When I was young, I wanted three things when I grew up: 1) to own a store, 2) to be a teacher, and 3) to be an “executive”.
I opened a store selling crafts to my family at age 8. I would create works of art (honestly, they weren’t all that good), add price tags, and display them as a real store would. I set up a desk with a plastic cash register, a calculator, and a receipt booklet. Then I would invite my parents and sister to “shop.” I loved the whole experience of it. It wasn’t about making money, it was about creating something of value and offering it for the benefit of others.
In school, I was constantly tutoring and helping out my classmates. I became friends with the “tough guy” in school, who struggled academically. We got along really well, despite completely different personalities and interests. I was so invested in his scholarly success that I actually made a chart that would reward him with stickers when he completed his homework correctly. I was 10.
When I was about 12, all I wanted for Christmas was office supplies. The wooden pencil holder, desk drawer organizer, stapler and hole punch I received from my parents was outstanding! I rearranged my bedroom furniture so that my desk was close to the door, so that people had to stop at the “reception” before coming the rest of the way in.
When I look back now, I can clearly see how focused and determined I was to live my dreams of being an executive, teacher, and a shop owner. Not only did I have these dreams, I actually took real, concrete steps to create them as a reality in my life.
Enter the “Real World”
As I entered high school, my focus switched to academics, my afterschool job, and all the pressures that go along with trying to fit in. By the time I got to university, all I could focus on were chemical formulas, calculations, and trying not to blow anything up during science labs. Gone was the time when I could be creatively authentic with my goals and dreams.
In 2004, I began a Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology at the University of Waterloo (Ontario, Canada). By that time, I thought that my best plan was to get a PhD so that I could teach at the university. Research and lecturing was to be my life.
I allowed myself to be pressured into beginning my Master’s program in April, less than one week after my final undergrad exam, and despite my upcoming wedding that June. Long hours, little social contact, an unforgiving mentor, and preparing for marriage led to the development of an anxiety disorder, which further developed into depression.
Shortly after that, my long-term digestive issues took a turn for the worse, which led to a cancer scare.
One day, as I was driving to the lab, the song “These Days” by the band Powderfinger came on the radio. As I listened to the lyrics (you can find them here), I was moved into another state of awareness. It was as if the song was being sung just for me. For the first time, I took a good look at my life and realized I was miserable. I felt physically, mentally, and emotionally dead – far from the magical child of my youth who saw a world of possibility in every moment.
I made the tough decision to leave the Master’s Program after 6 months, just a few weeks after learning that I had won on Ontario Graduate Scholarship that would fund my education for the entire two years of my Master’s Degree.
Reclaiming Authenticity (The REAL Real World)
Fast forward 11 years (almost to the day!), and I am once again living the dreams I had as a young child. Today, I own a small Angel Boutique and online store, I am a coach and teach many workshops, and I have discovered that being an entrepreneur is way cooler than being an executive!
There have been many, many ups and downs along the way. Over the next few weeks, I will share with you some of the powerful lessons that I have learned that help me continue to live a life of meaning and purpose.
Next week’s blog: Beware the “Guru Syndrome”