Value, Purpose, Work: Lessons learned in the Workplace & on the 405.

A few days ago I was listening to a speech about Genius that my mentor Ruben gave at Creative Mornings ATX while I was sitting in traffic on the 405. (If you aren’t familiar with Los Angeles Geography it is literally the most terrible freeway ever. You can spend up to 3 hours on it just to go 20 miles)

While the audio played through the speakers of my car, I scribbled notes down on my iPad…

I wrote this ^ note down when my mentor mentioned that we are all searching for our purpose.

People say that a lot.
I say that a lot.

But what if we don’t HAVE to search?

What if we found our purpose in just BEING?
What if the answer is to just BE? I mean you are a BEING. It’s what you are – what you were created to be.

What if the secret to everything we were supposed to be and supposed to do was found in just being authentically?

Weird to think about right?
It goes against the notion that we have to “make something of oursevles” and “prove our worth”

It makes us almost uncomfortable to think that nothing we DO can make us more or less than who we are and THAT is our purpose. To be our beings. 

That’s what Jesus said to us.
“Nope you don’t have to do anything – you’re already loved.”
We forget that our BEING is enough

Well if we know that applied for being loved, then what about our purpose?

What if our purpose is to be loved?

*Brain explodes* (Feel free to add sound effects to that)

Now on paper (or on a screen), this idea is simple.
But in reality, the intricacies of being human make things complicated. (Talk about a paradox)

In my experiences, I feel like when I am contributing to the world in a way that is unique to my being, then I become indisposable because I am operating in a way that only I can.  It feels good to occupy a space that you know is yours.

The real truth is,  I am indisposable because I am a human being and there is nothing that can define my worth (not even my work ethic). But I’m still learning that.

The past few days I’ve lost sight of that being. I’ve felt disconnected from myself and the value I innately carry from being who I am. 

I was questioning what my position is in my work. Am I producing things and contributing ideas in a way that only I can? 

Becuase I feel like I’m just a body taking up space.
That my soul, bright and beautiful, doesn’t matter and is useless.
The part of me that makes me ME doesn’t matter and no one cares about it as long as the tasks are completed.

These thoughts have been accompanied by nightmares of becoming a slave laborer and victim in an invaded country, and people totally forgetting/not caring about my birthday. Both nightmares are about feeling disposable. They are rooted in this desire to be purposeful, and valuable and created in fear that I am lacking.

I had a long conversation about all of this yesterday morning with Zach. Zach is one of my best friends and the Founder of LIVE A GREAT STORY, where I’m the Community Manager, Marketing Assistant, Intern Coordinator and many other things. (When working with a startup, you wear a lot of hats.)

Anyway, he talked to me while I sat on the phone and cried. I told him I felt pretty banged up from working in a place where I am totally replaceable (This is about one of my other jobs). And in situations where the compensation doesn’t match the value of my work. (There’s a really good podcast about this)

He talked for about 45 solid min about all the things I’ve accomplished with him for LIVE. He talked to me about all of my responsibilities and the numbers.

But it didn’t help.

“Everything you’ve told me I’ve done could have been anyone. It could have anybody’s body checking off tasks and sending emails to people. What value do I bring? What does my soul have to do with this?”

Zach is a very logical person. It was hard for him to understand at first what I was feeling. (and I’m still not sure he totally understands) To him, my value is obvious. (That’s nice)

Eventually though, he came to a close and said  “I can’t do this without you. I want you around forever. You’ve allowed me to see things I’ve never seen before. That’s why I love you.”

Suddenly I felt seen. After almost an hour of talking about the quantifiable & numerical aspects of my role in LIVE, I still didn’t feel like I mattered until heard that.

Because that was about me. That was about my soul. These were things that made me irreplaceable.

You are not quantifiable. Your purpose and your impact are not things that can be measured so stop looking for ways to compare yourself and gauge your success.

Your success comes from being, authentically. 

I can’t do this without you. I want you around forever.
You have a unique perspective in this world, and I love you.

You matter.
Sometimes we need a reminder.

Feel All the Things

Yesterday I went to a mid week church service and got to listen to Judah Smith preach!
If you’re wondering why that name sounds familiar it’s because he wrote the book “How’s Your Soul?” That I’m a fan of.

I was standing with everyone during worship and let the music sway my body side to side. The perk of going to church in Los Angeles is that everyone knows how to sing. The girl next to me was rocking my ears with an incredible harmony and I felt #blessed.

And then the tears welled up in my eyes and I started crying. 

HOLD UP – WHAT’S GOING ON?

Judah had just preached about Joy and how God is joy and how important joy is.
We literally had listened to a 40 min sermon on joy and I was crying.
Seriously.

Here’s a Recap:
During his sermon, he talked about the difference between passive joy and permanent joy. The “live for the weekend” kind of joy and then the “I feel loved and am happy to be alive joy”.

That second joy comes with an acceptance of Grace and Love in your life – despite the pain or hardship you feel you can still have joy if you accept Grace and Love. The joy doesn’t make the pain go away – it gives you the strength to get you through it.

So I’m sitting in worship thinking about all of this and saying whaddup to God for the first time in a few weeks and I’m crying.

And I realize, I’m crying because I’m tired. 

I kind of numbed myself a little bit to do this move, which I think is normal. I kept shoving my fear and my doubts down so I could focus on getting everything done. But like I’ve mentioned a zillion times before, if you numb the bad, then you also numb the good. To feel is to feel. There actually isn’t a good and bad feeling for your soul, the way that there are good and bad bacteria in your body. You might feel things you don’t like, but that doesn’t mean they are bad feelings.

Anyway, the point is I tried to feel this joy that Judah was talking about and I released a plethora of emotions along with it.

Then I wrote this:

You can’t let yourself be swept up in grace and love without feeling the strength of the waves.

Meaning – when you start to feel, to accept, to gain strength, you are able to step out of the darkness a little bit, you are able to step out of your situation and often times that’s when the pain hits you the most because you didn’t realize how tired you were until your soul is given a chance to rest.

I always say to Keep Pushing Forward, but sometimes I think the best way to move forward is to pause, rest, and feel.

The Day I Became Normal

Photo by: @Jackbolga
New York, New York

I hate the word normal.

Because normal is relative.
Because it’s not a consistent scale to base our judgments on.

What I really mean is healed, free from poor mental health.

I went to therapy for a long time after I was raped 3 years ago. I took a break for a while and then decided to go back about a week before I got into my accident because I was starting to feel depressed again. I kept wondering what was wrong with me. Something didn’t feel “normal”, and then when I had my accident, I ended up laying in bed for a solid week even though I had no physical ailment aside from the light burn on my left arm.  I felt like my reaction wasn’t normal.

But an abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is in fact, natural and normal. 

What is the “proper” reaction to feeling like your stuck in a place you don’t belong, living out your life for other people, and then witnessing your car get totaled by a drunk driver from the inside? 

Answer: There is none.
Becuase everyone processes situations differently in their brain based on their life experiences and about 10000 other things.

Anyway, fast forward a few months and about 4 therapy sesssions. I’m feeling better, & probably a little too excited to get this last semester of college over with and freakin graduate already.

I went to therapy last week, told her about my winter break and then started to tell her about my therapeutic goals for the semester when she interrupted me – “Before you tell me your goals, can I give you some feedback?”
“Yes of course!” I said enthusiastically. (I love feedback.)
“Well from what I see, you don’t have much to work on here. There’s no sign of mental health issues at all.”
“What?” Tears welled up in my eyes immediately.
“You don’t need to come to therapy anymore Annabelle. I even have a hard time writing my notes sometimes.”
“Are you serious?”
 ” Yeah! You have struggles, just like anyone else, but you are more than capable of handling them! I see no reason to keep you here!”

I laugh-cried.
She was surprised to see me cry & I told her it was because I was relieved, and felt so grateful that she told me. I didn’t realize how much weight I had been carrying from feeling “abnormal”. It was like someone finally checked under my bed and in the closet and found no evidence of any kind of monster lurking in the shadows. 

But I was also kind of scared.
Now, I don’t have something to blame my feelings on. I can’t use my ‘depression’ as a crutch or an excuse for the negativity I feel anymore. I can’t blame the monsters in my closet for my temper tantrums or making my room a mess. 
This is real life now, and real life is full of unpleasant feelings, and I am responsible for taking care of myself and cleaning my room.  

But with the fear came freedom too; and validation, and reassurance that not everyone feels things the same way, and that what I need to do to take care of myself and deal with those feelings, is okay, even if it looks different from everyone else. 

My struggle through healing from being raped and feeling unworthy has taught me how to take care of myself and not to judge those strange “abnormal” feelings when they arise. 
Suffering is just a part of life, even a happy and healthy one. This is it.

I’m not a victim of rape.
I’m not a lost girl.
I’m not unworthy.
I’m not fighting.
I’m not suffering.
I am alive.
I am living.
I am growing.
I am a survivor but,
I am also more than that.
I am 100% me.

Nothing is looming in the dark to pull me back under. 
There are no monsters in my closet, and that’s a pretty big deal.

Later I asked her about her opinion on the purpose of suffering.
She said “I think it’s growth. Pain always leaves an opportunity for growth – without it, we would never change. We only change when something is uncomfortable or hurts.”

Health is not the absence of disease or suffering, it’s more. It’s taking a changing circumstance and turning it into an opportunity for growth.

I found this online, and I think it’s pretty great. It’s what this guy, Dr. Ratson believes is a true meaning/definition/path to health.

“A person must recognize the inherent PURPOSE of his or her own life. The constant awareness of why you are here and whether you are working towards that purpose can help you to wade through the conflicting and confusing mass of expert advice. This is important because there is a lot of confusing and conflicting expert advice available and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

When you feel unconditional LOVE for yourself and others, you cannot help hut feel that the entire universe supports you. There won’t be room for a cynical or hostile view of the world or its people. Many negative emotions arise from a cynical, paranoid and hostile view of the world. Believe it or not, but our view of the world affects our health. 


When you take total RESPONSIBILITY for your own well-being, you can trust and rely on your innate biological, psychological and spiritual healing power. Also, when you assume total responsibility, you can never abuse your personal power.

With inner FREEDOM, you can no longer be a slave to external pressures or other handicapping conditions. Inner freedom gives you hope for the possible and faith in the probable. You are then able to experience genuine joy. When you characteristically experience genuine joy, something interesting happens. Others cease to irritate you or give you any more grief, even though their behavior might not have significantly changed.”

– Dr. Ratson

How to Love a Creative

 

Photo by  @AlfieFriday
New York, New York

I’ve ugly cried about 6 times over the past 3 months because I’m scared shitless about what I will do in May.
Cause I graduate
And I have no idea what I’m doing
And I’m absolutely terrified.
I’ve also been reading a handful of self-help books in an effort to keep my moral up.
I noticed that most of the books I’ve read talk about “quitting your sucky job and going after your dreams”
Okay…. Well what of about the soon –to-be college grad gushing with passion and creativity with absolutely no direction?
What about the girl who knows she can make anything happen, but can’t decide on what she wants?
Sometimes I think maybe I’m the one that will have to write the book. Maybe I will.  But I gotta feel it first.
Anyway the point of me writing about this is that I’ve cried so many times and been absolutely overwhelmed with stress and it pisses my mom off. “You have absolutely no reason to stress Annabelle, I don’t know any other kid like you.”
Well it’s stressful when the people I want to support me most, are the ones crushing my dreams before they ever get to see the light of day.
When they ask what my plan is I say “I dunno, something cool.” And then immediately try to find something else to say to impress them or to say something in a language they will accept and understand. “I’m building a company that focuses on marketing..” boooorrriing- but “sounds better” than “I’m creating a movement by bringing together like-minded people to change the world”. That gets me smirks and scoffs. 
My mom says it comes from a place of caution and fear for them. And love. Mainly love.  The people around me don’t want me to fail – and the things I want to do require great risk.
I’m at the point where I don’t want to tell anyone about any of my ideas or dreams. I don’t like people telling me I can’t, or making me feel like I’m stupid for trying.
If you love me, support me. Don’t give me advice. The best way to love a creative is to encourage them – even if you don’t understand them.
Believe me – we already know how weird we are. We already know the risks. We’ve already thought about the 400 ways it could fail or destroy our lives, or maybe even cause the death of planet earth.
Your job as our loved one is to make sure we know that you believe in us. That you give us the tools to succeed, helps us stay focused on our mission and help us stay grounded in the reason we started this journey in the first place.
Be honest but don’t try to scare us because it will end up either in a furious effort on our part to prove you wrong – or it will throw us into a downward spiral of depression, doubt, and anxiety. That’s a lot of negative energy to deal with.
Remember you are doing more than just supporting a weird project – you are helping a spirit live and grow and connect with the world. You are helping a light emerge and a flower to bloom. Don’t step on it.
“I trust you”
“I believe you”
“I believe in you”
“Keep going”
And
“You’ve got this”

Are the best ways to love (& support) a creative.

Take No L’s

Photo By: Shane Spangler

I’m Baaaaaaack!

Mostly.
Partly.
Kind of?

If you didn’t notice I was gone, let me fill you in.

I disappeared last weekend.
Vanished, under the blankets on my bed.
Last Thursday I took a pretty big L.

The Trigger:
My two beautiful, wonderful, super fun friends from L.A. drove their big R.V. into Austin last week. You might know them as Alex and Dalton from ARK Project (@arkprojectnow). Well, we had a lot of fun roaming around the city until their RV got broken into, so we decided we’d go out with some of my other friends for a night on 6th street to get their minds off of it. We had a good time bar hopping and dancing and drinking ( I was D.D.) until we encountered Patricia.

I was driving us to get a slice of pizza before the long drive home and CRASH.
My car jolted to a halt. I opened my eyes to a blur and heard a ringing in my ears. I smelled smoke and shouted, “everyone get out of the car!”

We were hit by a drunk driver.
Head on.

There was a lot of shouting. I looked over to see Patricia, our new drunk friend, fumbling with the keys trying to put her truck into reverse to drive away. Hit and run? Not if I could help it. I started to scream when I noticed three men had flung her driver door open and wrestled with her to keep her from driving off. I could see she was very overwhelmed so I felt that 3 men yelling and grabbing was a bit excessive. I walked over to them and shooed them all away. I turned to Patricia and spoke softly. I asked if she was okay and if she had anyone to call. I glanced down and saw blood smeared on her legs. Once she got a hold of the steering wheel for balance, she turned to me with blood gushing from her mouth and said “I’m not drunk”. That’s when the officer walked up and he handled it.

I was marching back and forth between my friends and the ambulance and my car in 6 inch heels. I stood strong and competent and helpful until I watched 4 men roll my poor car onto a tow truck. Then I just stared. My friend came over to me and put his arm around me. I thought about the road trips I had taken in my car, and the long talks I had with people in that car, the dents I put in my car (and in other peoples cars with my car) and the kisses I gave and received in my car. My car was gifted to me from my step mom after I got my license my Junior year of High School. It grew up with me. It was my freedom.

My favorite part of the whole night was actually our Uber (Not actually uber it’s an app called Ride Austin because Uber & Lift don’t exist here) driver who told us how excited he was that we got into a car accident and were going to the hospital at 3 am to pick up one of my friends because his night had been really boring.

I was not taking anyone’s shit so I turned to him and said
“So glad our misfortune is entertaining to you. That’s really fucked up”
He proceeded to change the subject by trying to put down the drunk driver, Patricia
“She was probably just one of those stupid sorority girls, you know.”
Which I again turned to him, looked him dead in the eye and said
“I’m in a sorority.”
“oh.”
Then a voice from the back seat.
“You are just digging yourself into a deeper hole dude.”

Then silence for the following 40 min home.

I didn’t cry that night. I didn’t cry the following days either. My L.A. friends made it easy to laugh…

The weekend was spent getting me a rental car, getting checked out by the urgent care doctor, picking up prescriptions, phones calls to my step brother who is a lawyer and my insurance company and then sleeping.

The Aftermath:
Monday Morning
Monday morning, my friends left. I felt fine until suddenly I wasn’t. I tried gathering myself together for class and had a complete breakdown and called my mom. She told me to call my therapist. And I told them both I got shaky holding my prescription medications from the doctor and asked my roommate to hide them from me. Just in case.

I cried hard. Really hard.
Tipping point.
I felt like I was suffocating.
I went to the park and posted one snap chat and one Instagram story saying I was going to take a week off to heal, then I deleted all of my social media apps.
Then messaged the people I was working with on side projects to let them I know I was taking time to heal and I wouldn’t be available for a little while.
I felt better.
I went home and slept.

Tuesday – Thursday
I slept for 3 days. Literally. Slept.
The following day I felt physically weak and emotionally numb. Tired and still couldn’t do much. I laid in bed and watched T.V. shows all day. I tried to get out once, but talking to people drained me.

Friday
I decided I was bored of feeling sorry for myself and done with thinking about my wrecked car. I got dressed up, put on make-up and went to a lecture.
Then I went to my therapy appointment. I sat down and stared a the wall on the other side of the room as the tears streamed down my face.
Now this didn’t just happen all of a sudden, this was coming. Like the way the sky gets dark before it starts to rain. People don’t just break out of nowhere.
“I’m so scared of this” I said. “I noticed this started last month, when I had a really good day and was smiling in the car and I realized that I haven’t actually been happy in a while” More tears. I didn’t realize how unhappy I was until I was finally happy one day and my smile vanished pretty fast after that realization.

This didn’t feel like me. I felt trapped. I felt like I was being invaded. Like my mind and my body and my life was being invaded by a thick fog. I couldn’t think straight. I thought in circles. Depressing circles. But I knew that some thoughts I was having wasn’t me, it was the intruder. And noticing that made me feel better. I went home and watched more T.V. so I would stop thinking.

I went to the store later that night and bought ice cream, oreos, chocolate chip cookies, and bananas.
I ate half of what I bought that night.

Saturday
I don’t remember much except that I decided to go out that night.
It was homecoming weekend and a lot of old sorority sisters and friends were back in town.
I saw a bunch of people.
Being around people and hugging old friends filled me up a little bit. I felt a little bit stronger.
The people I saw & spent time talking to reminded me that I have many more people to call than I realized. They also reminded me of the impact I can have. And how proud they were of me.
I felt valued.

Sunday
My friend took me to church. The pastor’s wife got up on stage and told people that she wanted to take a moment to pray for the people who were hurting. This isn’t a normal part of the service. And I knew God did it for me.
“Come up to the front of the room to receive your blessing”
HA, HELL NO.
Almost the entire congregation went up there, which I thought was beautiful, but I stayed in my seat and bowed my head to pray Forgive Lord, but there’s no way in hell I’m going up there. But I still want your blessing. I need your help to beat this invader. 
“No pressure. God says no pressure. God is going to do something spectacular today for each of you.” The pastor’s wife said into the microphone.
Okay. I opened my eyes wide….

After church, I went to my other friend’s apartment for breakfast and Game of Thrones.
Suddenly it started to pour. And a smile dashed across my face.
I love rain.
I love the smell it leaves behind.
I love the chill of it.
But most of all, I love the cleansing feeling it gives me.
A lot of times when I am sad it rains. Which is kind of a big deal because it doesn’t rain all that much here.
I re-downloaded Instagram and Facebook

On my way home from my friend’s house I saw a rainbow. Not just part of a rainbow, but the whole darn thing. It was magical. And I couldn’t help but think of church this morning, and of God. And my sadness lifted, and the fog thinned out.
I bumped the song “Yung God” by Russ and “Bounce Back” by Big Sean (Whose cover art for the single inspired the title of this blog post) If you haven’t heard them, look them up.

Conclusion:
Someone responded to my “see ya later” post on my Instagram and said “Oh yeah? What’s a week going to do?” Well sir, let me tell you.

I healed a little bit. I took time for myself to rest and to hurt and to go back to God.

I have no idea when I’ll get hit with the fog again, but I can say that I’m ready to move forward and I ain’t takin no L’s.

I’m too strong to be defeated.

Still though, the idea of jumping straight back into everything I was doing before makes me a little bit light headed, but this week, I will go to class, and that’s a damn good start for me.