I woke up on day two with a rejuvenated confidence. I felt good. Like really, really good. I'd spent the first day soaking up all the good ju-ju of people around me and it was impossible not to let that feeling soak in a little bit. There was an extra pep in my step. I even put on the cute little navy floral dress that I'd brought—the one I never thought I'd actually wear. Am I the only one that packs something cute that I bought because I love but was never sure if I'd have the courage to wear??) I wanted to look oh-so-adorable among all these fabulous women and day one had given me some oomph to feel like I could hang with the crowd.
When I got to the venue the ladies were all abuzz again. Feeding off of each others' energy, making new friends, laughing and celebrating the general collective feeling of awesomeness that comes when you put hundreds of women together in a room. I found my friends again in the sea of people and we sat in a cluster toward the front to be a little closer to the action. The event kicked off with a spoken word piece written by the MC and had some wonderful choreographed dance to it. Incredibly powerful and an insanely inspiring way to start.
The speakers today were equally as inspiring including Alexis Jones, author, activist and speaker and a panel on creativity and fear which included folks from Thoughtfully Magazine, YouTube and Rebel.com. One of my favorites speakers of the day was Elle Luna, a painter, designer and author spoke to us about the balance of work and life. She asked questions that made you think, made you really dig deep and investigate why you do what you do. She made statement like, "What if your entire life becomes the work?" and "What if it's less about making art and is more about becoming art?" She challenged us to think about the reasons we do the things that we do. Her book, The crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion is a MUST read. It states something so incredibly transparent but something that most of us never stop to analze in our lives. Should is from the outside—it's agendas, expectations, to-dos, things that are put upon you, things that tell you who you should be. The must is who you are. The must is what you're called to do. When you examine your "shoulds" you can start to discover how to escape them. This was homework I 100% intended to do.
Next up, Krystia Masciale, a brand strategist at Big Deal Branding. This lady was intense and truthfully, she scared me a little bit. It was more in the If-I-were-to-be-vulnerable-with-her-she'd-give-me-a-swift-kick-in-the-pants-to-set-me-straight kind of way. That's terrifying, but also something that's needed sometimes...especially when you're examining what is and isn't working in your life and your business. She was adamant about creating and being a brand that owns it, about never becoming a knock-off, about owning who you are. Krystia walked us through an exercise of creating core values like honesty, collaboration, truth, generosity, exploration, travel, empathy, courage. Then you define what these words mean to you which lets you also start to define your boundaries. For example: If you write down the sentence "I wish clients would just let me do my job," then you may realize that trust is one of your core values. Breaking these down will open you up to relationships and let you set boundaries to get the kind of work that you want.
image by caca santoro
What came after Krystia was so beautiful. Tim Harris, of Tim's Place in New Mexico, came running up to the stage high-fiving all the people along the aisles, jumping and bounding with such an insane amount of energy and love you couldn't help but smile. Born in 1986 with Down Syndrome, Tim’s life has been defined by exceeding expectations and inspiring those around him. Tim’s Place opened its doors in Albuquerque, New Mexico as one of the first and only restaurants to be owned by a man with Down syndrome. Tim’s Place is open daily, serving breakfast, lunch, and hugs. To this day, Tim has given out more than 60,000 hugs and has received wishes from over 38 countries. Tim has also launched a powerful speaking career, travelling across the country telling his story and inspiring all those who cross his path. We were fortunate enough to be one of the lucky groups to hear him speak. His energy, his passion for life, his desire to change the world one hug at a time can inspire anyone to keep going and push through their adversity. He is a wonderful human being, defying odds and giving hope and encouragement to so many in the world. I feel very lucky that I got to experience his happy spirit.
images by caca santoro
After all the speakers had gone we broke into groups to work through some thought-provoking questions. I rounded out the little group we'd established the night before and even though we'd chatted about what we did and a few problems we were having, this was a chance to get down into it all and share what we were hoping to accomplish. The prompts encouraged us to dream big, to aim high, to believe that we deserved to do what were are called to do and inspire us to take the chance on doing them. It was encouraging to say the things I'd always dreamed of doing out loud and have others be supportive and excited about it. I thought later about why I hold on so tightly to those things; why I don't share them out loud with people. Is it a fear of being held accountable? Is it a fear of being embarrassed, rejected, told that I'm downright crazy? I realized the answer was yes. Yes to all of those. It's all rooted in fear, but in that space with those women I felt brave enough to speak it out loud. And damn, did it feel good. Really, really good.
At the end of a long day of inspiration, learning and connecting my new friends and I decided to keep the fun going. We all gathered together and headed to Bottega Louie, an A-mazing Italian restaurant with the absolute BEST macarons ever! Seriously, if you're in LA go there and if you're not go there someday. This night, though, you guys...I can't even tell you what this night meant to me. Five of us sat together and ate and drank cocktails and talked about the last two days we'd spent together. We talked about what we liked about the conference, what we didn't, what we took away from it all. There was talk of travel and family and stories of the lives we'd lived already and planned to live after this weekend. These women gave me something that I couldn't have found anywhere else. I had stumbled into a connection that was so much better than a handshake and a business card exchange. This was genuine and meaningful and uplifting. This was what my soul needed at that moment. I owe these women a great deal of gratitude because what I took away from our short time together was more invaluable than any lesson I'd learned during the day. Not to discount everything I'd soaked up from the speakers and event, but I knew these connections would carry me a long, long way after I was home and back in reality. After hours of bonding we exchanged instagram accounts and phone numbers and said goodbye to one another. It was truly a night to remember.
This statement is so incredibly true. When you're swimming in restlessness, doubt and a horrible feeling of being lost often times you don't feel like anything is going to work out. There is no escape, there is no way out, there is no respite, there is no way things can possibly change. But after this weekend I knew within my heart of hearts that they can change. I have seen proof in overwhelming numbers that if you let yourself free of the rules and the what-ifs and I-could-nevers you can achieve something. I know now that life goes on after change. I can escape. I can keep trudging to push through and find the light at the end of the tunnel. Meeting and learning about so many other people who were once in the same place that I currently has given me the hope that I can do the same. I—no, WE—just need to remember that no one will do the work for us. We have to trust in the fact that things will work out. We have to believe that we can make things happen, that we DESERVE to make them happen. And then we have to take the leap. We have to close our eyes and trust that we will not let ourselves fall.
So, friend, please know that if you are in a place like I am (stuck, frustrated, seeking something better) that I am cheering you on. I believe you can make whatever thing in your head that you've been choking down because you feel like you can't or shouldn't or aren't capable of happen, and happen big. There are people out there just like you, just like me, who have taken the leap and survived. I am sending you all the good vibes and ju-ju that I can possibly muster and hoping that if I put it out into the world, you might be inspired to finally take a chance on yourself.
XO - From me to you!