Be a good girl. Smile. Don’t cry when you skin your knee. Share your toys. Go to school. Get good grades. Make plenty of friends. Stand up straight, the ugliest thing in the world is a tall girl who slouches. Be young, thin, and the socially accepted version of pretty – oh, and do that FOREVER. Be smart, but not intimidatingly so. Be confident, but remember too much pride is a character flaw. Graduate with honors. Get a good job. Turn that into a great career. Find a partner. Get married. Have 2.5 adorable, well-behaved children. Juggle a Pinterest-worthy sparkling clean household and a fabulous career. Are you still young, thin, and pretty? Move up the career ladder. Get ever-increasingly larger cars, homes, and vacations, but still have plenty of money in the bank. Are you still smiling?…
I was riding the train this morning, listening to my audio book and watching the Schuylkill River pass by, when my eyes focused on a billboard.
Courage to Become.
The words hit me in the gut. From birth, society lays out (sometimes silently, sometimes on a megaphone) a myriad of rules we’re supposed to follow. These rules vary from place to place, culture to culture, family to family, but none of us are free from them. People are ostracized and even killed for trying to be their authentic selves and live outside these bounds.
And for so many years, and like so many others, I’ve tried to adhere to these guidelines. Stand up straight. Be successful. Be nice. Committed. Take care of people and projects in my family and at work…but that can often lead to self-care coming last, and what we truly want for ourselves being delayed, or even going by the wayside. But how can you help others to drink when your cup is empty? You can’t, not forever.
So here I am, sitting on an early morning commuter train to Philadelphia, staring back at a sign that makes me think about the courage it took to apply for something I truly wanted. To stand up, and step out of work for 6 months, in order to focus on something completely different. An opportunity to have my own time of deep reflection and change, of commitment to my community. A time of learning, growth, and healing.
Here I am. Becoming.
This is a time of nerves, and excitement, and uncomfortableness, and growth, and MESS. The beautiful, awful, gorgeous, utterly worth-it mess of life. The untidiness that makes you snort laugh while you realize you’re on the right track. I have started to strip away the ‘rules’; rid myself of the full body girdle which kept me upright and firmly rooted in a version of my life I was supposed to want. I have changed trains, at least temporarily, in order to arrive at a version of my life that is truly mine. And don’t get me wrong, I love where I have come from, but I am IN love with this experience and what it is teaching me about service, life, and who I am.
Life is short, and if there’s a brass ring you’re eyeing, GO FOR IT. At the end, humans so often regret what they didn’t do, rather than what they did. There were 100 good reasons I should never have applied for PULSE, or been ‘selfish’ enough to actually go, but here I am.
I will return to GSK and my team in 4 months and 1 week, but I will not be the same person. I will stand up straighter because I have reminded myself of my own strength. I will smile genuinely because of the renewed energy and commitment within me. This PULSE experience is so many things, but one of them is the gift of owning your own courage to become…