I HAD NO IDEA WHAT TO DO.
I had graduated from law school a couple of years before, worked unhappily as a lawyer, and was living in New York City, desperately trying to figure out what to do with my life.
I had plenty of confidence. I knew I could do anything, I just didn’t know what it was.
And I wanted someone, ANYONE, to tell me what I should do.
Internet businesses were exploding, tons of money was being made, and everyone I knew worked at Goldman Sachs.
So, I started thinking, you know, that’s what I should do. I should work at Goldman Sachs and make buckets of money.
EVERYONE ELSE WANTED IT, I CLEARLY SHOULD AS WELL.
If you knew me, you would know what a truly crazy idea this was. But I was that turned around.
In the middle of my muddle, the Thanksgiving holiday cropped up. My mother, a Spanish teacher, had followed her heart to Ecuador a few years earlier and lived there most of the year, teaching English in an indigenous school in the Andes. So I flew down to Quito to spend the week with her.
And, all at once, EVERYTHING about it spoke to me: the people, the language, the music, the dancing, the way they lived every single day.
I absolutely loved it. It called to me.
It was ME, it was really, truly my own.
I knew it was risky. I knew it wasn’t what I was supposed to do.
BUT, I KNEW I HAD TO FOLLOW IT.
I had no idea what this would do to my “career.”
I thought I could try teaching or writing. At the very least, I could improve my Spanish.
And, somewhere, deep inside, at the back of my mind, was the thought that this would allow me to spend some time with my mother. We hadn’t lived anywhere near each other in over a decade. And I missed her.
So, I quit my job, abandoned my apartment, bade farewell to my friends and my life in New York. And moved to Ecuador.
In May, my mother suffered a massive heart attack. And died.
She was my mother; I was not actually aware that she was capable of dying.
She was fifty-eight, in excellent health, incredibly vibrant and alive. Until she wasn’t.
She was absolutely here. And then absolutely gone.
I took over teaching her classes in Peguche and spent another two months finishing up the school year. And, told them that, yes, I would come back for another year to oversee the English program.
I spent the next year living in Ecuador teaching ESL, working furiously on creating a school wide show of plays and songs in English.
I also danced in the streets, learned to bake in a toaster oven at high altitude, and wrote tales of my adventures.
I rode on top of a train, ate guinea pig, and watched from the floor length windows of my apartment as the sun came up over the snow capped ridges of Cayambe, Antisana, and Cotopaxi (active, yes, active volcanoes).
I swam with marine iguanas in the Galapagos and sat listening in a Kapok tree top as the storm sounds of howler monkeys rushed past us in an Amazonian rain forest.
I learned Quichua and became so fluent in Spanish that I forgot I wasn’t speaking English.
I went to indigenous weddings in dirt floor chapels where the groom arrived on horseback, baptisms that became day long dance parties, and wild local festivals involving kicking flaming balls at each other.
I laughed and cried, I made dear friends and fell in love.
Most importantly, I learned to go my own way.
IT CHANGED MY LIFE.
It was not just the realization that life is short and unpredictable and you have to live each day as if it were the last.
IT WAS THAT I REMEMBERED WHO I WAS.
See, I had ALWAYS been called to other cultures and other languages. As a teenager, my family lived in Spain for seven months. Ever since, I had dreamed of living in Madrid. I spent a year in Padova, Italy between high school and college and became fluent in Italian.
Speaking another language, getting a peek inside another culture, and trying to communicate with people makes me so gleeful, I am smiling just thinking about it. And I am good at it. For lots of people, this would be torture, but it just makes my heart happy.
I have taken spectacular trips and always learned enough of the language to connect with the local people. You would rarely find me on the beach. Usually, you would find me in the taxi driver’s home, having dinner with his wife and kids.
BUT AFTER EACH AMAZING EXPERIENCE, I CAME BACK TO THE U.S. TO DO WHAT I WAS SUPPOSED TO DO.
When I graduated from college, I went to law school as expected, even though I never wanted to be a lawyer.
And there was a moment there when I really questioned if I could do it, if I could break free from what I was supposed to do. That summer was all about Spain: the ’92 World Expo in Sevilla, the Olympics in Barcelona. It felt so full of possibility.
I was sitting surrounded by all my first year law school books talking to a friend who had spent his junior year abroad in Spain. He had just graduated and was planning on moving to Spain to live. For REAL.
And I thought: how does he get to do that? Isn’t someone going to tell him he has to grow up and get a real job? Who gave him permission to just DO THAT?”
And for a moment, just a moment, heart racing, I thought, maybe I could too.
But I knew, that wasn’t what I was supposed to do.
And so I didn’t.
SO THIS IS THE THING: I DID KNOW WHAT I WANTED ALL ALONG. I JUST CONVINCED MYSELF THAT I WASN’T ALLOWED TO HAVE IT.
That I didn’t know how, couldn’t figure it out, and most of all wasn’t supposed to do this.
I thought if I just followed advice and did what was expected of me, everything would work out. I would find my calling, find my life, and be happy.
I was WRONG.
BUT, IN ECUADOR, FINALLY, I WAS IN EXACTLY THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME. BECAUSE I HAD LISTENED TO MY OWN JOY, INSTEAD OF OTHER PEOPLE’S FEARS.
And I decided right then that I had to start living my own life and no one else’s.
Yes, it was scary. But the joy made me brave.
It was so clearly my life talking, asking me to please pay attention this time. Jumping up and down holding up a giant arrow marked “Happiness this way. Ignore at your peril!”
SO, THIS IS WHY I COACH.
I want to help you stop trying to do what you are supposed to and start doing what you really, truly want.
Whatever it is that you are supposed to do or be, you are trying to be something, SOMEONE you are not.
And here’s the thing: you’re bad at it.
You will never be more than mediocre just doing what you are supposed to.
And WORSE, you will leave this world never having shown off who you really are. And we will never have known you…
So let’s go back, way back to when you listened to yourself, when you trusted yourself, when you knew who you were, and what made you so very happy.
NOW, “TELL ME, WHAT IS IT YOU PLAN TO DO WITH YOUR ONE WILD AND PRECIOUS LIFE?”*