There a few absolutes that my mother has instilled in me from the beginning:
While I think that #blessed is overused on social media as a way for people to humbly brag about themselves, I can’t ignore the fact that I am truly blessed with parents that have given me a foundation of strength and support. My family is my rock – my steady foundation. From them, I have grown deep roots in my faith, in unconditional love and in knowing that I am capable. This mindset has made me wildly independent…and slightly stubborn.
I can distinctly remember the moment in high school where I stated my independence. If I were writing a Broadway play on my life, this would be the Act 1 moment of foreshadowing. However, in reality and in typical teenager fashion, it was more a moment of defiance rather than a moment of glory, but never the less it set the stage of how I would lead my adult life. I remember sitting in my kitchen, in hysterical ugly tears, proclaiming that I did not want to live my life simply heeding my parent’s advice…I wanted to experience MY life and learn MY own lessons…however hard the lesson might be. And well…the lessons have come!!
After graduating high school from a small town in North Carolina, I flew the coop. I wasn’t fleeing from anything specific, but I certainly wanted to break out of the norm. I just knew in my heart that it was time for me to find out who I was outside of who I was expected to be.
I attended the University of Tennessee where I spent 4 years learning to be accountable to myself; opening my mind up to different theories and ideas and making my own decisions as to what I believed; developing new relationships; and discovering what I was truly good at….and that I was definitely not going to make it in life as the artist I dreamed of being! Through all the beautiful moments and crushing consequences, I learned that I found joy in uncertainty.
So I set out for a life as an experimental learner. I moved to Cleveland, OH for my first job. I remember driving home from work my first week in the “big city,” and seeing a billboard with a man’s face and WANTED written in giant letters along with the Crime Stoppers Hotline number. I literally laughed out loud – not at the thought that a fugitive was on the loose – but because it hit me like a ton of bricks that I was not in Clemmons, North Carolina anymore! I had flown far away from my comfort zone, flown outside of the “college bubble,” and was now living in a world that displayed criminals on billboard along the highway! And it felt so good.
The funny thing about post-grad life up until the age of about 26 is that I thought I had this whole adult thing figured out. Jokes on me, because I now know that I had absolutely nothing figured out other than how to create a quirky online dating profile and the quickest route to the wine bar! Then as I was crawling out of a low point in my life, I was forced to ask myself the tough questions. Was I preparing myself for better professional opportunities? Was I really being all that I had the potential to be? Were my actions building character that I was proud of?
As I was continuing to explore these questions of self-identity and self-worth, I simultaneously met an incredible man and was presented with a career opportunity that seemed too good to pass up. It may seem cliché, but I was faced with the ultimate decision: I could choose love or I could choose to invest in myself. As difficult as the decision was, my boyfriend turned out to be as great as I thought and supported my decision.
I remember boxing up my apartment and with every rip of Duct Tape, the feeling of freedom became more and more palpable. I was about to fly. I was spreading my wings – fleeing from my personal and professional mistakes and failures that I so desperately wanted to forget, and flying towards a career path that I could reinvent myself in. I arrived in Austin, Texas so hopeful, so driven and oh so naïve.
If I’m being completely honest with myself, I was not really qualified for the job that I dove head first into. But I thrived on uncertainty…and I knew nothing about running a start-up! What could go wrong? The moment I stepped foot into Texas I was already behind. Very quickly I had to teach myself how to establish a C Corp and the other necessary business licenses that are required to operate in a state in which I knew nothing about; how to select an insurance plan for multiple employees; how to hire employees and develop a trusting and thriving company culture; how to decipher between what our company actually needed verse what I wanted for us in that early stage; how to interact with co-workers that lived and operated in a different country; how to politically maneuver between two (married) co-founders and our investor….the to-do list of things I needed to learn was endless. I only survived one year. It got to the point where I couldn’t win at anything. There was no professional self-help book that could help me successfully navigate the disaster that was our start-up. There were issues on every level – investor issues, leadership issues, resource issues, employee/culture issues…the list goes on.
When I walked away from the company it was such a bittersweet moment. This was the first thing in my career that I had truly failed at. All my other professional failures seemed minuscule in comparison. This level of failure is a hard reflection to see staring back at you. But ironically, it was so rewarding. I may have failed, but I had learned so many lifelong lessons. I may have failed, but I now knew what not do. I may have failed, but I had never flown higher in my entire life.
I found myself faced with another life-changing decision: what now? For the first time I didn’t feel the urge to flee from anything but instinctually I still needed to fly. When I moved to Austin, I had to choose between love and self. This time, I chose both. I’m now back in Cleveland with my same supportive, forever man, working for a thriving company that continues to challenge me and push my career forward.
The foundation that my family and upbringing laid for me will always be my base layer – my firm ground. But as I approach 30, I find myself in a place in life where I am ready to begin establishing a new layer of foundation. One that I lay for myself. And this time, I don’t want to flee from anything. I have prepared – and am continuing to prepare – myself for opportunities to succeed. I have set goals for myself that I am working towards. I believe that I have given myself character that I am proud of and that my family can be proud of. The challenge is that I am still an experimental learner. As someone who thrives on the unexpected and that up until now has associated flying with physical movement, this is a very emotionally complicated place to be. Right now, I am learning to experiment, to fly, to achieve high goals and overcome obstacles while remaining grounded. This journey is what I plan to capture in my Roots and Wings blog section of Project Heard. I hope that you follow along with me as I continue to travel this road of self-discovery and self-improvement.
Christin Miller is a Marketing and Advertising Professional in the Cleveland, Ohio area. You can find her blog here on Project Heard.