I turn 32 tomorrow so I've been thinking a lot about growing up.
To the aspiring practitioners I coach and mentor every day, I'm a senior in the field. To the people who met me when I was just starting out, I'm still a junior. To me, I'm somewhere in between.
My heart tells me I'm an old pro, my mind tells me I'm a little girl. Drinking from the dual fountains of self-confidence and self-doubt, I waver between readiness and permission. In my heart I know I can do anything; the voice inside my head says, "You can't." I'm more eager than ever to make big moves, and yet something still holds me back.
I've sought approval from others my whole life. I've lived by shouldn'ts and supposed-tos. Even with a burning desire to act, I've waited for permission from those I deemed more experienced, more reputable, more sure. I'm actually less afraid of failure than I am of defying those I revere most.
When I quit my job to run my consulting business full-time, I had the implicit permission of my parents, themselves lifelong entrepreneurs. I had people's encouragement for some time, but I wasn't yet ready to pull the plug. As soon as I got ready, it all clicked. My inner permission finally matched my outer permission, and it all fell into place.
When I was nine months into my coaching certification program, I felt ready to call myself a coach. I had the methodology down pat. I had the philosophy in my bones. I was chomping at the bit to shift my business. But I had three months left until certification, so I stopped myself. I was ready, but I didn't yet have permission. I was so scared I wouldn't be certified, I wouldn't pass the test. So I waited.
The day after I was certified, all my creativity was unlocked. I had a coaching services page up two days later and had three new clients by the end of the week.
Permission is external. Readiness is internal. Do we really need both to move forward?
When I turned 30, I suddenly had this realization that I was officially an adult and no longer needed anyone's permission. "Screw you, I'm 30!" I'd say out loud to my imaginary naysayers. Not long after, I left New York, left everything behind I'd ever known in search of a life that was more me. I sold all of the possessions I was always told I was supposed to have, I said goodbye to all of the conveniences I was always told I was supposed to love, and I did exactly what was in my heart. Why was I moving to the middle of nowhere when I had a thriving business on the brink of expansion? "Because I'm 30 and I can do whatever I want!"
But that audaciousness didn't last. Two years later and I still find myself desperate for approval.
Tomorrow I turn 32. The age I always thought of as a woman's prime! Am I going to enter it timid and compliant? Or am I going to set off like a rocket and fly?
In 2010, I read an article about a man who spent 1,152 days on the open sea, mostly alone, in a boat he built himself; it was the longest continuous journey ever undertaken by one person. When I first read it, I thought the guy was friggin' nuts. "I would never do that!" But for some reason, I bookmarked the article, and I've reread it several times since. Each time I read it, a strange thing happens: the less crazy he seems and the more jealous I get.
Against every expectation I ever had for myself, I now have a similar dream. I'm in love with a man who wants the same things, as crazy as they are. We've been designing our lives, individually and together, since the day we became a couple, egging each other on every step of the way. Maybe we're ready to take the next leap. Maybe we give each other permission to be ourselves.
It's time to take off the shackles, the ones I put on myself. It's time to march to the beat of my own drummer and revel in my independence. It's time to live my life with total authenticity. As far as I know, I only have one life to live. I don't have time to wait around for anyone else's approval. I have to give it to myself.
I want to wear sundresses and flip flops to client meetings. I want to speak my mind without fear of retribution. I want to experiment with my business to see where it takes me. I want to stop thinking about kids because I don't want them right now and maybe I never will. I want to live on a boat and sail around the world because it sounds fun.
I just want to be me, regardless of whether I have permission, regardless of whether I'm ready. If not me, who? If not now, when?