I'll never forget one of the most difficult days of my life. I remember thinking to myself, "Wow, today I grew up." At 28, it had stung worse than anything I had ever experienced: I had broken my brother's heart -- my big brother, who was my lifelong hero.
That day I had gone into the office that we shared as business partners and spontaneously closed the doors. We had a national training company and it had become blaringly obvious that we were no longer on the same page and had different visions for our company.
Without getting into dirty details I knew no matter how hard it was, I had to change my life. I picked up the phone and bravely called the landlord to cancel our lease. I then walked upstairs and told two employees, who happened to be my brother's best friends, that this would be their last day. While it seems cruel, the truth was expenses were out of control and we were flat broke.
I walked into the sales office and calmly said, "We are shutting down our business today." The person I was talking to happened to be my mother. This was a nightmare. Next, I called my brother who was on a business trip to let him know what I had done. It was the most difficult conversation of my life. If I had waited until he came home I would have never had the courage to follow through. I can feel the emotion well up in my belly as if it were yesterday -- it was over 15 years ago.
That random fall day I walked away from a company I had spent five years of my life building. Worst of all -- I was no longer my brother's little sister -- I had grown up. The youngest of three, I had never stood up for myself in this capacity before. I was the family peace maker -- always trying to get my brother to talk to my mom, my dad to talk to my brother and my brothers to talk to one another. To put it simply, I put everyone's needs before my own. This is what a girl does right?
So I took my mom with me and started over. In reflection It was one of the best decisions of my life and would ultimately lead me to my wildest dreams, on my own terms.
Growing up isn't always easy and standing up for yourself and your beliefs is even harder. As much as I want it, my brother and I will never be the same and that breaks my heart. That day I found the courage to use my voice. As a result I began to listen to my intuition and gut instincts -- to bravely act on them without fear of what others might think, emotions of guilt or fear of consequence.
As hard as it is to endure life's most difficult lessons, with each one comes increased wisdom. Next comes confidence. Then purpose. Over the years I've used I used this newfound wisdom, confidence and purpose many times -- in particular as a daughter. I'm in an interfaith marriage -- As a Christian who married a Jew you can only imagine the family drama. When we had kids it got incredibly difficult and everyone had an opinion until I turned inward, listened for the voice of God -- not the people around me, and heard "Choose love." That day Dave and I committed to teaching both our religions to our children -- My daughter Paris calls herself a Chris-Jew and it's taught me incredible religious tolerance.
As a mom who went never left Ohio as a child, it was important to show my kids the world. When Paris was four and Noah two I wanted to take them to Paris, France. People told me I was crazy, that my kids were too young, they wouldn't remember anything, or appreciate what they were seeing. I was encouraged to go when my kids were "older." Looking back, I'm so glad I didn't listen to others, but myself. Since then we've taken Paris and Noah back three times and even lived in Paris for a month. My daughter speaks French, loves art (and is still a bit confused over the awe with the Mona Lisa) and both kids make friends wherever they go; in any language.
As a wife, I used my voice to drown out the sounds of people who asked how I could possibly leave my children two weeks at a time to vacation with Dave or how I make him a priority over my kids by going on weekly date nights (oftentimes two a week) and weekend getaways. In my gut I always knew it was the right thing to do. The product of divorced parents, I want to beat the odds. The best part is my kids now say, "Mommy and daddy are going on vacation to keep their marriage strong." or "Mommy and daddy go on dates to stay in love." We are their role models, they get it and understand at nine and eleven that a great life takes work.
Odds are there is something you need to do, a conversation you've been putting off or a decision you need to make. Here are three things to remember from someone whose been there:
1. Trust your gut: There is nothing more powerful than intuition. You want answers? Stop asking everyone else for them and tune inward.
2. Be brave: Probably the hardest part of all because as women, we have been taught to be seen and not heard, to accommodate others and always be polite. There comes a time when a woman must do what she needs to do for herself.
3. Don't look back: It does no good to dwell on whether or not you made the right decision. Keep your focus on what it is you want and keep moving forward. If you listened to your instincts my dear -- everything is going to be A okay.
I can't help but think how different my life might be if I had not trusted my gut, been brave and kept my eyes on the future. The day I grew up will forever haunt me but I also owe a debt of gratitude to that brave girl who took a stand for the life I'm now living. Change can be scary but I'll tell you what I tell myself every day, "Just take the first step." Oh -- and keep walking.