Thank you for being here.
No, really. Thank you!
I am extremely grateful to have this opportunity to connect with you, wherever you are in the world. Some of you have been readers of my newsletter for 8 or 9 years. Some of you are brand new (welcome!). I am honored to share some space, ideas, and stories with you.
As you’ll often hear me say, I don’t take this connection of ours lightly; it’s not something that I take for granted.
I always intend to honor your attention span and any energy that you expend reading anything that I write or create or share with you.
And yet, I also completely understand if you decide to reclaim some space by unsubscribing from my newsletter or disconnecting from my work, whether it’s temporary or permanent. I don’t expect anyone — a visitor, a reader, a client — to walk with me forever.
I’m just grateful that our paths have crossed for this time.
And, as we all know, all paths that cross eventually uncross, too. That’s life!
I trust you to do what is best for you, no questions asked, and no explanations needed.
But the trust that I have in you, I don’t expect in return: I mean to earn your trust in return, and to continually earn it, as I hope I have, week after week, month after month, and year after year, over the last 12 years.
Today, and since it’s been a while, I’d like to properly reintroduce myself to you by sharing my story with you below. This is how we have ended up connecting with one another today.
And, in exchange?
I’d love to invite you to introduce (or reintroduce) yourself to me by sharing a little slice of your story of how we have come to connect, from your point of view.
At the end of this email, you can follow a link to record a short video or audio reply on your phone and send it to me.
That’s way more personal than email, right?
I would simply love to get to know you a little better and what you’re working on, problem-solving, creating, exploring, reflecting on, or self-storying these days.
I’ll reply, in turn, with a short video response to each story I receive so that I can thank you and say hello.
Simply put my friend: I write for you, without expectation of return. And yet, I would love the chance to meet you for the first time — or, if we’ve met before, to meet you “anew,” to meet you again, to meet you through a short snapshot of where you are in the story of this moment time.
So please enjoy this story, and please take me up on my offer — follow the link below and send me a message!
Without further ado, here’s my side of the story of how we’ve come to connect.
1. HOW WE GOT HERE
I was born in 1986 to an attorney and a stenographer in Providence, Rhode Island, and attended small, private, crazy-expensive college prep school just a handful of miles from the 4,000 square foot suburban home in which my two younger siblings and I grew up.
Knowing nothing but upper-middle-class peace and privilege for most of my life, it was a global and historic event that, despite affecting me only indirectly, left a lasting and formative impression on my development in young adulthood.
On a Tuesday morning in September 2001, I watched with horror as the World Trade Center towers crumbled to the ground, live on television. I was 15.
I thought that I was seeing the world as I knew it fall as those towers fell.
The events of 9/11 had a mildly traumatic impact on me, but they also sparked my first calling: a calling of leadership. I didn’t know what leadership even meant back then, but I knew that I wanted to be a part of positive change and to use my life for the good… in a world that appeared to desperately need it.
For the next 7 or 8 years, I pursued possible career paths down avenues that I thought embodied the meaning of the word “leadership”: from the military to student journalism, student government into actual offices of local politics and federal public service.
I held office in student government for all 4 years in high school; captained my varsity lacrosse team; became a cadet in the Army ROTC program as a college freshman; became editor-in-chief of my college’s student newspaper, and interned and worked in a variety of offices that culminated at the White House Council on Environmental Quality in 2008 and working alongside a state officeholder and gubernatorial candidate in 2009.
But by the age of 23, I already felt like I was already failing to claim my calling.
2. ALIGNING INNER WORLD WITH OUTER WORLD
The spark of leadership — the one that dawned in me when I was younger and followed ever since 9/11 — was elusive to me. I had a taste of so many potential career paths and “lives that I could lead,” but with every outlet and opportunity, I struggled to find a perfect match for that deep, unrelenting calling that still surged forth from my soul.
Part of me was desperate to realize a true sense of purpose and meaning in my life — those were qualities that I felt pretty entitled to, given the very privileged upbringing that I had been granted and my lifelong education’s focus on “doing great things with your life.”
But part of it was guilt, too:
I felt like my very expensive and elite education — and my upper-middle-class life of privilege — all meant that I owed nothing but “excellence” in return on the investment my parents, family, and society had made in me.
Increasingly disillusioned to the world of politics and craving my autonomous direction — and, in addition to my crisis of identity, secretly dealing with mild depression and anxiety — I quit my job in 2009, started my blog, and began to pursue my dream of becoming a professional writer and author.
I hoped to someday share words with others in ways that would honor my calling, all those years before: being a part of positive change and making the world a better place…
…even if it meant that I had to pursue an entirely different avenue of leadership, and redefine what the word meant to me.
3. STARTING AGAIN… AND GROWING PAINS
The first year and a half of being a so-called “self-employed creative entrepreneur” was effectively spent pulling myself out of that mild depression by turning to writing for hours upon hours — all while feeling incredibly misunderstood by most around me for what I was trying to do and create with my life.
Thankfully, through the use of my personal journal and by intensely inquiring, examining, and reflecting upon my story, I began to stitch together my first true understanding of who I was as a person and what I thought, felt, and believed to be true.
I began writing publicly on my blog, too, which started to shape my personal philosophy “out loud.”
I unpacked cornerstone beliefs about what it means to be a leader in today’s world, while defining some spiritual concepts and beliefs for myself for the first time.
I was also, rather embarrassingly, in hot pursuit of a literary agent and book publishing deal at the time — what with all of my non-experience in the working world, non-experience as a writer, and non-experience as a teacher or thought leader to support the endeavor.
Suffice it to say, I hit every single branch of the privilege tree as I spread my wings and tried to take flight in those early years as a writer.
Thankfully, I didn’t get an agent or a book publishing deal — I wasn’t ready for either. My efforts yielded about 200 rejections and two polite conversations with agents who quickly realized just how unqualified and unready I was to write a book.
But one of those kind agents referred me to a blogger who I might look to emulate, she said.
That single hint gave me enough direction to tap into a much larger online community, and a true sense of possibility for how I might build a career as a creative and teacher in the years to follow.
4. FIRST STEPS
Through social media networking and attending various conferences for bloggers and personal development enthusiasts, I began to build a network of like-minded peers, purpose-driven creatives, fellow aspiring authors, and more, which meant I no longer felt lost and misunderstood, but rather, a sense of camaraderie with a cast of interesting, multi-passionate, multi-talented peers around the world.
I went on to self-publish my first three books in 2011, 2012, and 2013, respectively.
And finally, by 2012, I had cracked the entrepreneurial code that I had struggled with for years by developing a business-viable service offering: my first private membership online writers’ group, The Literati Writers, which sustained my entrepreneurial journey for the next few years — and put me into the space of learning how to be a coach and teacher, not just a writer.
Even though my journey began in pursuit of a different kind of calling — becoming a traditionally-published author and speaker — I had found another calling, this time as a coach and teacher.
I began to claim it as my own.
5. PIVOTING AS YOU GO
Over those early years, I had been trying to exclusively develop my professional skills and experience through the computer screen, which we certainly can do, but not very effectively, especially when we are in total isolation from real live human people.
I never had much workplace experience or life experience to help inform me of how I could become the best teacher, trainer, guide, and coach of others.
So my skills were really, really slow to develop and felt persistently lacking.
All of that began to change when I entered the yoga room.
After meandering between Boston, New York City, and Washington D.C. in my 20s — moving back and forth about 10(!) times after college, and failing to find a sense of “home” wherever I landed — by 2014, I knew I needed to decisively put roots down if I was ever to feel settled enough to build the life that I desired.
Sensing a growing community around a local yoga studio near where I grew up in Rhode Island — I had never felt a sense of community growing up there when I was younger — I decided to get an apartment and invest in a 200-hour yoga teacher training. I made some really important and deep friendships (many of which have endured to this day), and became a certified yoga teacher at that studio immediately upon graduation, six months later.
I threw myself into yoga teaching as an opportunity to practice being seen, develop my voice, acquire a series of new skillsets and experiences, and be equal parts “witness of” and “participant in” others’ personal growth, wellness, and healing journeys… in person, this time.
While I no longer teach or practice yoga today — I’m actually quite a vocal critic of certain aspects of the yoga industry and “yoga culture” now — yoga was an important outlet for my continued personal growth and professional development during the next four years.
Even more importantly, when I became a yoga teacher, I began to share space in a room with actual people: anywhere between 20 and 60 clients every day, week after week, for four years.
I rapidly grew as a teacher, speaker, writer, and coach.
6. ENTERING “THE DOJO”
Today, I refer back to the hundreds and hundreds of hours I spent teaching yoga classes from 2014 to 2018 as my time “in the dojo,” or, really intensely practicing, workshopping, developing, testing, and refining my understanding and experience around what it means to support others’ stories, experiences, preferences, learning, growth, and personal development.
During this time, I also began to travel from my home base in Rhode Island, visiting a few dozen new countries, usually all on my own, to explore the world and people and culture while stretching far outside of my comfort zones.
I self-published another couple of books in 2014 and 2016; developed a business partnership as a professional story coach with an international storytelling brand; spoke at conferences in Iceland and Berlin; hosted a yoga and writing retreat in Costa Rica, and journeyed as far as India for retreats as both a participant and as a co-host and guest teacher.
My life and career could have continued down this path for the foreseeable future.
And, from the outside looking in, it probably looked like I was really “making it.”
But by the autumn of 2016, I was starting to doubt my direction.
In the months and years that followed, a series of illusions that I had been living under — some, for as long as my entire life; others, for as long as just a few years — began to shatter and crumble.
The result was a period of my life that I have come to call my “dissolution song.”
When I write to you next with Part Two of this story, I will share my dissolution song, what it spelled for me, and how it’s all connected to where we are going together today.
YOUR TURN: PLEASE, INTRODUCE YOURSELF!
Now that you’ve indulged me in Part One of my reintroduction story today, I want to get to know you better!
I’m not expecting a full-blown soliloquy like I just presented above: I’m simply asking you to record a short video or audio clip for me using the link below.
Please kindly share a few-sentence snapshot of who you are, where you’re living, what you’re working on these days, and what story you’ve been living lately.
But if you want to go further? Please do! I’d also love to know…
- How is it that we’ve come to connect?
- How did you find me and my work?
- Why do you read these newsletters?
I’d love to get to know you a little better.
I’d love to meet you for the very first time — or, if we’ve known each other for a while, to meet you again, exactly where you are, as you are, here and now, today.
Thank you for sharing your story — and this space — with me.
Until next time, shine on,