attribute.

I have words within my veins like lace and cobwebs. They were put there by something bigger than me and they want desperately to be seen and heard. It has been through my daughter, my faith and my voice that they have found their way out of me and onto the page, the stage and into the hearts of others.

The best things that ever happened to me brought me to my purpose.

Now tell me, what is the best thing that ever happened to you?

Xo,

J