I attended the Blogher conference this weekend where the Keynote speaker was Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook. During her panel she asked the audience, “What would you do if you were not afraid?” This question resonated with me and I found myself writing down goals which have been put on hold due to fear. I left the session more inspired than ever.
Why do people, particularly women, hold themselves back? Are we afraid of failure? Afraid people will think we’re stupid? Do we feel we’re not deserving? For me, the answer is yes to all the above. In my professional career I have struggled with each of these fears often, and I am certian they have held me back. In hindsight, there were many times I should have stuck up for myself or demanded things I knew I deserved. But what’s more frustrating – this is no ones fault but my own.
As a way to inspire myself I began to reflect on those times I did face fear head on, took that leap of faith, and came out stronger on the other side. Reflection has always given me strength when facing adversity. I often tell myself: hell, if I pulled that sh*t off, I got this! Also, sharing your stories, just like Sheryl Sandberg did, only encourages and inspires others. Here is one of my stories I would like to share with you:
How did a Texas girl end up in Chicago?
In 2004, I was living in San Antonio, Texas. I had essentially grown up there. I had recently graduated college after almost seven years of searching for ways to pay for each semester myself. This was a very proud moment for me, yet I still was not happy. There wasn’t much opportunity career wise and I was in and out of horrible relationships. I was in a city that didn’t suit me, but I stayed because I was scared. It was all I really knew. Where would I go? How would I get there? I am not strong enough to move by myself. My dream was to move to Chicago after visiting a friend who had recently moved there. During my first visit, I immediately fell in love. I remember thinking: dreams happen here. I also remember seeing very attractive men on every street corner. This was a single girls play land!
Once I returned home, the excitement wore off and the fear set back in. I can’t afford it there. I only know one person. How could I make it in that big city? All my friends in Texas thought I was crazy too, and I am sure in the back of their minds they thought the same exact thing as I did: she will never do it.
Later that summer my lease had run its course and I was about to sign another one. A week before signing, my roommate told me she was moving in with her boyfriend. There I was, about to be homeless. I didn’t have enough money saved to pay all the deposits for a new place by myself, and I didn’t have any other roommate options. At the time I felt helpless, scared and alone. I was in my mid-twenties and couldn’t support myself, couldn’t find a roommate, couldn’t find a job with a decent salary, and couldn’t find a nice man to date.
Two days later, my friend in Chicago had notified me about a potential opportunity. She warned me it may not be the best, however it would get me to Chicago. This was my chance. It was now or never. Before thinking anything through, I turned in my notice at work. In the next two weeks I sold everything I owned in my apartment. If it didn’t fit in my car, it wasn’t coming. The money I made selling off all my belongings was the only money I had to get me to Chicago.
When the day arrived and my car was packed, I remember looking in my rear view mirror and I started crying. This was it, the only things I had left to my name were my clothes, a small television and my Chihuahua, Rocco. Was I making the right decision? For the first time in my life, I knew that even if it was the wrong decision, I was going to make it work. I had to, I had no choice.
I got on the road and headed to Dallas so I could stop and see my mother and sister. My mother, of course, was nervous and didn’t want me to go, however she knew at that point there was no stopping me. Just before I left, my sister looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I’m so proud of you. I would not have the courage to do this. I know you are going to be fine, and if anyone can make it, it’s you.” In my heart, I knew she was right.
Once I got to Chicago, I lived at a hotel in the suburbs I was working at for three months. My friend was more than generous by letting me stay on her couch on the weekends, so I could be in the city and start planning my life. Truth be told, the first year was very difficult. A week didn’t go by I wasn’t wanting to throw in the towel and head back home. I was homesick, people made fun of me for saying “y’all”, and I was broke. There were several months I had to hide my car in different neighborhoods so Tyrone from GMAC didn’t come repossess it. Many bills were paid late and often, but I stuck it out. If anything, my pride was what kept me from going home. I didn’t want to be the girl who had to come back with her tail between her legs.
Another six months went by and I met Adam, my now husband. Being broke is much better when you have someone to be broke with. He encouraged me and promised one day, things would be better. And they were. Shortly after that, I landed a job at a top luxury hotel in the city, and best of all, Adam asked me to marry him.
If I would have let fear hold me back that day in 2004, I would not be here. Anytime someone asks me if I ever thought I would be where I am today I always respond, “NO fu**ing way!”
This story may seem like no big deal to some. You may even know people who do this type of thing everyday. The point is, I thought I couldn’t do it and I proved myself wrong. I use this story to give me strength, and share it in hopes it will inspire others. We all have a story to tell, we’re not born with the answers, so I encourage you to start sharing yours.
“There are two ways to face fear. Say f**k it and run, or face it and recover.” – LeanIn.Org