I once had someone tell me that the best thing I had to offer this world was a pretty face. And for most of my days since, I’ve believed that lie.
You said I’d never be a leader
You said I’d never wear a crown
If I wanted to be someone
I should learn to settle down
-“Doubt” -Mary J. Blige
In the years following that confrontation with a person whose validation I was so desperate to have, I buckled under the pressure of expectations and just gave up. I accepted what was spoken over me and settled into “good enough” instead of challenging myself to overcome. Toxic relationships and many careless decisions later, I was 22 years old and an unmarried single mother. I missed my window to be or do something great….or so I thought.
A favorite author of mine, Jen Hatmaker, joins a group of other authors and speakers for the BELONG Tour, a yearly conference for women where they share their wisdom and experience in how to live a more “vibrant, open-hearted, meaningful life.” She recently recorded a Facebook Live video to promote the tour, in which she speaks about “staying in your lane”. Five minutes into it, I knew it was going to be exactly what I needed to hear. As she spoke about what it means to “find your lane”, or purpose, I finally began to understand that I’ve not only been looking for the wrong indicators for living out my purpose, but I was not, in fact, too late. As if she had a front row seat to the movie reel of my insecurities, she spoke truth over the lie that had made itself home in my mind for so long. She relayed her own story of how she forged a new path for what she really wanted to do with her life, which looked a lot like starting over as a young wife and mom at the age of 29.
If it’s your calling – if it’s what you’re meant to do, then there’s no window to miss.
For the first time, I began to feel as if being a wife and mom of five kids wasn’t the only accomplishment I had time enough to achieve in this life. There was more to what I had to offer, and that burning deep within my soul was not to be ignored. I thought the key to my purpose was found at the intersection of money and success, but I was wrong.
The research is carefully laid out with graphs and timelines about how to achieve the ultimate dream. Experts and life coaches spewing their theories about the proper path to success: four-year degrees, fast track to partner, marriage with 2.5 kids, a paleo diet and regular yoga. Why are we so hung up on letting someone else define how we are meant to live our lives? Well one thing is for sure – I’m done making decisions about my life based on some arbitrary definition of success. Discovering what you’re meant to do is actually pretty simple – I just had to start asking myself the right questions.
What are you drawn to?
Seems simple right? That’s because it is. I was so focused on whether my purpose would be profitable or would fit into some mold that “made sense”, that I was ignoring some very basic qualifications, one of which is simply a matter of what I’m drawn to. Another pretty simple question I needed to ask myself was, what am I good at? The marriage of the answers to those two questions helped direct me towards how God can use my gifts and talents to fulfill my purpose on this earth. So here is where I am:
- What are you drawn to? Transparency. I just want real, genuine, authentic influence in my life. Be it in music, art, leadership, or friendship, I want to surround myself with people who are willing to be their true selves and share it all – the good, the bad, the ugly.
- What are you good at? Communicating. Specifically, the written word. I don’t assume that any of what I write is earth shattering, but when it comes to being transparent, it’s much easier for me to do it in writing.
- What do you love? People. I love people. The end. I want to use my life to express not just my love for humankind, but God’s love for them as well.
I may not be a scholar or Fortune 500 entrepreneur. My writing may not be featured in the New Yorker. I’m no trophy wife and I’m definitely not the president of the PTA. But what I do have to offer is my story. I can sidle up next to you in your dark moments and be the thing that I’m drawn to – vulnerable, authentic, and real. I can hear you speak your pain and I can empathize, because I’ve been there. I can open up and reveal all the dark spots that are there inside of me too, because we all have them and sometimes all we need to be able to process our own pain is to hear that we aren’t alone.
Four years ago I wrote a blog post about marriage that went viral. As can be expected, it received it’s fair share of criticism. Sensing it had the potential to deflate me, a dear friend of mine wrote to encourage me to stay in my lane and it has stuck with me since.
The world is yearning for MORE of what you shared. I know that you won’t let any amount of hatred or ridicule you’ve received regarding what you wrote stop you from continuing to spread your knowledge, experience, love, and joy with people. You never know who you’re gonna reach, right? Your experience is valuable. Your perspective is valuable.
Keep it up. Most of us need you to. You owe it to us.
I don’t know what platform God will choose to use my perspective but whether it’s here on this blog or breaking bread at your table, I will share every bit of my pain and every bit of my victory.
And this will be my success. That I was transparent about the struggles I’ve faced and used it to give hope to someone else. I will run my race and stay in my lane and it will not only be good enough – it will be great. The song that I referenced in the beginning of this post? It starts off with struggle but ends in triumph. This is the hope that lies within me, and the hope that I promise to share with the world:
Now you’re looking at a leader
Now you’re staring at a queen
You said I’ll never be someone
But now I’m pulling all the strings…
I’m gonna be the best me.