You’ve heard me say this before (so much that you're probably exhausted of it), but for the purposes of this blog post, it’s worth repeating: I quit my job in July of 2016. I quit it for more reasons than I can enumerate here, but mostly because it was leading me farther and farther away from who I wanted to be as a person. I quit even though I was scared about what came next, and had a lot of money and time invested.
I have never once regretted this decision.
Less than 90 days later, I got married to my husband. Our relationship is the opposite of my old career: in it, I have never felt MORE like myself. But this goes beyond me feeling loved for who I am; I also feel free to become who I want to become. This, in turn, makes me feel whole — fully ‘at home’. The inevitable bad days feel like opportunities for us to learn and grow.
I’m so, so proud of us.
Then suddenly, in October of 2016, all went quiet. There was no toxic job to occupy my time. There was no wedding to plan. There was, however, a husband who’d recently pursued his own dreams, who wanted me to spend the next few years (kid-free) setting up my next 30. There was space to do ANYTHING I WANTED. But having the freedom to pursue my dreams didn’t mean I had direction. I was lost. What did I want my legacy to be? Devoted wife and co-head of our family, yes. Those are easy. Beyond that, though, I knew next to nothing.
What WAS my life’s purpose? Did I even have a ‘calling’?
I started asking myself these questions in earnest in the spring of 2013, but for three years, life intervened. In the fall of 2016, I began rereading the old books I’d bought on the subject, and buying new ones that I thought might inspire. I started paying attention to what I paid attention to, noticing what doors opened and identifying what about me other people gravitated to. I hung up post-it notes in the office of all the things I felt drawn to. I stared at them for weeks on end. After reading them so many times that I could recite them — coffee, a better world, food, peace, women, travel, love and stories — I figured it out while drinking coffee with my husband one morning: my life’s purpose is to be a matriarch, a refuge for other women.
It took another few months to realize I’d already been filling this role. Since I left my job, I’ve spent hundreds of hours counseling female friends — offering love, support, assistance. These women have gotten unglamorous DUIs, and finally decided to deal with the issues that led them there; been fired from jobs they hated but needed to provide for young children; had mini-breakdowns in other countries due to illnesses and infections; been beaten and almost killed by deadbeat husbands; reached a breaking point, because they’re 26 years old and responsible for the care of a dying father who never really fit that description; needed help with scholarship applications; had to confront cheating husbands; lost themselves while taking care of 4 small children; lost beloved parents; felt a lack of enthusiasm towards their ministries; and the list goes on and on.
I started to imagine myself The Wise Old Woman in a Disney movie: not the perfect looking princess, but the honest and empathic guide who helps said princess on her journey, who’s willing to help really anybody who makes the trek up to the snow-covered cottage at the top of the hill. I don’t offer advice unsolicited, in other words, and I’m not sure I help all the time. Sometimes I’m sure I learn more than they do. But I always try — sharing both my experiences and those of other women with this self-selected tribe. I make cups of tea, loan books, send little gifts, regularly check in.
It is the holiest work I’ve ever done.
Yet the calling isn’t just to be a matriarch; it’s to be a matriarch AND storyteller. These two things go hand-in-hand. Storytelling is an art, and one I’ve far from mastered, but I’ve devoted myself to the pursuit of getting better because this is the way to expand the tribe, make a bigger impact. Supporting women one-on-one is fulfilling, but not a full-time job. Some days I take 4 phone calls; some times I don’t get a call for a week. So, I started this blog, to share the occasional lesson learned or thought process. I share poetry and snippets of encouragement on Instagram, and I engage with the world about much less consequential things via Twitter. I’m working hard on my first book.
But my labor of love has been and will continue to be the Compelling Women podcast. The idea for it came to me on our honeymoon, and I ran it by the Hubs. He loved it. (It’s so simple!) This led to me spending a full 90 days obsessing over the name. Then I commissioned a logo, and lined up interviewees. I secured theme music. I sat down with those women, and listened to them tell their stories. I hired an editor / producer, who is himself a teller of stories. I invested money from my few gigs doing resume writing and event planning, which got this off the ground financially. I reached out regularly to the women, to introduce them to each other and explain that delays are the result of physical limitations, not a lack of passion.
On Friday, I sent my producer the first interview and the accompanying narration. I sent requested format and edits, too. We’ll tweak from there. The hope is that it will be published on February 1st. My publishing timeline has shifted (it’s starting three months later than planned, and episodes won’t be released every two weeks, but once a month), though this was arbitrary to begin with. A wiser me would’ve given myself more time and less pressure at the outset, but I’m a work in progress. What matters is that soon anyone will be able to hear the stories of these ordinary yet extraordinary women. I don’t imagine the podcast will garner a big audience, but that’s okay: I never intended to be famous. I intended to reach a few more women.
It’s important to note that the thing I’ve felt most ashamed of in my life — my authenticity — has led me to this place, and it’s a central requirement for fulfilling my life’s purpose. That’s because women don’t and won’t seek comfort or assistance from someone who isn’t authentic. In order to support them, I have to have their best interests in mind. They have to know I'm genuine.
I’m doing what I’m meant to do. Finally. I think that’s cause for celebration.
Here’s hoping you enjoy listening to these stories as much as I did. It’s been the most humbling and rewarding experience of my life.