When you live in integrity and stand in your truth,
the Universe opens doors for you and people notice.
“All my life I had to fight….”
When I heard Oprah Winfrey deliver that speech as Sophia in The Color Purple, I choked. I understood what she meant firsthand. It might not have been exactly like that, but she spoke to me in so many ways. For so long, I’d felt like my life was a struggle. I’d felt beat down, beat up and worn out. It didn’t make any sense how much fighting I was always having to do. And what’s worse, in my own house.
See, there’s something you should know about me and people like me and the people around people like me. I’m a dreamer. I dream big. And because I believe in my dreams, I’m passionate and . Growing up where I did, I had to learn to fight in defense of those dreams…sometimes literally.
You see, hurt people hurt people. Lack, discord and mediocrity are generational ailments. People who aren’t living their best lives, and have likely never seen anyone else do it, are at a genuine loss for how to encourage, uplift and inspire. Instead, they’re like crab in a barrel — when they see that one of them is about to get out, they latch on, bear down and pull them back into the pit. I had to learn early how to protect myself and my dreams, my beliefs and investments. Quite frankly, I’m still learning.
To this day, I am still creating my best life…still working to manifest the visions and creations I’d dreamt up as a kid. Why? Because I never saw anyone around me do it. But fortunately, I was exposed to the information. I didn’t experience it personally, but I saw people who worked in fields they loved, made enough money to sustain themselves and still had time for their families.
It took me nearly twenty years, but when I finally decided to stop living in fear, when I opted to stop running on autopilot, wake up and chase my dreams, something incredible happened: Those same people who were once like crabs in a barrell suddenly became like students in a classroom. How are you doing that? How did that happen? Where did you learn that? How can I do that?
See, when you live in integrity and stand in your truth, the Universe opens doors for you and people notice. While the people are not your main objective, we do live in an interdependent, relational world, so their acknowledgement and support is an indispensable byproduct of you living out your truth — and one of the greatest resources you can have along your journey.
One of the greatest advocates I have on my side now is my mother. Growing up, my mother supported me — but only so long as it met her requirements. This is in no way a slight against my mom. I know she loved me. She worked three and a half jobs at all times, while going to school part-time. She would always manage to find money for summer camp, Disney World and Busch Gardens so my brother and I could have new and interesting experiences. She took us to museums, Broadway plays, the aquarium, the planetarium and the zoo. When the time came for me to apply to college, she deferred to her friends about financial aid, application fee waivers and SAT score cancellation (in the event I didn’t like what I’d gotten).
My mother constantly stretched herself in attempts to give my brother and I experiences outside the norm for our neighborhood (and our tax bracket). She wanted us to have the best in life, and she’d been taught that to get it one went to college, got a good job that paid well and lived happily ever after. And this didn’t mean just any job — it would have to be something practical like a doctor, lawyer, or teacher. People who went to school for things like performing arts, creative writing or philosophy were wasting their time and their parents’ money. Interestingly enough, this was o ingrained in me after a while, that I believed I could put my dreams on hold and pick them back up later in life…you know, after I’d made enough money doing something practical. (You can imagine how that worked out).
Looking back it makes perfect sense to me why my mother wanted me to relinquish dreams of being an artisan; that life is so encumbered with hardship and scarcity. Many artists live hand to mouth for YEARS before they see any sign of consistency…and even then it isn’t always that money is lucrative — or sufficient. Yet and still, they stick with it; they persevere and they thrive. For many of us, there is a calling to something greater. Our work — our artistry — is an expression of something far more than lines on a page, or scenes on a stage. There is something cathartic, cleansing and redeeming about the work we do. I felt that all those years ago and wish I’d had the courage (and the language) back then to say “This is what I’m doing.”
Well, it’s a few decades after the fact, but here I am…saying it. And you know what? Mama say. Mama saw. Mama co-signed. Once I stood in my truth and lived the life I’d been nudged to live all those years ago, things started falling into place. Past relationships were mended, old wounds were salved, future opportunities opened up. In fact, my mom is so on-board with my new path that she has even agreed to relocate and help me care for my little one while I’m enrolled in graduate school to pursue script/screenwriting. She has been my foremost frontrunner, warding off the naysayers, killjoys and saboteurs. She has been praying for me and with me throughout this whole thing.
And how do I know she’s really on-board? We had a little “situation” with my financial award package. It was cut IN HALF. I have less a month before the start of the semester and my surplus monies for relocation, housing, childcare, and the like are utterly gone. I began to wonder if I should throw in the towel, if I was headed down the wrong path, if I’d misunderstood the signs and misread those internal cues that’d set me on this path. I told my mother — who has been known to easily become stressed…and overly excited — said, very calmly, “We keep going. This is no mistake. I feel led to do this. It’s right. We keep going. OK?” Like I’m going to say “no” behind that rouser. I wish I could tell you that it all worked out…but I’m still in the throes of it all. As one of my mentors would say, I’m “putting legs to my prayers”, negotiating with the school, trying to raise outside funds as best I can, and continuing to expect the best.
I say all that to encourage those of you out there who are feeling that nudge toward something else — something greater. Many of you have put off something at some point, whether it is to appease another person or to assure your own security. Perhaps you thought you’d only be on that job for a few years before you ventured out on your own and now a decade later, you’ve grown accustomed to a certain lifestyle and don’t know how to leave. Maybe you thought you would go back to school after the baby started kindergarten, but here you are three kids later and school is still not on the horizon. Perhaps you’ve been putting off starting your own business or non-profit. Maybe you’re anxious about switching careers and starting over.
The truth is, the path will be different for everyone, but the outcome is always the same: when you live your best life — when you walk in integrity and stand in your truth, the Universe opens up to you and people take notice. Live your dream. Go for it. Transform your haters into celebrators and participators. Be their biggest inspirator and don’t get mad when you see imitators. Do what you are called to do. Do what you love. Follow your heart until you find your freedom.
I look forward to seeing you there!
PS – Here’s a little Friday Fun. The songs that inspired this title: