It was dutifully named Professional Development and I had avoided letting go of it for years. A type A, three hole punched, multi-colored tabbed old version of myself. It’s a throwback to my former life in hospitality.
When I finally took an hour to touch its contents one last time, it became apparent that I was destined to be my own boss. Answers to questions I still pose were right there in this binder I’d created years ago.
That final peek inside helped me realize something that only the passage of time was able to reveal.
We always have the answers inside of us, but if we don’t look, they are impossible to know.
The binder is littered with Promotion Proposals (created by me), notes from various seminars I attended (where the only things I cared about were inspirational quotes), book notes on personal growth and bulleted lists containing reasons on why I should start my own business.
I was surprised to see these things.
I had held onto a binder from over a decade ago containing endless commendation reports and excellent performance reviews for a hospitality career I had no fire for.
There were ridiculous timeline grids of goals and achievements that I created just for fun.
Reflections on being in an MBA program, with personal experience summaries of every class I took that no one asked me to write.
There was so much detail that I created additional work for all my superiors to review as I’d submit these reports among the required tasks, assuming they cared about the contents of my insides. Weren’t they curious about my reflections and goals? Hadn’t they thought to create their own such binder as well? Why aren’t we discussing these things more often? Perhaps we may soon, I’d believe.
I was such an annoying employee but I worked so hard and had such enthusiasm they all just put up with me. In hindsight, I was forcing myself to fit on a path that wasn’t mine.
In the margins of all of those grids and reports were loose emails containing details on an entrepreneurship workshop (yes!) and professional and personal goal lists which had absolutely nothing to do with the career I was pursuing, yet I somehow made them be.
I was building an imaginary life inside of a three-ring binder. A life where I hoped to be rewarded for all my dutiful activity (see all these organized completed tasks?!).
I was trying to mold a life I imagined out of someone else’s clay.
I sprinkled in various newspaper clippings on how to assert yourself in business. I heeded most of their advice and followed the formula superbly. But I always felt unfulfilled and like I was missing a key piece of intel. I was simply out of alignment.
How could I have missed this? I was compliantly playing the role, checking the boxes and doing the things. Check. Check. Check.
As a business student and as a professional in hospitality, I was being groomed to think analytically. To operate capitalistically. To play a part I’d never realized I was cast for.
There is nothing wrong with business school, analytical thinking or hospitality. But there was everything wrong with it for me.
The measuring of everything and calculating profits until our TI-83 calculator batteries died was perplexing. My fellow business students didn’t understand me and my ambiguous ideas. I did not yet either.
Unless we dare to look at what we’ve scribbled in the margins, we risk realizing that there is an existing wealth of information innate to each of us.
Those doodles, that you think mean nothing, those bullet points that seem silly but your mind is magnetically drawn to them when you’re in a meeting, that’s where we desire to journey towards. Paid or unpaid, work or hobby, proceed.
A solemn journey towards those notes to self in the margins can help us feel that we are in some way moving into alignment.
At times when we are so clouded that we don’t even know where our true path lies, some tools may serve as our map. Some of my favorite tools for excavating truth are:
Being receptive – Setting intentions to allow tools to assist us and consciously being receptive to new ways of seeing or thinking is subtle yet powerful.
Meditation – Meditation in both structured and unstructured ways is a worthwhile skill. Guided meditations are particularly helpful when the mind is working overtime. Getting back to our true essence and breaking habits that don’t serve us are serious and tricky business.
Reading old journals – This one makes me feel like I’ve just visited an old friend and reminds me how far I’ve come. It’s also a good reminder of how we’ve had the answers buried inside of us all along.
No journals? Maybe you can find some letters or cards that you never sent or are from someone who knows you dearly. Also looking through old photos of yourself can stir up reminders of what wisdom is buried within waiting to be excavated.
Remembering – Who were you when you were eight? A favorite teacher, Cathy Adams of Zen Parenting Radio, has posed this question.
I have an eight-year-old son and when I look into his eyes I think about how I can’t wait to see how this fiery passion of his unfolds. I remember loving to create at eight but not really knowing what was possible. Now being a creative entrepreneur is central to my life. I found out that there are endless possibilities for creating and I learned how to seek out fellow creatives and allow their stories to stir inspiration.
Therapy – Don’t underestimate the value of moving emotions through your body and mind with trained professionals or even loved ones. Talk therapy can shift major pieces within us.
Inspirational people – Inspirational people are lighthouses. They show you what is possible and what is beautiful. They don’t show you your way but they help you believe that you will find a way.
The value of feeding positive messages to our brain is discussed widely today, yet I’m not sure its true potential is understood. Everything we take in nourishes us or takes from us.
If we learn to understand how things make us feel, we can decide what we consume. If we choose to consume information, food and energy of that which lifts us up, life is altered. Once you know this, there’s no going back.
Hygge – Some of my favorite memories in this life are sitting on the porch with my love drinking a few beers and talking about life, beliefs, and ideals. Letting our inhibitions down and wondering who we’re destined to be and where we want to go.
For us that usually involves dim lights, home cooked meals and good drinks and that, to me, is quintessentially Hygge.
I ultimately let go of the binder because I didn’t need it anymore. In the same way that after you have a conversation with a true friend, time and distance inevitably appear. You don’t have to be with that friend to remember feeling seen. You just know it.
Safe travels on your journey to peace. Sometimes the path is intimidating, but don’t despair, that’s when you know you’re making progress.
About the Author: Marjorie Sarah Cottrell is a writer, mom of two, explorer, creative small business entrepreneur, and ancient astrology student with a personal motto of Learn. Create. Share. Her words and products can be found at marjoriesarahsoapco.com.
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