I had a tree house in Africa.
When I was six my parents, our dog and I moved to Kinshasa, Congo. We stayed for almost five years. It’s so long ago and at the same time still very vivid in my mind’s eye. TASOK – The American School, my first grade teacher Ms. Lee with her dark, long hair. The tree house my father built in the giant mango tree by the front gate. Chasing a kid who had called me Jenny Coca-Cola in second grade. Surprisingly enough, starting a business got me to travel back in time and gave me the opportunity to revisit that little girl and reconnect with her.
After returning home from Africa I had to change schools three times, before it was clear that we’d stay in the same place. As a young women I lived and worked in Spain, I studied in the Netherlands. With all the moving, adjusting and settling in, you may be tempted to think that I’ve gotten good at transitions. Been there, done that, right? Well, not really. In fact I was delighted to move back to my hometown for a job. Ever since I have been here and have not been much of a traveler. Yet, you certainly do not need to travel the world, to get yourself wound up in a serious change process! Can you see what’s coming? Yeah, we had a baby. That was probably the greatest (in both senses of the word!) change I’ve experienced. In fact, so great, we even did it again (-;
This is where the story takes off – at the point where I knew for sure that the agency and consulting world I had previously dedicated my professional life to, was no longer my best option. After training as a coach at INeKO I dove right into starting a business, overhearing the well-meant and experienced advice from our professors. I let my gut feeling lead the way and my mind followed suit. I taught myself how to build a word press website, I read books and listened to podcasts for entrepreneurs, went to seminars, had a logo designed, set up social media channels, taught myself video editing, joined a network….all of that felt easy-ish.
When easy faded and ancient demons entered the stage, I was taken aback and did not want to deal with them. Because it felt like they were outside of my “safety zone”. In retrospect, of course that was a silly thought. And that was ok. Until the shit hit the fan.
I got lost, I struggled and I wanted to figure it all out. What was the right thing to do? I constantly pondered and got terribly stuck. Doubt wrapped itself around me, grabbed me tight and tighter. It had the nerve to team up with the imposter syndrome and together they had me paralyzed. With these companions on my shoulder, still I kept going. In the midst of this unsteadiness, financially I had one of the best months since starting the business. And you know what? It didn’t change a single thing about how I felt. Because while I was trying to build a business on the outside, really it was time to treat unattended wounds and tear down layers of outdated beliefs. That was my “real” job. So when after months and months I finally understood that resistance just kept me going round and round in (vicious) circles, I committed myself to doing this work. These weeks were filled with quiet insights and sometimes it felt like I was mourning. Looking Sadness in the eye, letting the little girl step out of the shadow to say goodbye to false expectations was painful. At the same time it felt like exactly the right thing to do. Here are some of the crucial lessons I learned by engaging in the process of walking down memory lane and rummaging through dusty chests and neglected drawers:
- For the first time in my life, I acknowledged past incidents for what they were to a child: sad, scary and upsetting. You don’t need to come from a broken family for things to be wrecked.
- The strategies that helped me cope back then, partly still dominated my behavior today. I understood that they were no longer essential, let alone helpful. I realized that the wolves I come across today usually turn out to be sausage dogs.
- This is it. My life. Today, right now. Just as much when things are messy and not going my way. Life is what we make of it. I realize that’s not a sensational revelation and you’ll find it on every other fortune cookie. But it turned out to be a real game changer when I stopped fighting the messiness and accepted it as an equal.
What letting go led to was remarkable. Things fell into place on the outside, too. Bit by bit by bit. And when I thought: this can’t get any better, it did! My inner captain was in bliss for the longest time in (what felt like) ages. She had welcomed a long-lost friend back on her inner team, at first thinking there is an entirely new persona aboard. It seems that tranquility and trust got a foothold because all team members were being heard and were all appreciated. No one was neglected, not even the girl up in her tree house.
My official training certificate also carries the title “Change Manager”. I haven’t particularly identified with the title. But yes, I am an expert on change. And you can be, too. I encourage you to go on your journey, whatever that may imply. If there are things you do not want to face, reconsider. If you’re stuck – take a different approach, change something in the way you’ve been handling it, stop fighting it. We have so much to give, and it is totally worth diving into your journey, to get the best out of yourself and to be able to pass it on. Do invest in your interior design, make yourself feel as comfortable as you can – inside your skin. Plus, a positive side effect is that it’s also more enjoyable for everyone who comes by to visit.
The lesson I am gratefully taking with me from this part of the journey is discovering the fine art of persevering whilst letting go. Sometimes we will master this exercise, sometimes we will get caught up in resistance. It’s a never-ending process and this time round I got treated with a glimpse of the end of the rainbow. And sparkling in that pot of gold is the sheer capacity of what I (and each and every one of us) can be. It is not about reaching the end of the rainbow, but rather knowing that your pot of gold is a mixture of all those colors you’re passing along the way. Life is what we make of it. So, dive in, get stuck, rise – Bon voyage!
– Getting stuck, letting go Or How Starting a Business Got me to Travel Back in Time
Getting stuck, letting go Or How Starting a Business Got me to Travel Back in Time