As with so many new year’s, 2017 began with so much hope and optimism. Obama’s legacy would live on with Hillary Clinton as our next President, I was finally going to hit my stride in tech sales and I was going to finally meet that special someone. Well, that’s what I thought at least. Somewhere along the way, amidst all of the wishful thinking and inaction, life ran terribly off course.
It was early Summer when the house of cards, that was my life, began to fall apart. Just as I was starting to make real progress in my new job I got injured…from work. It’s called a repetitive stress injury or RSI that was the result of overworking myself (excessive typing, mousing etc.) combined with the very high-stress environment that is software sales. It was a recipe for disaster yet somehow I never saw it coming. Only weeks before I was kicking ass and taking names as I had a heroic finish to my third quarter at New Relic. I thought I was on top of the world when a friend and I had left for a three-day music festival on a Friday in early July. Things were finally looking up as we headed into what would be the most fun weekend I’d had all year.
It was pure joy frolicking in the forests of Mendocino with other happy go lucky and brightly adorned revelers. At times the music was so enlivening that I couldn’t help bounce around in ecstacy. The weather was in the 70s without a cloud in the sky. I was there with my favorite party pals from San Francisco and the vibe was just right… What more could you ask for? It was perfect. Then…cue record scratch…Monday came around. About an hour or two into my day I began experiencing this burning sensation in both my arms that stopped me in my tracks. It hurt so bad that I had to drop everything that I was doing and go for a walk. After a 30 minute stroll I returned to the office to resume working a prospecting campaign only I couldn’t. The pain was still too intense. At that point I knew something was seriously wrong and immediately took action.
I could barely even fill out the workers comp intake forms from the muscle fatigue that had set in but holding my pen with my fist I scribbled my signature and managed to submit all the necessary paperwork to HR. I ended up receiving regular medical treatment as I continued to do whatever I could to keep my head above water for the quarter. Fortunately, or unfortunately, nothing was ever quite the same since that fateful day. I just couldn’t lean into my job with the same drive and determination as I had before. If I did I’d end up in serious pain and unable to work for the rest of the day – or worse.
I limped along like this for a couple of months before it became clear that I wasn’t going to be rid of the pain any time soon. I couldn’t do my job any more and people were beginning to notice. That’s when the real panic began to set in as I would begin to imagine myself broke and living on the streets because I could no longer operate a MacBook Air that has been so vital to my gainful employment as a professional living in San Francisco.
Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that I needed to make some big life changes and soon. In September I visited with my family in LA over a weekend where I made the teary-eyed claim to my dad that a major life change was in the works and that I would need his full support if I was to pull it off. I might have had an idea (more like a fantasy) about what it was that I wanted to do but I didn’t have a clue about how I was going to make it happen.
It was during this critical period that I’d been exchanging messages back and forth with an online therapist where I’d revealed that there was a part of me that always knew what I wanted to do but was too bashful to ever vocalize it let alone pursue it. Ever since I graduated with a degree in psychology from Colgate University I’d known that I wanted to be a coach. More than ten years would pass before I ever summoned the courage to even tell anyone. I figured I’d just be laughed at for wanting to do something so outside of the norm when it came to typical professions.
Yet there I was, with my back to the wall, being forced to consider alternate forms of employment that might not require me to use a computer for eight hours straight every day. I thought Hey, as silly as it might sound at least as a life coach I could spend most of my time on the phone instead of on a computer. Maybe I should give this serious consideration.
It was as if the invisible hand of life was forcing my hand. The circumstances were such that I felt like I had no choice but to pursue my dreams. If only I was working with a coach myself at that time to provide the encouragement and support that I would’ve needed to take that chance. Regardless, I was on my way. I was broken; physically, emotionally and spiritually but I was on my way and that meant one thing. Hope. For the first time in a long time there was this glimmer of hope that maybe I could get myself back on track. And not just back on track but onto the path that could ultimately result in the realization of some long held dreams and aspirations.
I’d turned 34 ten days before my injury. When I turned 33 I told myself, this was it. 33 was going to be the year that it all came together. As if an angel was going to swoop down from heaven and make all of the changes that I knew I’d been putting off just happen so that one day I’d wake up and I’d just be there. Wherever there was. Only nothing happened. And then it hit me. My life wasn’t going to change unless I did the difficult work of charting a new course and then setting sail.
As someone who’s grown attuned to the whispers of his intuition I could sense that this was it. This was the moment to seize my destiny and go for it. There was no turning back. I got the scent of what victory and freedom might smell like and I was off. I put a plan together and after a few weeks of working out the details I had quit my job and set sail in my car from San Francisco bound for Baja California to give myself a couple of weeks to clear my head as I explored various surf spots along the Mexican coast. It was my first whiff of freedom and boy did it smell good! All it took was an honest assessment of the situation a conversation with my manager and an idea for what to do next.
Next was the move. It’d become clear to me that it wasn’t just the job that wasn’t working any more. It was that my life wasn’t working any more and I was prepared to clean house and start over. As tough as it was to pack up my things and say goodbye to the people I’d known and called my dearest of friends for nearly a decade, I said goodbye. After bounding down the I-5 in a U-Haul truck with no cruise control I arrived at my destination. It was easily the least pleasant road trip I’d ever done but who cares. I made it! I was completely exhausted as I flopped down onto my mattress in my new apartment and about to start the next chapter in my life after so much eager anticipation. San Diego…
After the move was creating the business. After finding that the more practical route of selling someone else’s coaching services didn’t pan out I got to work on doing what I’d always wanted to do and start my own business. I started to feel settled in to my new apartment and my new city so it was at that point that I began working on the vision. Upon catching a wave of inspiration I sat down to write out my mission statement, my philosophy and the experience and skills that I would draw upon to help my clients achieve their goals. With the vision in place I got to work reaching out to people within my network who I thought might be interested in what it was that I had to offer and before long I was under way with coaching sessions that focused on helping to get people unstuck in their own lives.
It was only a few months ago when this idea of moving to San Diego and starting a practice as a coach was pure fantasy. Something that I felt embarrassed to even tell people. Who was I to go venture out and start my own business? I’d never worked as a career coach before. Just who did I think I was?! But the answer is simple. I am me and this IS who I am. Throughout this process of self-discovery I’ve had to answer some hard questions like these ones only this time I wasn’t going to let myself side step the truth. Instead of denying my identity I decided to embrace it and not make any more excuses for myself. This has been my story of getting to a life lived with purpose and meaning and it’s felt right from the moment that I took that first step.
You’ll be amazed to see how life seems to pave the way for you once you finally take that first step and commit to making your dreams a reality. It might be one of the scariest things you’ll ever do. Venturing into the unknown…the path less taken. What’s going to happen?! People might ask you. Your response? I don’t know exactly. This is all new to me and it’s just something that I’ve got to do. All I know is what happens if I do nothing and that’s no longer acceptable.
It might be scary and it might be hard but if you’re feeling the least bit overwhelmed at the thought of making a major life change just remember that it’s as simple as being honest with yourself, making a plan and then taking action. That’s it. It is my belief that deep down we all know what is right for us. We always have. It’s just that at some point along our journey we got discouraged and in the name of practicality we made a compromise and went the safer route. That’s ok too. There are many paths that will ultimately lead us to our destination and as they say it really isn’t about the destination but the journey that gets us there. The only thing that truly matters is taking that first step. The rest is easy.